Looking back on all the weirdness of the 22-inning, 1-0 marathon between the Expos and Dodgers
The Montreal Expos played more than 2,100 games at Olympic Stadium from the time it was opened in 1977 until the team moved to Washington, D.C., after the 2004 season. But we're reasonably confident they never played a stranger one than their showdown against the Dodgers on Aug. 23, 1989.
It had it all: great pitching, dubious baserunning, controversial calls, even a mascot ejection. Well, everything except for some runs.
It was an exciting year in Montreal. The team was in contention, just two games behind the NL East-leading Cubs, and had even managed to acquire Mariners workhorse Mark Langston at the non-waiver Trade Deadline (albeit at the cost of a wild 25-year-old southpaw named Randy Johnson).
The Dodgers, meanwhile, had stumbled to a sub-.500 record in defense of their World Series title. Nevertheless, an exciting pitching matchup was on the docket: 1988 NL Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser against Expos fan favorite Pascual Perez. After struggling early on, Perez had posted a 2.79 ERA from June onward and had just spun a complete game against the Padres. Facing a pitcher as feared as Hershiser, Perez needed to bring his A-game -- and he was more than up to the task, blanking L.A. over eight innings.
Unfortunately for Perez, Hershiser matched him out for out. The Dodgers' ace showed the form that had set a record for consecutive scoreless innings the previous season, throwing seven shutout innings of his own and only leaving the game when Tommy Lasorda pinch-hit for him in an eighth-inning rally that was stymied by Perez.
So, after two masterful starts, the score remained 0-0 at the end of the ninth ... and then the end of the 10th ... and then the end of the 14th ... and the end of the 18th ... and the end of the 21st. Yes, after three seventh-inning stretches in the same game, neither the Dodgers nor Expos had scored a run. Yet both teams had come oh-so-close.
In the bottom of the 16th, it looked like the Expos had it won. Tim Crews allowed back-to-back singles to Larry Walker and Andres Galarraga, essentially forcing Crews to intentionally walk future Hall of Famer Tim Raines to load the bases with no one out. He got Tim Wallach to hit a shallow fly ball for the first out, and then, with one out, Mike Fitzgerald lifted a fly ball to right -- deep enough for Walker to tag and score. It looked for all the world like a game-winning sac fly, as Walker sprinted home and was initially called safe ... but upon Lasorda's appeal, the umpires ruled that Walker had left third base too soon.
Then, in the 18th, the Dodgers tried to scrape together a two-out rally off Rich Thompson, who had been keeping them off the board for three innings. Lenny Harris singled to left field, bringing up another future Hall of Famer -- the dangerous Eddie Murray. He crushed Thompson's pitch to the right-field wall. After a leap at the wall, Walker came down with the ball, and the umpires called Murray out.
If replay review existed at the time, though, it would have been another story. Lasorda could have challenged the call and learned that Walker had actually trapped the ball after it bounced off the wall. Since Harris was already crossing home plate, that run might have counted. Alas, the pitchers' duel remained scoreless.
But even after two games worth of scoreless innings and two improbably foiled rallies, things could still get weirder. Like, "Tommy Lasorda feuding with a mascot" weirder. As Jonah Keri recounted in his book, Up, Up, and Away:
"Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was yelling about something; about what, we couldn't tell. Red-faced, he stomped over to home-plate umpire Greg Bonin, then unloaded a river of spittle in his face. A minute later, Bonin pointed to the top of the dugout. Turned out Lasorda had been kvetching about an unwelcome visitor. Youppi!, the Expos mascot, had been dancing on the heads of Lasorda and his players for the better part of two innings. When Youppi! pulled off his signature move, getting a running start then belly-flopping with a loud thud on the dugout to mimic a slide into second base, the Dodgers skipper snapped."
Lasorda was furious about the interruptions and appealed to the officials. Third-base umpire Bob Davidson obliged, giving Youppi! the heave-ho -- the first mascot ejection in MLB history:
What remained of the crowd of 21,742 at Olympic Stadium booed, and Youppi! was eventually allowed back in -- he just had to stay on the Expos' side of the field.
At that point, it seemed like the game would never end, but soon the decisive blow came from an unlikely source. Dodgers catcher Rick Dempsey had entered in the eighth when starter Mike Scioscia pulled his hamstring. Although the veteran had a long resume to his name, he was a month shy of 40 and had only homered once all year long. When Dennis Martinez hung a curveball, though, he was ready:
Dempsey wasn't normally a power hitter, but he was looking to go deep. "I went up there against Martinez thinking, just give me something I can hit out of the ballpark," Dempsey said to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times.
"But heck, I was fresh," he joked. "It isn't like I've been overworked this year or anything."
Dempsey wasn't done. In the bottom of the 22nd, the Expos tried to piece together one last rally. With two outs, Rex Hudler singled to center off John Wetteland, at that point working in his sixth (!) inning of relief. Hudler had stolen 40 bases over the past year and a half, and he figured that after catching 14 innings, Dempsey might be weary.
At long last, the marathon had ended. The Dodgers won, 1-0, in 22 innings, a pitching masterpiece that would have made Cy Young proud.