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Thread: The Longest Game
04-19-01 08:44 AM #1
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the longest game in Minor League Baseball. A great 33 inning affair between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox. Below is a great article. It is a little long, but very interesting.
The stadium (McCoy) is still going strong, and well worth a visit if you are in the RI area.
Twenty years later, PawSox family still takes pride in longest game
David Borges April 18, 2001
PAWTUCKET -- The longest game in the history of professional baseball almost never got off the ground. The power went out in a light tower in left field on that cold, windy night on April 18, 1981 at McCoy Stadium, and it didn’t come back on until 8 p.m., a half-hour after that night’s game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Roches-ter Red Wings was slated to start.
After the game finally ended, 33 innings, 832 pitches and a little over two months later, a water pipe burst inside the PawSox’ clubhouse, drenching the assembled throng of media types on hand to interview the game’s hero, Dave Koza.
Ah, the old McCoy Stadium!
In the time between, the PawSox and Red Wings had 36 hits in 213 at-bats, left 49 men on base and used 156 baseballs in a game that made baseball history, turned career minor-leaguers into instant celebrities and earned the PawSox a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It was 20 years ago today that the PawSox and Red Wings began "The Longest Game" on a dreary Easter Eve at McCoy. The teams played 32 innings that night and well into Easter Sunday, finally calling an end to the madness at 4:09 a.m. with a hearty 17 fans left in the stands from the original gathering of 1,740.
When the game was resumed on June 23, there were 5,756 fans, not to mention media types from all over the world --- including the British BBC and the Sunday Mainichi from Japan --- jamming McCoy.
The nuts and bolts of the game are rather mundane --- Rochester took a 1-0 lead in the seventh, the PawSox tied it up in the ninth; Rochester went back ahead in the 21st, only to see Pawtucket tie it up with a run in the bottom of the frame; Koza’s Texas League single in the bottom of the 33rd finally brought the game to an end with Pawtucket on top, 3-2.
But it’s the precious anecdotes from those who were at McCoy that night (and for the resumption of the game on June 23) that make it one of the truly special events in all of baseball history.
There was PawSox manager Joe Morgan getting ejected from the game in the 22nd inning and watching the rest of the action from a small hole cut out behind the backstop. There was Morgan’s wife calling the stadium at 3 a.m. and getting her husband on the other end.
"We’re still playing!" Morgan told his irate wife.
"How the hell can you still be playing if you’re answering the phone?" she very wisely retorted.
There was poor Luis Aponte, the PawSox pitcher who got a ride home from teammate Mike Smithson around 5 a.m.. Smithson waited in the car to make sure Aponte got in O.K. and heard a banging on the door, followed by a loud argument in Spanish. A few minutes later, Aponte was back in Smithson’s car, banished from his apartment because his wife thought he was out drinking all night.
Aponte wound up sleeping on the trainer’s table inside the PawSox clubhouse.
Then, of course, there was Sam Bowen’s play in the top of the 32nd inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, Rochester’s Tom Eaton hit a line drive to right-centerfield that looked like it would surely bring home the go-ahead run.
But Bowen gloved the ball and fired a pill to catcher Roger LaFrancois, nailing Rochester’s John Hale at the plate by at least two feet.
That play epitomized the grit and determination of both teams, according to PawSox owner Ben Mondor and president Mike Tamburro, both of whom were on-hand for all 32 innings that night.
"We’re in the top of the 32nd, we’ve been at it for eight hours-plus, it’s past 4 a.m," Mondor recalled. "We didn’t realize it was the longest game, we just realized it was a very long game. First and second, two outs, we’re thinking, ‘Well, score and get it overwith.’ The guy from Rochester hits the ball to right-center field, a real good hard smash. Even if (Bowen) doesn’t chase the ball, nobody would have said anything. But he made a back-handed stop and threw him out at the plate. Who would have imagined that?!?!"
"This game speaks volumes about the integrity of the game of baseball," added Tamburro. "In temperatures in the low-30’s, high-20’s, with the wind blowing in, neither team would give in. Nobody grooved a pitch or misplayed a ball. It would have been so easy to give in. Sam Bowen throws out a runner at the plate in the top of the 32nd. If that’s up the first base line by five feet, the run scores. But he throws him out at the plate. It’s amazing."
IN FACT, THE GAME shouldn’t have been still going at that time. International League rules stated that an inning was not to begin after 12:50 a.m. Only problem was, umpire crew chief Jack Lietz had no idea about the rule.
"There’s nothing in my (I.L.) manual about calling a game because of a curfew," Lietz said that night.
And, thanks to yet another of the countless amusing anecdotes surrounding the game, Lietz was right. Back then, manuals were put together from pages running off a mimiograph machine. For whatever reason, one of the pages in Lietz’s manual got cut off at the last paragraph.
The paragraph that included the curfew rule.
Tamburro and Mondor tried all night to reach I.L. president Harold Cooper, to no avail. (What was Cooper doing out in the wee hours of Easter morning? Take a guess).
When the PawSox brass finally got ahold of Cooper a little after 4 a.m., he told them to pull the plug if the game was still tied at the end of the inning. And, of course, after 32 complete, the score was still tied, 2-2.
"It was ridiculous," said Morgan, a full 10 innings after being thumbed from the game by umpire Dennis Cregg for arguing on a bunt call. "This game could have been stopped 1,000 times with two words: common sense."
But very little about that night made any sense. The game started in daylight and ended in daylight. With the wind playing havoc all night, there were at least half a dozen potential home runs that were quickly turned into mere pop-ups. PawSox players began using the wood of broken bats to build a fire inside the dugout to keep warm.
Rochester catcher Dave Huppert caught 31 innings ---- 31 innings! --- before finally being pinch-hit for in the 32nd. One of the headlines in the Pawtucket Times the next day: "How to acquire a permanent squat: Dave Huppert caught 31 innings."
As the innings piled up, the scribes inside McCoy’s press box began running an informal pool as to when the number of innings would surpass the temperature on that freezing cold night.
"Those were things you do to keep your sanity," recalled Mike Scandura, the longtime PawSox beat writer for the Times who was on-hand that night.
IT GOT EVEN CRAZIER by the time the game resumed a couple of months later. With Major League Baseball players on strike, all eyes were on McCoy.
"It was the sports story of the world on that day," Tamburro recalled. "For two months, people were talking about the resumption of ‘The Longest Game.’"
After Rochester failed to score in the top of the 33rd, Marty Barrett was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the frame. Chico Walker then singled him to third, and Rochester manager Doc Edwards elected to intentionally walk Russ Laribee. The same Russ Laribee who went 0-for-11 in the game with seven strikeouts. The same Russ Laribee whose sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth had brought home Chico Walker with the tying run and started the whole mess two months earlier.
That brought up Koza for his shot at history.
"I come up and I know I’ve got to do something, because Wade Boggs is coming up next, and if I don’t do something, you know he’s going to do something," Koza recalled. "I was in the right place at the right time."
On a 2-2 pitch, Koza plunked Cliff Speck’s into left field on a soft line drive, plating Barrett with the winning run.
"Over the years, it could (turn into) a home run, or a hard line drive," said Koza. "But it was just a soft liner."
Soft liners look like frozen ropes in the box score ---- and there was nothing that looked quite like this box score. The pages in official scorer Bill George’s scorebook only went to 12 innings. Not wanting to waste any more sheets in his scorebook, George decided to continue using the same sheet, using different colored ink to delineate the start of each new inning.
When it was all through, George’s scoresheet looked like some sort of psychedlic painting. It’s also in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
So are the bat and ball Koza used for the game-winning hit, the official lineup card, a game program, newspaper clippings and many other artifacts from "The Longest Game." The game not only put the PawSox in the Hall of Fame, but permanently in the hearts of Rhode Islanders, as well.
"It’s one of the main turning points in the success of this operation," said Tamburro. "Up to that point, I’m not sure the people in the state of Rhode Island really understood what we were all about. This event kind of catapulted the whole operation."
©The Pawtucket Times 2001--Jim
04-19-01 10:24 AM #2
I remember that game because I live in Rochester. I wasn't there that day but it was big news here.
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