The at-bat that took 85 minutes

And you thought Pedro Báez took a long time to throw the ball?

December 14th, 2020
Art by Tom Forget

There's no denying that there have been some long at-bats in baseball history.

Bartolo Colon once took 20 pitches to strike out Ricky Gutierrez, Alex Cora punctuated an 18-pitch battle against Matt Clement with a two-run dinger and Brandon Belt and Jaime Barria combined for the longest at-bat in MLB history during their 21-pitch, 13-minute duel two seasons ago

Nomar Garciaparra glove-smacked and toe-tapped for what seemed like nine hours before getting in the batter's box.

Pedro Báez is notorious for taking his time in between pitches.

But none of them -- not one of them, not all of them combined -- can measure up to what happened during a game in Cuba 12 years ago.

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It was Christmas Eve, a warm Christmas Eve in the large, baseball-loving city of Sancti Spíritus. Sure, Christmas was coming, but tonight, there was a Cuban National Series game to be played -- and José Antonio Huelga Stadium was filled.

Sancti Spíritus starter Yoharisleibis Panama had run into some trouble in the first inning against Industriales. He gave up a couple of walks and a double -- loading the bases. Spíritus manager Juan Castro, a legendary catcher and former member of the Cuban National Team, had already had a game earlier in the day and was probably running low on patience. He pulled Panama for reliever Jorge Luis Perez. Perez immediately made things worse; walking batters, giving up hits and putting his team at a 3-0 disadvantage.

So, flustered and frustrated, Castro came out onto the field once again and called upon pitcher Dany González to come into the game. The only problem? The Cuban League only allows for 26 of the 27 rostered players to be eligible for a game. And for this game, González was that player who was ineligible.

Through all the mayhem of the first inning, Castro must've forgotten this important fact, but it was too late: Castro had called on González, González had come into the game and, per Cuban League rules, was required to throw at least one pitch. Once he did, the game would be under protest and Sancti Spíritus would need to forfeit if they ended up winning. Industriales manager German Mesa knew all of this and came out to argue the point.

What to do, Castro thought to himself. How could he escape the inescapable? Well, he couldn't. But there was one thing he could do: stall.

And boy, did he stall. As well-known Cuban baseball chronicler Peter Bjarkman reported, Castro stalled for a mind-blowing 85 minutes.

Maybe he was delaying and hoping for rainfall and a postponement? Which wouldn't have really mattered, González still would've had to throw a pitch when the teams returned to action.

Maybe, like most of us who stall for that long, he thought some catastrophic, world-destroying event might interfere and deem the game useless. Anything, anything, but an embarrassing loss.

As Bjarkman writes, there weren't any accounts of what actually happened during the 85 minutes. Did González just stand out there? Did he take a nap? Did Castro stand at the top of the dugout with his arms crossed, staring down the opposing manager? What did the fans do?

Eventually, Castro realized there was no asteroid coming and no dinosaurs around to eat the ballpark and everybody inside it. So, he ordered González to throw a pitch. The ineligible pitcher struck out batter David Remedios -- the most iced man in sports history -- on three straight pitches.

The inning apparently went on for another HALF HOUR, with Industriales scoring a total of 11 runs. They won the game, 14-4, but they would've won anyway because of González coming in to pitch.

The story stands as a reminder to all you baseball managers that you need to remember to follow the rules. And if you don't and get caught, try to stall the game for more than 85 minutes. Because it'll be a new record and people will remember it and write about you for years to come.