5 of the longest, strangest games in MLB history
The unique and delightful structure of baseball means that a game could, in theory, go on forever.
One of the more recent examples of this came on Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series between the Red Sox and Dodgers. With Boston hoping to get out to a commanding 3-0 series lead and Los Angeles fighting for its collective life, the game headed into extras, tied at 1-1 after Jackie Bradley Jr. homered off Kenley Jansen in the eighth.
By the bottom of the 11th, the game had been going on for roughly four and a half hours, but that's October baseball for you: every pitch, every swing, every anything is that much more tense. The 13th inning seemed to have more twists than a Universal Studios roller coaster.
Somewhere along the way, this game made history:
And then, in the 18th inning of what became the longest game in World Series history, Max Muncy put an end to it all.
Here are some other notable examples from the not-too-distant past of games that seemingly never ended ...
Longest game by innings
On May 1, 1920, the then-Boston Braves took on the Brooklyn Robins (who would later become the Dodgers). The Robins scored a run in the fifth inning, and the Braves retaliated with a run of their own in the sixth. Then no runs were score for the next 20 innings.
Umpires stopped the game due to nightfall before the 27th was played and that was that -- this one went into the record books as a tie. That's probably the best outcome you could have hoped for if you were either if the starting pitchers. Remember: This game was in 1920 and bullpens weren't constructed as they are today.
Both starters, Leon Cadore for the Robins and Joe Oeschger for the Braves, pitched for all 26 innings. Both struck out seven, and both hold the record for most innings pitched in a single game.
Longest game by time
Compared to the 26-inning marathon above, the Brewers-White Sox game on May 8, 1984 was short. They only played 25.
Of course, the game took two days and finished as MLB's longest by time. No, they didn't play for 48 straight hours (this isn't cricket) -- the game was suspended after the 18th inning and resumed the next day, when it continued until Chicago right fielder Harold Baines hit what was probably the most welcome walk-off homer of all time, for a 7-6 White Sox victory:
The entire matchup lasted eight hours and six minutes. This time there were plenty of relievers, but apparently a shortage of backstops -- Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk stayed in and caught all 25 innings for the Sox.
On May 31, 1964 (what is it about May games?), the Giants played a 23-inning game against the Mets at Shea Stadium. On its own, it was seven hours and 23 minutes long, but it was also the second game of the longest doubleheader in MLB history. In nine hours and 52 minutes, the teams played 32 total innings (the first game was a comparatively bite-sized nine).
Since there was simply so much baseball going on, it's slightly less surprising that the Mets pulled off a rare triple play in the 14th inning of Game 2. But New York still lost, 8-6, after falling to the Giants, 5-3, in Game 1.
Longest nine-inning game
Considering the conceit of this list, it's not surprising that all of the games we've talked about so far have gone into extra innings. But what about the longest nine-inning game in MLB history? That was played by the Yankees and Red Sox on Aug. 18, 2006. The very first at-bat of the game (Johnny Damon versus Jon Lester) was 10 pitches long. The game itself lasted four hours and 45 minutes, and was truly a rollercoaster of emotion.
Manny Ramirez put the Sox on the board in the first inning, singling in David Ortiz. But the Yankees leapt out in front in the second, scoring five runs for a 5-1 lead. The Sox scored four in the bottom half of the second, bringing them within one run. Then, a Yankees error helped Coco Crisp reach on a ground ball in the bottom of the third, scoring Ramirez and tying the game at 5.
Of course, in the top of the fourth, ex-Red Sox Johnny Damon hit a two-run homer because why not pack in all the emotional drama possible? The Sox tied it again in bottom of the inning, then scored three more runs in the bottom of the fifth. But guess what? Behind 10-7 in the top the seventh, the Yankees scored seven runs, thanks to Melky Cabrera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Big Papi hit a home run off Mariano Rivera, because this game had everything:
But the Red Sox still fell to their rivals, 14-11. Entering game-length history was probably some consolation, though. Right?
Longest shutout game
Did the Mets and the Astros think that April 15, 1968 was a special day? Probably not after the first scoreless inning. After all, Tom Seaver was on the hill for the Mets, and he was then the reigning NL Rookie of the Year. And Astros starter Don Wilson was no slouch, either: On June 16, 1967, Wilson threw the Astrodome's first no-hitter.
Maybe they started to suspect something was up after Wilson pitched what would normally be an incredible complete game: nine shutout innings, five hits, three walks and five strikeouts. Tom Seaver's line was pretty great, too. He pitched 10 shutout innings, gave up just two hits, walked none and struck out three. But guess what? This game was 24 innings long.
The Mets went through seven relief pitchers, while the Astros made do with four. They traded scoreless innings until the bottom of the 24th. Astros right fielder Norm Miller singled, then a balk from Mets reliever Les Rohr sent him to second. Rohr then walked left fielder Jim Wynn. Rusty Staub grounded out, but moved the runners up. John Bateman came in to pinch hit, and he was walked, setting the stage for a truly epic walk-off grand slam.
Of course, we live in the real world and not an inspiring sports movie, so what actually happened was that Bob Aspromonte reached base on an error, scoring Miller and ending the longest shutout in MLB history after six hours and six minutes.