As happens every four years, World Cup haters and soccer deniers band together to deride the sport that Americans have sworn is “catching on here” for the past 40 years.
One of the main gripes they have is that too many games are low scoring and end in ties.
“That doesn’t happen in baseball!” scream the naysayers.
In an interesting twist of fate, the longest game in Major League Baseball history by innings fits both criteria. It was a 1-1 tie between the Brooklyn Robins and Boston Braves on May 1, 1920 and it lasted 26 innings. The game was played in just 3:50 and both starters pitched all 26 innings. Incredibly, the teams hooked up for a 19-ining game just two days later. Boston won that one 2-1 when they strung together three singles in the bottom of the 19th.
There have been 46 games in Major League history that have lasted at least 20 innings, with just eight of those passing the 22-inning threshold. Two games fell just short of matching the Braves and Robins, each decided in the 25th inning.
On September 11, 1974, the Mets and Cardinals went into the 25th inning tied at three when Bake McBride led off the top of the 25th with a single. Mets catcher Ron Hodges tried to pick McBride off first, but his throw got away and rolled all the way up the right field line, allowing the speedy McBride to score. That game took 7:04 to play.
On May 8, 1984, the White Sox and Brewers locked horns for 25 innings with the Sox having to call on Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in relief for the top of the 25th. Luckily, that was all he would have to pitch as fellow Hall of Famer Harold Baines blasted a walkoff homer in the bottom of the frame to win it. That game had been suspended in the 18th inning and picked up the next day before the regularly scheduled game. It took 8:06 to complete. Incidentally, Seaver started the regularly scheduled game and went 8 2/3 inning, picking up the win in that game too. It is also the longest game by time in Major League history.
If you’re wondering where the Yankees and Red Sox fit into game-length history, they hold the record for longest nine-inning game by time, taking an unmanageable 4:45 for the Yanks to beat the Red Sox 14-11 on August 18, 2006. That was game two of a doubleheader, with the first game also being a four-hour marathon. Together, the two games set the Major League record for longest 18-inning doubleheader by time at 8:40.
That would have been enough time for the 1920 Robins and Braves to play two 26-inning games with an hour break in between.
Before we move on to this week’s edition of The Stud 400, here’s a look at the last five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:
265.Joe DiMaggio marries Marilyn Monroe (1954)
264. Oakland A’s Mustache Gang (1972)
263. Nap Lajoie sets batting average record by hitting .426 (1901)
262. Deion Sanders plays in World Series and Super Bowl (1995)
261. Bobby Cox sets ejection record (2007)
And now, here’s Episode XXIX of The Stud 400, featuring artwork by Will O’Toole.
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Robins and Braves play MLB’s longest game (1920)
There has only been one game in Major League Baseball history that lasted more than 25 innings and it came on May 1, 1920. The game between the Brooklyn Robins and Boston Braves ended in a 1-1 tie when it was called for darkness after the 26th inning. The Robins got on the board first in the top of the fifth on a bloop single by Ivy Olson. The Braves tied it up in the bottom of the sixth when a Tony Boeckel single to center drove home Walton Cruise. The game remained tied for the next 20 innings. The Robins had the best chance to win it when they loaded the bases with one out in the top of the 17th, but Rowdy Elliott bounced into a 1-2-3-2 double play. Both Zack Wheat and Ed Konetchy were thrown out at home on the play. The Braves had 15 hits in the game while the Robins managed just nine. Chuck Ward and pitcher Leon Cardone each went 0-10 for the Robins, but they didn’t have the worst day at the park. Braves second baseman Charlie Pick went 0-11, committed two errors and hit into a double play with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth. Incidentally, each of the next two games for both teams went into extras as well. The Robins played 58 innings over the three-game span while the Braves played 56 innings in their three games.
Rube Waddell and the 1905 World Series (1905)
At best, Rube Waddell can be described as “eccentric,” At worst? That dude’s the craziest m-fer to ever put on a uniform. In 1905, Waddell was the best pitcher in baseball. He won the pitching Triple Crown, going 27-10 with a 1.48 ERA and 287 strikeouts. The A’s won the American League and were set to take on Christy Mathewson and the Giants in the second ever World Series. While that magical season was winding down, Waddell was allegedly involved in some horseplay with teammate Andy Coakley and his straw hat, injuring his shoulder. This caused him to struggle through the end of the season and miss the World Series. Less than a month later, The Sporting News cast doubt on that story, leaving open the idea that it may have all been staged so Waddell could skip the World Series as part of a bribe with gamblers.
The final month of Waddell’s 1905 season was curious to say the least. On September 8, Waddell started against Cy Young, but uncharacteristically left the game after two innings with what was purported to be a sore arm. Later that evening was the alleged altercation with Coakley. Finally reaching the end of his rope with him, manager Connie Mack reportedly said, “I won’t need you anymore, Rube. You can spend the rest of the season among the breweries or anywhere you want.” This was fine until Waddell announced that when he was shaving, he felt something click in his shoulder, but everything was fine. Waddell pitched poorly in two short relief outings and started a game on October 7 in which he was pulled after giving up two runs in the first. Waddell’s availability in the World Series remained in doubt right up until Game 1. Ultimately, he didn’t pitch in this Series or any World Series in his career. The Giants ended up beating the A’s 4-1. The story of Rube Waddell and the 1905 World Series has many twists and turns and a much more in-depth examination of it was done at SABR by Stephen A. King.
Joe Niekro ejected (1987)
Baseball fans have a funny way of dealing with cheaters. Steroids and trash can banging bring out the pitchforks and torches while spitballs and scuffed baseballs get the wink-and-a-nod treatment. The 2017 Astros are still a bunch of pariahs, but Gaylord Perry is a folk hero. Joe Niekro happens to fall into the same category as Perry. It wasn’t necessarily that Niekro was found scuffing baseballs that makes him so beloved, it’s that he tried to a pull a move to hide it that you only see from middle schoolers in the principal’s office. In a game against the Angels on August 3, 1987, the knuckleballer was frisked on the mound due to suspected scuffing. When he was asked to empty his pockets, Niekro flipped them inside out and tried to slyly fling an emery board away in one smooth motion. It didn’t work. Not even for a second.
Umpires caught sight of the emery board before it hit the ground, Niekro was promptly ejected, and a collection of game balls was gathered in a clear plastic bag right on the field for everyone to see. Niekro claimed the emery board was used to file his nails, but Angels manager Gene Mauch wasn’t having it. Typical of Mauch, he had some direct words about the incident. He said, “Those balls weren’t roughed up. Those balls were borderline mutilated.” He also added, “Nobody ever suspected Joe Niekro [of scuffing the baseballs], everybody always knew it.” Umpire Tim Tschida, who had been hoarding balls as evidence, said the balls had “gouges the size of half dollars.” He also said that Niekro had sandpaper glued to his left hand and touched up to look like skin. Niekro was suspended for ten games and used his free time to show up to Late Night with David Letterman wearing a carpenter apron while carrying a power sander.
Jamie Moyer wins an MLB game at 49 (2012)
Jamie Moyer isn’t talked about enough as a marvel of modern pitching. Sure, he’s always mentioned whenever you hear the term “crafty lefty,” but when it comes to pitching longevity, very few, if any, can match what Moyer has done. Moyer not only pitched until he was 49, but he actually did so after having Tommy John Surgery at age 48, a surgery that cost him an entire season. Moyer made 10 starts in 2012 with his “fastball” touching 80 MPH. When he beat the Padres with seven shutout innings on April 17, 2012, he became the oldest player to ever win a game as a pitcher, topping Jack Quinn’s record that had stood for 80 years. Moyer also became the oldest player to record an RBI and became the first pitcher to pitch in 50 different stadiums. The franchise with whom he set these records, the Colorado Rockies, was seven years away from even existing when Moyer made his MLB debut in 1986. Moyer attempted to come back at age 50 as a knuckleball pitcher, but cut that effort short in the fall of 2013.
Disco Demolition Night (1979)
About a year ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Mike Veeck. He was the “mastermind” behind Disco Demolition Night and he told me what his father Bill said to him after the catastrophe. The elder Veeck said, “Mike, sometimes promotions work too well.” The younger Veeck was in charge of promotions and getting fans to the ballpark. The White Sox had been drawing about 20,000 people to games that season, so when over 50,000 showed up on the night of July 12, 1979, you could say Veeck did his job. Chicago rock DJ Steve Dahl had been an outspoken antagonist against the disco movement and Mike Veeck himself was actually a rock musician. Dahl had been organizing smaller “disco demolition” events around Chicago, but the event at Comiskey Park was the grand finale. Discounted admission of .98 cents was offered to those who brought disco records to the stadium for a doubleheader against the Tigers. While most were collected at the gate, a good number were smuggled into the stadium and later used as projectiles.
The demolition ceremony was scheduled to happen between games of the doubleheader and sure enough at 8:40 PM, Dahl came onto the field in a Jeep wearing Army fatigues. White Sox Game 2 starter Ken Kravec was on the mound warming up and other players were in the dugouts watching. After some fanfare, Dahl ignited the explosives, sending record shards everywhere. There was no protection to the playing field, so a crater was also blown into the outfield grass. This set off an absolute riot in the stadium. Fans rushed the field, climbed foul poles and tore the field apart. White Sox officials Harry Caray and Bill Veeck tried unsuccessfully to restore order; and once the field was cleared, umpires determined the playing conditions were unsafe for a game. The next day, American League President Lee MacPhail declared Game 2 a forfeit.
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Stay tuned for next week’s episode of The Stud 400 as we take a look at one of the biggest World Series home runs in baseball history, check in on a winning streak that inspired a movie, and clear the bases with a controversial slugger. Tune in next time as we tune in for the first time!