July 27, 2021

The Game that Lasted Two Months

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

And you thought a D’Backs-Pirates game was long. How about the longest game in pro baseball history? The Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings started their contest April 18, 1981. Eight hours later at 4:09 a.m. on April 19, umpires suspended the game. It resumed two months later. Dan Barry has all the details of a game that wouldn’t die in “Bottom of the 33rd.”

Read this book because:

1. Thirty-three innings allow for plenty of time for reflection.

The evening of April 18, 1981, had a mystical quality in Pawtucket, R.I. It was no Judgment Day, but this particular April night was sandwiched between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Little wonder it did not go smoothly. Four malfunctioning light towers pushed the first pitch from 7:30 to 7:40 to 7:50. Mercifully or unmercifully, the action started at 8:02 p.m.

The owner, who bears a resemblance to a Santa Claus who has seen jollier days, takes turns presiding in his “box” and passing out baseball cards to young tikes. An umpire crouches behind home plate, already exhausted from moving day and a head cold. A father and his son are set to enjoy the “privileges” of season tickets. As luck would have it, they had agreed beginning that night that they would never leave another game early. A player’s new bride leans forward, her heart in every pitch. By dawn the next morning, most of the stalwarts will have huddled together, a couple dozen weak. All wished they were someplace else.

2. You will discover the game itself was a microcosm for many players on both rosters and for the minor-league experience.

Dave Koza made his pilgrimage at age 11. Folks from Wyoming sent him on his way to baseball camp in Oklahoma. He’s a decent first baseman, but the Red Sox already have four of those. Yaz-Perez-Koza doesn’t sound quite right, and he knows it. Tonight’s contest gives him plenty of time to rehash the situation. Larry Jones signed with the Orioles at 22. With a baseball build and a fastball that topped 90, he was bound for the bigs, right? Four years later, on this dank 1981 night, doubt pervaded.

Wade Boggs, his wife and daughter drive around in a carpeted 1975 Dodge van. The book on Boggs says he doesn’t run well. He is a powerless hitter and all together barely a blip on the Boston radar. Cal Ripken, Jr. is weeks removed from being one of the first cuts on the big-league roster. Others may see him as a sure thing, but don’t expect him to agree.

3. Once you emerge on the winning side of this historic game in a fraction of the time, you can’t help but feel ever so slightly that you were part of baseball lore. Barry puts you in the bleachers for a ballgame many times over.

Doc Edwards told Rochester’s Larry Jones that the game’s in the bag. The wind’s blowing in, so there’s nothing to worry about. Just do your job. By the next pitch, Jones had either forgotten or fixated on his manager’s words. A curveball bounces past the catcher, putting the eventual tying run on third. Somewhere or other, International League rules said that no inning shall commence after 12:50 a.m. Only problem was, those were the 1980 rules. One year later, no such provision existed. The game would go on. And on. And on some more.

Luis Aponte got an “early” reprieve to go home and get some sleep. Nineteen innings at the ballpark was long enough for a pitcher who might be used later that day, said manager Joe Morgan. Aponte’s wife said otherwise. If her husband had been out that late on the streets, he might as well stay out, she argued. Back to the ballpark. At 4:09 on April 19, everyone left at McCoy Stadium headed home. The game wasn’t done, but after 32 innings, the game could wait another two months.

Don’t wait two months to pick this one up!

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

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