SAN DIEGO -- A swarm of approximately a thousand bees took over the left-field corner at PETCO Park on Thursday, only a day before the much heralded arrival of Manny Ramirez, who will play that spot on Friday night when he returns from his 50-game suspension for the Dodgers. The juxtaposition of planned and unplanned events led one local reporter to ask Padres manager Bud Black if there had been any truth to the rumor that the bees had been released a day too soon. "No," Black said. "I didn't think of that."
The 52-minute bee delay occurred in the top of the ninth inning during a game the Astros went on to win, 7-2. It now joins in the annals of crazy disturbances along with the Lake Erie midges that raided Cleveland during a 2007 playoff game against the Yankees and the seagulls that recently became an in-game hazard as they lounged around the same ballpark, now called Progressive Field. But in the case of the midges, everyone played through. Not on Wednesday, as a beekeeper had to be called to the premises to chase off the swarm, which could have turned deadly if it had turned on any particular person. "Then we really would have had a problem," said Tom Garfinkel, the new Padres president. "The umpires did the absolute right thing, stopping the game." Stopping the game was part of the discussion on Oct. 6, 2007, as the Yankees and Indians battled into the late innings of a tight Game 2 of their American League Division Series. The lingering image from that night was the bugs attacking rookie right-hander Joba Chamberlain as he uncorked two wild pitches during an eighth-inning relief appearance, allowing the Indians to tie a game they eventually won in extra innings. Bruce Froemming, the crew chief, declined to stop the game as the midges swept in from the lake on an uncommonly warm October night. And then Yankees manager Joe Torre declined to pull his team off the field in protest. The Yankees' trainers compounded the issue by using the wrong kind of bug spray on their players, spray that actually attracted that type of bug rather than repel it. "It was no more an irritant than rain or cold weather," Froemming said that night. "It was irritating for 25-30 minutes, then they went away, the bulk of them did at least. You have to use common sense. I've got five partners and myself. Not anybody, including both managers, fussed about it. We just put the [repellent] on." Just last month, June 11 to be precise, a group of seagulls came off Lake Erie and congregated above and upon the center-field turf of the Indians' home park. In the 10th inning, Kansas City center fielder Coco Crisp tried to chase down a liner smacked by Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo. It hit an errant bird instead, allowing the winning run to score on a walk-off single. "Crazy things happen in this game," Crisp said after the liner clipped the wing of one of the hundreds of birds that buzzed the ballpark. "It was hit so sharply, I felt like I had a chance. You never know what the heck is going to happen." That was Garfinkel's sentiment precisely on Thursday. You never know when you come to the ballpark if you'll see a no-hitter, a cycle, a triple play or "a swarm of bees." Considering the Padres' long history, which includes Rosanne Barr blowing the national anthem and a horse ridden by the San Diego Chicken having an accident in the outfield to delay a game, at least it wasn't locusts. It should be noted as well that no Padre has tossed a no-hitter or hit for the cycle during the club's 40-year history. Black said the bee attack was a first for him in his nearly 30 years as a Major League player, pitching coach and manager. "I don't think I've ever seen the bee. I've never seen the swarm," Black said. "That's a first time for me. Mike Reilly, the [second base] umpire and a contemporary of mine, came over and he said he'd never seen anything like it, either. And he's seen a lot of ballgames. That was a unique one." It will make way for another unique one. On Thursday, it was the bees. On Friday, it will be Ramirez.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.