Thursday marks the 30th anniversary of Major League Baseball’s longest game. Friday, too. That’s right. The game took two days to complete. A long, strange trip.
The first of 753 pitches was thrown by the White Sox’s Bob Fallon to the Brewers’ Randy Ready just after 7 p.m.
Home plate umpire Jim Evans sent the faithful home from old Comiskey Park at 1:05 am, with the score tied, 3-3, after 17 innings. At the time, the American League curfew prohibited an inning from starting after one in the morning.
By then, Milwaukee’s starter, future Hall of Famer and Braves announcer Don Sutton, had already been gone for 10 innings. Sutton gave up four hits in seven innings, allowing only an unearned run in the sixth. Ready dropped a foul pop, and Tom Paciorek, future Stone Mountain resident and White Sox announcer, singled in Greg Walker, future Braves hitting coach.
For Paciorek, the game would remain a vivid memory.
“I guess it turned out that also was the high point of the season,” Paciorek told Mark Liptak of Whitesoxinteractive.com. “I certainly remember that game, because I didn’t start it, yet still had five hits. I was actually eating a pizza in the umpires’ dressing room when one of the clubhouse guys told me I had to go in the game for Ron Kittle.
“Kitty came down with a migraine. I asked the guy when I was needed, and he said something like, ‘you’re up next!’ I flew into the dugout, and had pizza sauce all over my uniform top. I struck out on three pitches, and remember thinking, ‘Kittle could’ve done that!’”
Paciorek’s five hits would set a record for most hits in a game by a non-starter. But that wasn’t the only strange twist the game would take.
The Sox lead didn’t last long. Ready walked to lead off the seventh, and Fallon was replaced by Salome Barojas, who promptly served up singles to Jim Sundberg and future Hall of Famer Robin Yount, tying the score.
The Brewers took the lead again in the top of the ninth. Yount doubled, Ted Simmons singled him in, and Ben Oglivie singled in Simmons. All that remained was for future Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers to come in and close out the win.
Paciorek wound up on second after an error by right fielder Charlie Moore. Julio Cruz doubled, his only hit in 11 at bats during the game. Rudy Law singled in Cruz. Thanks to the pair of unearned runs, there was free baseball in Chicago.
Those of the 14,754 in attendance who remained sure got their money’s worth. Eleven more innings and a day would pass before either team scored again.
That would be after the resumption of play before the regularly scheduled game the next day. In the top of the 21st inning, former Brave Ron Reed became the sixth pitcher for the Sox. Oglivie soon treated Reed to a three-run homer.
Chuck Porter then began his fourth inning of relief for the Brewers. Ready misplayed Law’s grounder, and future Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk singled him home. Incredibly, Fisk would wind up catching all 25 innings.
After Mark Hill singled and Harold Baines walked, Paciorek drove in the tying runs with a single to center.
Paciorek would single again in the 23rd, sending Dave Stegman around third. But the third base coach, Jim Leyland, tried to get Stegman to hold up. The two collided, causing Stegman to be called out due to coach’s interference.
“In all my career, and I worked, including the minor leagues, for over 30 years, I never had a coach assist,” Evans told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.
By the top of the 25th inning, the White Sox were out of pitchers, except for the fellow waiting to start the next game. Another future Hall of Famer.
“So, I’m in the clubhouse, sitting at my locker, having coffee and doing the Times’ crossword puzzle,” Tom Seaver told Kepner. “I’ve got the game on the radio, so you understand what’s going on, but I’m out of the loop there. I forget who it was, it may have been (pitching coach Dave) Duncan, comes in and says, ‘get your stuff on, you’re in there.’
“Honest to God, that was it. All these things went through my mind: I don’t do relief. I don’t do this. When I go in to pitch, I’m calm, cool, and collected, and I’ve done my mental preparation. I was so nervous, I could barely get dressed.”
It was Seaver’s seventh relief appearance, and first in eight years, against 559 career starts. He gave up a leadoff single to future Brewers announcer Bill Schroeder, got Yount to hit into a double play, and induced Cecil Cooper to fly out.
Baines then, mercifully, blasted the game winning homer. It came off of Porter, beginning his eighth inning of relief. The Sox won, 7-6, in 8:06, still the MLB record for time of game. The 25 innings played finished one short of the record.
Seaver did start the next game, retiring the first 14 batters, and giving up three hits before leaving with one out in the ninth. He remains the last player to win two games in one day without both wins coming in relief. And of the 311 games Seaver won in his career, these were the only two in which he did not register a strikeout.
“I’m more than happy to put them on my side of the ledger,” Seaver told the Associated Press after the games.
“But the important thing is this team earned two victories. It’s a great lift because these guys are exhausted.”
Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His column appears on Wednesday.