Thursday, May 26, 2011

Long Games Lead to Wandering Thoughts

Over the past week or so, I’ve been helping my brother with his new house. First, we had to install some insulation in the house he’s building because he wanted extra in there in order to avoid hearing the garage door open and close, hearing the TV in the bedroom while he's trying to sleep, and having his wife hear his gaseous releases from the bathroom (after being together for 10+ years, I think she's got the idea by now). Second, we have to move his stuff from the old house to a number of spots because, of course, he sold his house before his new one was finished. So I’ve spent the better part of the past week helping him, and if you’ve ever helped move people, it’s a little tiring. Anyway, I finally got home last night and was predictably exhausted, but my roommate was watching the Reds game. I haven’t hung out with him in a while, so I was like, “I’ll stay up for the Reds game and hang out with him.” Because whatever deity you choose to worship hates me, the game went 19 innings, and just to prove how much that deity hates me, I gave up right after the 18th ended and went to bed, thus missing Wilson “Exxon” Valdez (roommate’s nickname for him, which I think is hilarious) pitching.

Moving past my #$%^&ing and moaning, the game got me to thinking about the longest games (by innings) in baseball history, so I went to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index to find out.

First on the list is the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers who played 26 innings on May 1, 1920. A couple odd things to note in this one. The score was 1-1 with the runs being scored in the top of the 5th and bottom of the 6th, and I don’t care if this is just barely the Dead Ball Era—that’s a long time not to score any runs. For 20 innings or 2 games and 2 innings, neither team scored. What are the odds? The next really weird thing is that the game took a whole 3 hours and 50 minutes, or like 2 and a half hours less than the Reds-Phillies game last night. But with 24 hits and 9 walks total, there’s not a whole lot going on that’s going the lengthen the game. The next awesome thing about the game is that it started at 3 PM, but because they didn’t have lights and it was getting dark (had this game been a month later, they may have been able to finish it), they called the game a draw. Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger must have been pissed because they had been pitching the entire time and had nothing to show for it except for a severely reduced ERA.

Next up is the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox 25-inning marathon on May 8th, 1984. First of all and I know I’m in the minority on this, I just can’t think of the Brewers as an American League team. I know they were, and I was aware of the switch. But it’s hard for me to consider them an AL team. Regardless, this was actually the longest game ever at 8 hours and 6 minutes, which is about the length of the average work day. My only question if a modern concession stand would start selling beer again because, at this point, any buzz has officially worn off, and if you’ve stayed this long, you kind of deserve a beer, right?

A little less than a decade before that one, the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets played 25 innings on September 11th, 1974, but it wasn’t even the longest game in Mets’ history, time-wise. This game took 7 hours and 4 minutes, but a little over a decade before this one, the Mets played the San Francisco Giants in another May game on May 31, 1964. This one only lasted 23 innings, but because the score was 8-6 instead of 4-2, it lasted 19 more minutes, making it the longest game time-wise in National League history. Better yet, the Mets starting pitcher lasted two innings while the last reliever pitched 9, but that wasn't the longest stint of the night as Gaylord Perry pitched 10 while also in relief.

So a long game in May inspired thoughts on the longest games in baseball history, which also happened in May. And a few of them happened almost exactly a decade apart. Another weird fact is that of the top 17 games (by innings) 7 were in May, and none of those games were last night’s Reds-Phillies game. That one was 38th or 39th all-time.

That means that there are more than 30 games in baseball history that have defied the odds and lasted 20+ innings with a tie. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. When you think about all the games that are played each day, each year, and over the last 100+ years, it’s not that surprising. But think about it. The game has to be tied at the end of nine innings, which isn’t that difficult, but then it also has to be tied at the end of each inning for more than a game’s length. Think about all that’s necessary for that to happen. Then, think about the varying times it takes to do it. The 26-inning game took less than half the time of the longest game ever, which was one inning shorter than that one. In what other game does something like that happen? I love baseball.

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