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Longest games in MLB history

Dodgers, Braves played record 26 innings in 1920
MLB.com @_dadler

One of the many great things about baseball is that time can never run out. In baseball, a comeback is always possible. The game's not over until you get the 27th out -- or, sometimes, a lot more than that.

Extra-inning games are nothing unusual in Major League Baseball, of course. But some games in MLB history have truly gone to the extreme. Every once in a while, two teams meet on the field and produce a game far longer than a single game has any business going -- even beyond the 20-inning mark.

One of the many great things about baseball is that time can never run out. In baseball, a comeback is always possible. The game's not over until you get the 27th out -- or, sometimes, a lot more than that.

Extra-inning games are nothing unusual in Major League Baseball, of course. But some games in MLB history have truly gone to the extreme. Every once in a while, two teams meet on the field and produce a game far longer than a single game has any business going -- even beyond the 20-inning mark.

MLB.com takes a look back at those marathon contests. Here are the longest games played, by number of innings, in Major League history since 1900.

1. May 1, 1920: Brooklyn Robins 1, Boston Braves 1
Length: 26 innings

The longest game by innings in Major League history could have gone even longer -- after 26 innings, the game was called due to darkness. The Robins (the predecessors to the Dodgers) and Braves were tied at 1, and that's how the game ended. The entire episode took just three hours and 50 minutes.

Brooklyn's run came courtesy of leadoff man Ivy Olson, who lined an RBI single over Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville's head in the fifth. Boston's Tony Boeckel drove in the tying run with a single to center in the bottom of the sixth. The teams traded zeros for 20 innings until night fell at Braves Field.

The next day's New York Times story joked that umpire Barry McCormick "remembered that he had an appointment pretty soon with a succulent beefsteak. He wondered if it wasn't getting dark. He held out one hand as a test and decided that in the gloaming it resembled a Virginia ham. He knew it wasn't a Virginia ham and became convinced that it was too dark to play ball. Thereupon, he called the game, to the satisfaction of himself and (fellow umpire Bob Hart) and the chagrin of everybody else concerned."

This game is unbelievable by today's standards. Not just for its sheer length, but because of the pitchers' duel that it contained. Both starting pitchers, Brooklyn's Leon Cadore and Boston's Joe Oeschger, pitched the entire 26 innings of the game. Somehow, they only allowed one run apiece.

"If a pitcher couldn't go the distance," Oeschger would tell the Sarasota Herald-Tribune decades later, "he soon found himself some other form of occupation."

2 (Tie). May 8, 1984: Chicago White Sox 7, Milwaukee Brewers 6
Length: 25 innings

This is the longest game in MLB history in terms of time. It took eight hours and six minutes -- and it had to be completed over two days.

The game began on May 8. With 14,754 fans in attendance at Comiskey Park, the two teams played 17 innings before the game was suspended at 1 a.m. with the score tied, 3-3. There was an American League rule that no new inning could begin after that time.

Milwaukee looked like it would win in regulation after taking a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning. But down to their final out and facing Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, the White Sox rallied to tie the score on a double by Julio Cruz and a single by Rudy Law.

Neither team scored again until the next day. When the game resumed, the Brewers took the lead again in the 21st inning on a three-run homer by Ben Oglivie. Somehow, Chicago managed to tie the game again in the bottom half, on RBI knocks by Carlton Fisk and Tom Paciorek, and the two teams played on.

In the bottom of the 25th -- after a scoreless top half by Tom Seaver, on in relief -- the White Sox ended the game with a bang. Harold Baines drove a walk-off home run off Chuck Porter to win it for Chicago.

2 (Tie). Sept. 11, 1974: St. Louis Cardinals 4, New York Mets 3
Length: 25 innings

The 13,460 fans who arrived at Shea Stadium on this Wednesday night in September had no idea what they were in for: A seven-hour, four-minute contest that wouldn't end until 3:13 in the morning, becoming the longest continuous Major League game (by innings) where a winner was decided.

Jerry Koosman carried a 3-1 lead into the ninth for the Mets, but he gave up a game-tying homer to Ken Reitz with two outs. Neither team scored again until the 25th, when St. Louis' Bake McBride -- aptly nicknamed "Shake 'n Bake" -- made something happen with his wheels. McBride led off with an infield hit, then scored all the way from first on a wild pickoff throw by Hank Webb. With sunrise barely three hours away, the Cards held on for the 4-3 win. The Mets estimated about 1,000 fans were left in the stands.

"I figured I could get to third," McBride said after the game, per The Associated Press report. "Then, when I turned second, I said to myself, 'I'm going all the way.'"

Other historical footnotes: Yogi Berra, the Mets' manager at the time, was ejected in the 20th inning, at about 1:30 a.m. Lou Brock came into the game with 105 stolen bases, but was caught trying for No. 106. Keith Hernandez appeared in only 14 games for the Cards as a rookie in 1974, and this was one. Claude Osteen pitched 9 1/3 scoreless innings in relief for St. Louis; Jerry Cram pitched eight scoreless innings in relief for New York. Fifty players appeared in the game, and about 180 baseballs were used.

Joe Torre, a Cardinals outfielder then, said afterwards: "That was the fastest 25-inning game I ever played."

4 (Tie). April 15, 1968: Houston Astros 1, New York Mets 0
Length: 24 innings

The Mets, it seems, have a penchant for playing in historically long games. Six years before they played 25 innings in Flushing, they played 24 against the Astros in Houston. Incredibly, the game was scoreless until the bottom of the 24th, the longest any Major League game has ever stayed scoreless.

The six-hour, six-minute contest at the Astrodome began Hall of Famer Tom Seaver on the mound for the Mets and Don Wilson for the Astros. Both starters were at the top of their game. Wilson went nine scoreless and allowed only five hits. Seaver, who was in his second MLB season and a year away from leading the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series title, threw 10 shutout innings and allowed just two hits. Tom Terrific retired 25 straight batters between the bottom of the second and the bottom of the 10th.

As the teams marched on, they eventually set the record to that point for the longest night game in history, a note posted to the Astrodome scoreboard -- along with some lighthearted messages to the fans who stuck it out. In the 20th inning, the scoreboard read: "We hope you are enjoying tonight's third game as much as you enjoyed the first two."

The game was finally decided when, with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 24th inning, Houston's Bob Aspromonte hit a routine ground ball to short. It could have been an inning-ending double play to send the game to the 25th. But it skidded off the Astroturf and through shortstop Al Weis' legs, allowing the game's lone, walk-off run to score.

"I just plain blew it," Weis said after the game.

4 (Tie). July 21, 1945: Detroit Tigers 1, Philadelphia Athletics 1
Length: 24 innings

Before the White Sox and Brewers surpassed them four decades later, the Tigers and A's had the AL record for longest game. This game, like the Robins and Braves' 26-inning record-setter, ended in a tie.

The two teams met on a Saturday afternoon at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, and they played all 24 innings in a brisk four hours, 48 minutes. Both the Tigers and A's used only two pitchers.

For the Tigers, Les Mueller handled the first 19 2/3 innings, allowing only one unearned run. Mueller was one of the many ballplayers just returning from military service in World War II when this game was played. With two runners on and two outs in the 20th inning, manager Steve O'Neill called on Dizzy Trout in relief. Trout had pitched 4 2/3 innings the day before, but he escaped the jam and pitched the final 4 1/3 innings of the game without allowing a run.

The A's were still managed by the legendary Connie Mack, 82 years old and in his 45th season with the team. Mack let starting pitcher Russ Christopher go the first 13 innings; he allowed one run. Then Joe Berry came in to pitch the final 11 frames, and he held the Tigers scoreless.

Philadelphia's only run came in the bottom of the fourth, when Buddy Rosar knocked an RBI single to left field. Detroit tied things up in the top of the seventh on a Doc Cramer run-scoring groundout. That's how the score stayed until the game was called due to darkness.

4 (Tie). Sept. 1, 1906: Philadelphia Athletics 4, Boston Americans 1
Length: 24 innings

Connie Mack managed the A's for so long, he was a part of two separate 24-inning games nearly four decades apart. Mack was only in his sixth season in Philadelphia when the first of those games took place before an estimated crowd of 18,000 on a Saturday afternoon at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston -- the home of the Red Sox before Fenway Park, when they were still called the Americans.

The A's struck first with a run-scoring infield hit by Harry Lord in the top of the third inning. Boston answered in the bottom of the sixth, when Freddy Parent tripled to the wall in right field and Chick Stahl, in his last year as the Americans' player-manager, drove him in with a single.

That was the only offense until the 24th inning, when the A's broke open the game on a tiebreaking RBI single by Osee Schrecongost and RBI triples by Socks Seybold and Danny Murphy. As darkness started to fall, Philadelphia closed out the win.

Both starting pitchers -- A's rookie Jack Coombs and the Americans' Joe Harris -- pitched the entire game. Coombs was especially brilliant, yielding just the one run and striking out 18. Harris' performance was of course nothing to sneeze at, as he was strong until the 24th and struck out 14 himself.

7 (Tie). May 31, 1964: San Francisco Giants 8, New York Mets 6
Length: 23 innings

A 25-, a 24- and now a 23-inning game for the Mets, who are the only MLB team to play three games of at least 23 innings. Unfortunately for them, they lost all three.

This tilt against the Giants, whose move to San Francisco in 1957 was one of the catalysts for the Mets becoming an MLB franchise, was played in front of 57,037 fans at Shea Stadium. It was the Mets' first year at Shea -- the then-lovable losers had just left the Giants' old home, the Polo Grounds.

It wasn't just your ordinary 23-inning game, though. It was the second game of a doubleheader. Yes, the Mets and Giants had already played nine innings (the Giants won, 5-3), when they took the field for 23 more. Their grand total of innings played on the day: 32.

In the 23-inning Game 2, the Giants jumped out to a 6-1 lead, including a first-inning RBI single by Willie Mays. But the Mets fought back and tied the game in the bottom of the seventh on a three-run homer by Joe Christopher. The next runs came 16 innings later, when the Giants prevailed.

In the top of the 23rd, Del Crandall ripped an RBI double to right field, and Jesus Alou followed with a run-scoring infield hit. The win went to a young Gaylord Perry, who pitched 10 scoreless innings in relief with nine strikeouts. In his book "Me and the Spitter," the Hall of Famer would write that this was the game where "they saw Gaylord Perry throw a spitter under pressure for the first, but hardly the last, time in his career."

7 (Tie). June 27, 1939: Brooklyn Dodgers 2, Boston Bees 2
Length: 23 innings

Not content with their MLB-record 26-inning matchup nearly two decades before, these same two clubs met again for 23 more in 1939. The Robins had since become the Dodgers, while the Braves were now in the middle of a five-year spell nicknamed the Bees. But though the names had changed, the result was the same: Just as in the first marathon, no winner was decided. Yes, the teams played 49 innings across those two games and ended up with two ties.

On this Tuesday at Braves Field, the Bees took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI single by Hank Majeski and a sacrifice fly by Eddie Miller. The Dodgers got one back in the next half-inning on a run-scoring groundout by Mel Almada, and they tied the game in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Ernie Koy. That was all for the scoring.

After five hours and 15 minutes, with the sun setting, the game was called. But the Bees would have won in the 13th if not for a cruel twist of fate. When Dodgers third baseman Cookie Lavagetto let a grounder go through his legs, pinch-runner Otto Huber was rounding third to score the winning run … when he tripped and fell over the base. He retreated to third, and a strikeout and groundout ended the threat.

Dodgers starter Whit Wyatt pitched 16 innings of two-run baseball, while Lou Fette started for the Bees and allowed two runs in nine innings. Neither bullpen allowed a run, with Boston's Milt Shoffner turning in an especially strong relief effort, throwing eight scoreless innings to conclude the game.

22-inning games
There have only been eight Major League games of 23 innings or longer, while there have been nine at exactly the 22-inning mark. Here is a rundown of that next-longest tier of games.

April 17, 2008: Colorado Rockies 2, San Diego Padres 1
The April after their "Rocktober" run to the 2007 NL pennant -- which began with a win over San Diego in a one-game tiebreaker to determine the Wild Card -- the Rockies prevailed in a six-hour, 16-minute affair against the Padres at Petco Park. The game started as a pitchers' duel between San Diego's Jake Peavy, who threw eight scoreless innings and struck out 11, and Colorado's Jeff Francis, who went seven scoreless.

No runs were scored until the 14th inning, when Brad Hawpe drew a bases-loaded walk to give Colorado a 1-0 lead in the top half, only for the Padres to tie the score on a Josh Bard RBI single in the bottom half. The teams played seven more scoreless innings until the 22nd, when Troy Tulowitzki drove the go-ahead double to deep left-center, and the Rockies held on.

Aug. 31, 1993: Minnesota Twins 5, Cleveland Indians 4
The AL Central foes clashed for six hours and 17 minutes at the Metrodome before the home team came away with the win. RBI doubles by Albert Belle and Jim Thome had given the Tribe a 4-1 lead in the eighth inning, but the Twins got two back in the eighth and tied the game at 4 on a Terry Jorgensen double in the bottom of the ninth. That's where the score stayed for 11 1/2 extra innings, until in the bottom of the 22nd, Pedro Munoz ended the game with a walk-off home run off Jason Grimsley.

Aug. 23, 1989: Los Angeles Dodgers 1, Montreal Expos 0
This six-hour, 14-minute game at Montreal's Olympic Stadium ended in favor of the visitors. No one scored until the 22nd and final inning, making this game second only to the 24-inning Mets-Astros 1968 tilt as far as longest scoreless start. The lone run was a homer by Rick Dempsey leading off the 22nd against Expos ace Dennis Martinez, who'd been called on in relief, his first appearance out of the bullpen since 1986 and his last until 1993. Los Angeles got strong pitching performances from Orel Hershiser, who shut out the Expos for the first seven innings, and a rookie John Wetteland, who did so for the final six.

Video: LAD@MON: Rick Dempsey breaks scoreless tie with homer

June 3, 1989: Houston Astros 5, Los Angeles Dodgers 4
The Astros won their 24-inning game against the Mets, and they won this game, too, beating the Dodgers in a seven-hour, 14-minute contest at the Astrodome. The score was 4-4 after six innings, with the key knocks including a home run by Kirk Gibson for the Dodgers and a two-run single by Ken Caminiti for the Astros. After the sixth, the teams played the next 15 1/2 innings without another run. But in the bottom of the 22nd, Rafael Ramirez lined a walk-off single to right field to give Houston the victory.

May 12, 1972: Milwaukee Brewers 4, Minnesota Twins 3
The Brewers went on the road to Metropolitan Stadium and came away with a win over the host Twins after five hours and 47 minutes. Hall of Famer Rod Carew accounted for two of the Twins' first three runs with a pair of run-scoring hits, while the Brewers' Tommie Reynolds hit a game-tying two-run single in the seventh. After 14 innings of scoreless play, Milwaukee broke the tie in the 22nd on Mike Ferraro's single off none other than Bert Blyleven, who was just 21 years old at the time. That was the Hall of Famer's only relief appearance that season, and he didn't make another until eight years later.

June 12, 1967: Washington Senators 6, Chicago White Sox 5
It took six hours and 38 minutes, but the home team finally prevailed at D.C. Stadium. The Senators and White Sox were tied 4-4 after nine innings, with Cap Peterson having hit two home runs for Washington, including going back-to-back with Frank Howard in the fourth. But Washington almost lost in the 10th after Don Buford knocked a go-ahead single for the White Sox. Jim King, though, came through with a game-tying sac fly in the bottom of the inning, and the score stayed tied until the 22nd. Paul Casanova came to bat for the Senators with the bases loaded and smacked a walk-off single to left field.

June 24, 1962: New York Yankees 9, Detroit Tigers 7
The Yankees would win the World Series in 1962, the last title of the Mickey Mantle dynasty, and they were also the winners of this seven-hour game at Tiger Stadium. The Yanks jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the top of the first -- Mantle opened the scoring with an RBI single, Yogi Berra hit a sac fly, Moose Skowron had an RBI hit and Clete Boyer hit a three-run homer. But by the sixth, the Tigers had tied the game at 7, on Rocky Colavito's run-scoring single. That was the last of the scoring until the 22nd inning, when Jack Reed's two-run homer off Phil Regan gave New York the lead for good.

Still, the highlight of the game might have been Colavito's offensive performance for the losing side. The Tigers' cleanup hitter went an incredible 7-for-10 at the plate, making him one of just six players in Major League history with a seven-hit game, regardless of game length.

May 17, 1927: Chicago Cubs 4, Boston Braves 3
Boston's Bob Smith was a hard-luck loser in this game at Braves Field -- the hurler went all 22 innings but gave up the decisive hit to the Cubs' Charlie Grimm in the 22nd. The Cubs, meanwhile, divided up the innings between three pitchers. The winner, Bob Osborn, entered in the ninth and tossed 14 scoreless frames, allowing only six hits. On the offensive side, Hall of Famer Hack Wilson had the most hits of any player in the game, going 4-for-8 for Chicago, including an RBI single all the way back in the fifth inning.

Aug. 22, 1917: Brooklyn Robins 6, Pittsburgh Pirates 5
You might remember Leon Cadore as the starting pitcher for the Robins who went all 26 innings in MLB's longest game. Well, he also started this 22-inning game at Ebbets Field three years earlier, although he went only seven innings and was removed after the Pirates tied the game against him with a pair of runs in both the sixth and the seventh. Larry Cheney came on in relief and threw 13 scoreless innings, followed by Hall of Famer Rube Marquard, who entered in the 21st and pitched the final two frames.

For the Pirates, Elmer Jacobs pitched 16 2/3 innings in relief and allowed just one run … unfortunately, the winning run. In the bottom of the 22nd, Jim Hickman led off with his fifth hit of the day. He would score the walk-off run on a fielder's choice, coming home all the way from second when Pittsburgh second baseman Jake Pitler hesitated in deciding whether to try to turn a double play on Otto Miller's ground ball. One piece of trivia: This was one of Honus Wagner's final big league appearances -- the 43-year-old Hall of Famer, in his final MLB season, pinch-hit for the Pirates during the game.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.