ST. LOUIS -- The noise level created by fans at the Metrodome in Minneapolis during the 1987 World Series gave the Minnesota Twins a physiological edge over the St. Louis Cardinals, a hearing researcher at Washington University Medical School said.
Bill Clark, a scientist with Central Institute for the Deaf, said extraordinarily high noise levels at the Metrodome, where the Twins won four of seven World Series games, may have handicapped the Cardinals by interfering with player communication, concentration and performance.
Clark is not only a Cardinals fan, but an expert on noise in the workplace. Out of professional curiosity, he often attends rock concerts and other loud recreational events to study noise levels and their effects.
He measured and compared noise levels at the Metrodome and Busch Stadium in St. Louis. He found that noise levels at the Metrodome were twice as loud as those in St. Louis.
This contributed to the Cardinals being 'soundly defeated,' he said.
The roar of the Metrodome crowd almost certainly caused temporary hearing loss in unprotected fans, and Clark said repeated exposure to such high noise levels could lead to permanent hearing loss in athletes, concessionaires and others who work in the Metrodome.
'The only term to use is deafening,' Clark said. 'At times it was impossible to hear the person screaming right next to you.'
Clark logged an average noise level of 94.4 decibels, 90.4 percent of the federally allowed dose, in Game 6 at the Metrodome. Levels were a sedate 77-90 decibels when the Cardinals were ahead but jumped to 95-109 when the Twins took the lead in later innings. The maximum level was 114 decibels in the game won by the Twins, 11-5.
In Game 4 in St. Louis, the average noise level was 90.6 decibels, only 49.3 percent of the allowable dose. The Cardinals won 7-2.
Because noise levels are controlled by the course of the game, Clark said the fairest comparison is to measure noise level in the first 40 minutes before anything too critical happens. In St. Louis, that average was 83 decibels. In the Metrodome, it was 92.
'Perceptually, 92 decibels is twice as loud as 83 decibels,' Clark said.
He said the Cardinals were at a disadvantage in the Metrodome not because the noise affected them differently than it did the Twins, but because they had not adjusted to the environment. The Twins played 81 regular-season games there; the Cardinals none.
'In the very high noise environment of the Metrodome, the communication can't be accomplished at all over distances of greater than a few feet,' Clark said. 'The Twins have learned alternative strategies to communicate in spite of the noise.'
Clark said that other studies show that when high levels of unpredictable noise occur, performance is impaired.
'More errors are made, so accuracy goes down. Also, decisions are made faster, so responses are rushed and judgment is sloppier.'
In the Series, the Cardinals committed four errors in the Metrodome, while the Twins had none. In Busch Stadium, the Twins had three and the Cardinals two.
During the regular season, Minnesota's opponents in the Metrodome committed 85 errors -- the most in any league park.
Reaction to Clark's presentation at the Association for Research in Otolaryngology last month was good, he said.
'Everybody thinks this is cutesie, but they're also amazed at how much useful information I got,' Clark said. 'There's no controversy, except the scientists from Minnesota do not believe the noise level had anything to do with the outcome of the games.
'They all admit that it's too loud at the Metrodome, but they are unwilling to concede that the performance of the Cardinals may have been impaired in that environment,' he said.