Bowling, moose hunting and curling: Clemson and Davidson's viral rain delay, 10 years later

Mac Hunter surveyed the wet green as he lined up his putt with his caddie near his side. The crowd anxiously surrounded the putting surface as Hunter did his best Camilo Villegas impersonation, getting low to the ground with one leg spread out to see the break in the putt.

After a peek at the shot from the other side, he stepped up in the pouring rain and took a deep breath. The volunteers asked for silence as the nearby music was turned down and Hunter pulled his putter back to strike the ball.

As it slowly tumbled toward its destination, a fan in the crowd yelled, "Go in the hole," as everyone patiently waited. Hunter walked the putt in and celebrated as if he had just won The Masters.

Hunter wasn't at a golf course, though. He didn't have clubs or an actual hole to hit a ball into. This wasn't even the end of a golf tournament. It was the beginning of one of the most memorable rain delays in college baseball history.

During a near monsoon that caused a two-hour, seven-minute rain delay on a cold night on May 17, 2011, Davidson's and Clemson's baseball teams went back and forth performing skits, outdueling one another without any preparation or premeditation. It was a Second City-Groundlings improv battle that is now viewed as the pinnacle for rain delay showmanship.

It almost didn't happen, though. Davidson had driven 5½ hours to Georgia Southern, only to get knocked out of its conference tournament and drive two hours to Clemson to finish off the season. The game against the Tigers, who ultimately made the NCAA regionals that season, was more for pride, to send the seniors off on a high note.

Clemson coach Jack Leggett wanted to get the entire game in because one of his players was right on the cusp of eligibility for a redshirt and needed that game to be played to fall under the 25% threshold.

Knowing the temperature, in the high 40s to low 50s, was low enough to cause a chill, and that a strong system was moving in, expectations weren't high that the game would even happen.

"I remember we were looking at the weather (before the game) and thinking there's just absolutely no way," Hunter, a senior on the team at the time, said. "The last game of the season, it would've been so fun to play Clemson, one of the bigger schools in the Carolinas we hadn't played in our tenure.

"Certainly the last time we all got to take the field together, there were high emotions going into it."

The rain held off when the game started at 7:53 p.m. with 3,396 fans in attendance. After Clemson took a 3-0 first-inning lead, rain poured down and umpires halted play at 8:19 p.m.

The home coach could decide if a game should be delayed before it starts, but once it begins, it's usually up to the umpires on how to proceed from there. Leggett went back into the clubhouse to check the radar, which wasn't showing any signs of the rain clearing -- and everyone knew it. But he was trying hard to convince the umpires and Davidson coach Dick Cooke they should wait the rain out to complete the game.

"I must've made 20 trips from our dugout to Jack's office with the umpire while he showed us the weather and radar," Cooke said. "While this monsoon is passing over Clemson, Jack's trying to convince us that it's going to be fine. I love Jack to death, but I was smiling to myself and to the crew chief thinking you guys know full well we shouldn't attempt to play this game."

So both teams prepared to wait it out.

Clemson had the luxury of being the home team, so players could escape the rain by going into the locker room. It turns out that wasn't much of a relief, as then-sophomore first baseman Richie Shaffer said it seemed as though the coaches kept the locker room at 40 degrees.

Whether that was a tactic to keep the players from trying to hang out in the locker room or it was a malfunction, the Clemson players didn't get much reprieve from being inside. Davidson, however, didn't have a choice and was relegated to the visitor dugout.

Players spent the first 30 minutes playing dugout games to pass the time. Davidson played a bat game in which one player made an intricate design with bats and would telepathically get his teammate to guess the number the design represented.

When the players realized they were going to try to stick this thing out, they started to get antsy. That's when the creative juices started to flow.

Hunter, Danny Weiss, Jack McLindon and Mike Goldberg approached Cooke in the dugout and asked if they could go in the outfield. Without much detail as to what they were going to do and knowing there was lightning directly around the stadium, Cooke said no because it was potentially dangerous. They disobeyed and snuck out onto the field anyway.

In the pouring rain, Goldberg shoved a few bats down the back of his jersey and a teammate threw him over his shoulder like a golf bag. He plopped down on the ground every time Hunter "hit" a shot toward McLindon, holding out a towel as a waving flag. Hunter teed off by swinging a bat at an imaginary ball, and the sketch show was underway.

"I would be laying on my side with bats in my shirt and I wasn't supposed to move, so I didn't know people were watching this," Goldberg said. "When (Hunter) was putting at the end, somebody in the crowd yelled and I was like, 'Oh my god, everybody's watching this and I've been laying on the ground for 10 minutes acting like a fool.' People were still in the stands watching this."

Clemson's players saw what was happening and felt they needed to respond. The problem for them: Leggett was known as an intense coach who liked to keep the team focused. The players didn't think he would want them losing focus and participating in sketch comedy, but they were bored and knew there would be plenty of time to pass.

"When the rain delay first starts, Coach Leggett was like, 'We have to stay focused, don't let up,'" Shaffer said. "For 10 minutes, we stayed focused. Coach went underneath (to his office) because he's trying to look at the radar, trying to see if we have a window. He was intense and there wasn't a lot of laidback-ness, so when he went down, that's when we started and it's what makes the whole thing funny to us, because he didn't know that was going on when it started."

Ten Clemson players lined up as bowling pins, and an 11th pretended to roll another player toward the pins as the bowling ball. The bowling ball summersaulted all the way to the pins and knocked over eight, leaving a 7-10 split. The 10 pin, played by infielder Kevin Caughman, wobbled as if it might fall, but stayed up.

The bowling ball was rolled a second time, this time picking up the elusive 7-10 split for the spare. A group of players then came through with a foam roller to clean up the pins like any bowling alley.

Without any words spoken or gestures made, Davidson players knew they, too, needed to respond.

The group huddled up and made its way onto the field. Five Davidson players galloped around the turf with two mitts held up to their heads mimicking antlers on a moose's head.

As the moose frolicked in the imaginary meadow, McLindon and pitcher Jip Richards army crawled nearby as to not scare off the moose. They lined up their shots as hunters stalking big game.

With a shot fired, four moose were scared off and ran from the two hunters sprawled out on their chests yards away. But Weiss made like a deer in headlights -- rather a moose in headlights -- and froze. Another shot took Weiss down.

The two hunters gathered Weiss in both hands, picked him up and took a picture with their trophy.

"For two hours, the task at hand was the 'Ed Sullivan Show.' When that two hours ended, the task at hand was go play Clemson the rest of the way." Former Davidson baseball coach Dick Cooke

Clemson then recreated the Revolutionary War, complete with drummer boys and tight lines of warfare. Three of Davidson's players mounted their teammates' backs and held a horse race with towels whipping the imaginary horses.

At this point, Leggett had seen most of the skits from the dugout. It was too late to stop the momentum. Quite frankly, he was so impressed with the level of detail in the skits that he didn't want to stop it anyway.

"That game of skits became the focal point," Leggett said. "I remember looking over at Davidson thinking, 'My gosh, these guys are taking it to another level.' Then I was impressed with our guys, thinking they have imagination that I never knew existed."

Davidson reenacted the Royal Wedding, with Goldberg giving away Hunter, who had a towel over his head while playing Kate Middleton walking down the aisle. With each skit, it became more important to the players to keep one-upping the other. The ideas kept flowing with the motivation to best the other team.

In fact, the scoreboard operator was doling out points and keeping score for each skit in this new competition.

"We had a pitcher, Alex Frederick, who was a New Jersey kid," Shaffer said. "He loved going to the tanning bed all the time, he was constantly orange and poured lemon juice on his hair. We did one where we did a fake tanning bed, which was to make fun of Alex."

It wasn't just a fake tanning bed, though. This sketch really showed the detail and imagination that was on display that night. Five Clemson players were down on their hands and knees, shoulder to shoulder, to create the bed. Five more players stood over them, arms extended out to create the top that would eventually close.

One player, wearing a white T-shirt, pretended to put tanning lotion on with sunglasses on his head. He carefully sat on the bed, closed the door and pretended to tan. Under the closed door of arms, the player took his white T-shirt off to reveal an orange T-shirt he showed off upon exiting the tanning bed.

That level of detail and the creativity had kept some of the crowd in the stands anticipating the next performance. The expectations increased through each skit, which Davidson found out the hard way.

Clemson had completed a skit that mimed a game of football. Davidson did something that looked similar to Clemson's skit, and some fans in the crowd started to boo. It wasn't until a Davidson player ran out as a streaker that the crowd clapped and realized it was a different skit.

The broadcasters were even commentating the improv and describing what was happening -- like when Davidson players went curling. Weiss initiated the stone as two of his teammates pretended to sweep the ice with brooms as it hurled toward the target.

All of this was happening as the rain pounded down, but it almost evaporated in the moment. The players couldn't tell if it had been hours or minutes. For one night, the seniors had forgotten it was their last time in a Davidson uniform. No one cared about the score of the game.

Unfortunately, the comedy act had to come to an end at some point. Leggett said he truly believes if they would've called the game right then, the players probably would've continued on for another hour with more skits.

The rain was pulling back, though, and the teams were notified the first pitch would happen shortly. Cooke had somehow ordered pizza for his team as 10 p.m. approached, and the players were soaking wet, cold and hungry.

Shivering, eating their pizza, they had forgotten about the game and were notified they now needed to prepare to finish a game that had only made it to the first inning.

"The bathroom in the dugout was heated, it was the only place that was heated so you could lock yourself in the bathroom," Hunter said. "A bunch of college kids eating pizza, that bathroom started smelling pretty bad, pretty quickly. It was wet and gross and then they were like, 'OK, first pitch is in 15 minutes. We were all like, 'OK, let me wipe the pizza off my jersey and get out there."

It happened so quickly that one Davidson player was still eating pizza from the on-deck circle. He looked back to his teammates in the dugout with crust hanging from his mouth.

At 10:26 p.m., play resumed and it went from antics back to focusing on the real game in an instant.

"For two hours, the task at hand was the 'Ed Sullivan Show,'" Cooke said. "When that two hours ended, the task at hand was go play Clemson the rest of the way."

It was an anticlimactic finish to the game with Clemson rolling 19-0. To add insult to injury for Davidson, none of the players changed or showered for the two-hour ride home, so they sat in their rain-soaked uniforms on a small, tightly packed bus the entire way.

For the seniors, the realization that their careers were over sunk in, and the melancholy overshadowed the fun rain delay and settled in for the entire two-hour ride.

"The outcome of the game wasn't material for me. The end of the career was the driving thing and just the camaraderie and friendships, it hit us a like a truck," Weiss said. "The juxtaposition between the end of our careers and the rain delay stuff and putting the outcome of the game aside. Looking back on it, it's a weird storybook ending to our career and it was apropos."

But it wasn't the end of this memory for either side. No one performed their skit with the intention of it going viral. Few of them even realized they were being recorded.

Social media wasn't what it is today. The iPhone 4S hadn't even come out yet. Not many rain delays make it to film. That the video went viral after the game was a complete shock to everyone involved.

Once it started making its rounds, including appearing on SportsCenter's Not Top 10, the players started hearing from friends and family members about what took place.

As college kids, they thought it was hilarious. The TV segments poked fun at what happened, and in some cases rightfully so. In one skit, McLindon sits on Hunter pretending to be a toilet seat, another teammate as the flush handle and Weiss holding the toilet paper.

McLindon initially sat down with his legs crossed pretending to read a newspaper. Hunter quickly whispered to him that he wouldn't cross his legs while going to the bathroom and he adjusted his legs to stay in character.

"My mom said she saw me fake taking a dump on ESPN's Not Top 10," McLindon said. "We did not imagine this would be something that would live on. I don't think there was anyone that said, 'I can't wait to watch SportsCenter tomorrow.'"

Truly a mother's dream, seeing the progression of her son earn a baseball scholarship, then making an appearance on SportsCenter pretending to go to the bathroom while sitting on his friend pretending to be a toilet.

At a time when TikTok didn't exist and Instagram was in its infancy, it was an organic expression of joy without chasing likes or shares. It was a purely innocent display of the bond those teammates had and the comic relief they brought to each other.

Ten years ago, Clemson beat Davidson 19-0, but the Davidson players argue they won the real competition that night. At the end of the improv show, the scoreboard showed Davidson with 9 points and Clemson with 4, the Wildcats taking home the unofficial title in comedy.

"I remember enjoying the moment and thinking it probably isn't something we would've done, but to let it roll because everyone was having so much fun," Leggett said. "We were not only competing on the field, but when this started, it turned into a competition of who could be the most detail oriented and most creative. It's a great memory to have and it flourished out of spontaneity into this organic moment that we'll never forget."