Tuesday, July 30, 2013
A great day for baseball! Let's play 2! Or 3! . . .
The longest game in professional baseball history was Easter weekend 1981 between the Triple A International League Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox. It lasted more than nine hours over 33 innings.
Today, I hope the record is broken by the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.
If that happens, I won’t be home until sometime Thursday afternoon.
And that would be fine with me.
I woke up this morning realizing today could be one of the best non-family days of my life. My buddy called with a ticket for today’s doubleheader at PNC Park between the teams with the two best records.
Who during spring training ever would have thought one of those teams would be the Pirates?
Not me, certainly.
The Pirates streak of consecutive losing seasons is 20 years old, the longest futility streak in professional sports.
That’s why I’m hoping today’s doubleheader will be such an extra-inning extravaganza. I feel like baseball owes us.
The Pirates last night crept to within one-half game of first place after lambasting the proud and tough St. Louis Cardinals, 9-2.
And does reading the word “lambast” make anyone else hungry for gyro? Does it to me every time.
Maybe I’ll have one at the ballpark today. Heck, maybe I’ll have three.
Even without extra innings, I’ll be at what is widely regarded as baseball’s most beautiful ballpark for eight hours, roughly the equivalent of the epic minor league in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, McCoy Stadium.
The ’81 game inspired the 2012 Dan Barry book, “Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game.” I intend to read it one of these days. Here’s some facts from the game:
• The game featured two eventual all-time greats, Cal Ripkin Jr. and Wade Boggs. When Boggs’s father asked him how he did, he said, “I got four hits.” His father thought that was great. “Then I told him I’d had 12 at bats.”
• The start of the game was delayed 25 minutes to correct an issue regarding stadium lighting.
• The International League had recently approved a standard curfew meaning that games would be suspended at 12:50 a.m., but umpire Dennis Cregg’s rule book was printed prior to the rule’s activation.
• There’s a Pirate connection to the historic game: The losing pitcher was Rochester’s Steve Grilli, father of injured Pirate ace closer Jason Grilli.
• It was so cold in Rhode Island that night that players from both teams began burning broken bats for firewood. When all the broken bats had been burnt, they began dismantling the wooden benches and throwing them on the fire.
• Boggs hit a run in the bottom of the 21st inning that tied the game for Pawtucket. “When I got to the bench,” he said, “I didn’t know if my teammates wanted to hug me or slug me.”
• By 4 a.m., players from both teams described themselves as “delirious” from exhaustion.
• The league president Harold Cooper was reached in bed at 3:45 a.m. and told the game was still going on. Horrified, he ordered that play be halted at the conclusion of the current inning. The game was ordered to resume during a rematch series on June 23. It would end that night after just one inning that took 18 minutes to complete.
• Players departing the stadium reported seeing Christian worshippers heading to Easter sunrise services as they were heading home from the ballpark.
• The initial game was attended by 1,740 fans, only 19 of whom remained in their seats when play was suspended at 4:07 a.m. Those 19 received lifetime passes to McCoy Stadium.
• Umpire Cregg set a still-existing record for longest plate appearance: 882 pitches (60 strike outs) over 8 hours and 25 minutes. Cregg had chosen that game to take his young nephew, David, and the boy was one of those 19 who received a lifetime pass.
• Cregg has told reporters he doesn’t think his nephew has in 32 years ever set foot in another ballpark.
So there’s something for those of you who, like me, can’t get enough baseball.
If any of that happens starting today, I promise I’ll provide a full report the morning after I return from the ballpark.
And I hope that means Friday.
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