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Playoff Storm

September 18, 2016

Going to the bottom of the fourth inning of a playoff game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Brooklyn Dodgers 75 years ago today, the score was tied at zero. But Pittsburgh first baseman Elbie Fletcher led off with a single, and right fielder Bud Stewart followed with a double. Vince DiMaggio then singled them both home, starting a four-run rally.

For the 6800 fans at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, it was a bracing 15 minutes or so. For the fans listening on radio station WUR in Brooklyn, though, it was a major aggravation. The station went dark during the inning, leading to thousands of unhappy phone calls.

The reason for the blackout was a magnetic storm on the Sun. It bombarded Earth with radiation and charged particles. Earth’s magnetic field funneled many of those particles toward the surface, where they had a big impact.

The storm not only knocked out the Brooklyn station, for example, it blacked out shortwave radio broadcasts between the U.S. and Europe for most of the day. The storm also triggered a bright display of the northern lights in Chicago and deep into the Midwest. And in Europe, it created northern lights that were bright enough to help British bombers see their targets.

Incidentally, Brooklyn fans weren’t any happier when the playoff game came back on the air. The Dodgers took the lead in the eighth inning, then gave it right back. They lost, 6 to 5.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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