Of all the stories contained within the grandstands of McCoy Stadium, none can top The Game. The Longest Game. The Game that started on April 18, 1981, and ended the following June 23. No, The Game was not played continuously across those 67 days, although after it was all over, some players may have felt that way.
After 882 pitches, 219 at-bats, and 33 innings, the PawSox prevailed over the Rochester Red Wings in a remarkable, multiple pitchers’ duel. The final? 3-2.
The first 32 innings were played on a frigid, windswept Saturday and early Sunday before the International League president mercifully suspended it, at 4:09 a.m.
Two months later, the last inning lasted all of 18 minutes, with first baseman Dave Koza slapping a 2-2 curve ball into left field and a jubilant Marty Barrett crossing the plate.
Here’s a few of the obscure, the oddball, and the epic takeaways from that game.
■ The game was bewitched from the beginning. The first pitch had to be delayed because a bank of lights malfunctioned. After about 30 minutes, starting pitcher Danny Parks could finally toe the rubber.
■ Often forgotten, the game featured an outstanding start by the Red Wings’ Larry Jones, who shut out the PawSox until the ninth inning, when a sacrifice fly by Russ Laribee plated Chico Walker. After that, both sides threw 11 innings of shutout ball.
■ The game should have been suspended at 1 a.m., according to recently enforced International League rules, but the home-plate umpire had an outdated version of the rulebook, meaning the game went on another 11 innings. Pawtucket’s general manager Mike Tamburro spent several hours before finally reaching league president Harold Cooper to have him suspend the game.
■ Both of the teams’ third basemen ended up with Hall of Fame careers: The Red Wings’ Cal Ripken Jr., who eventually knew a thing or two about long endeavors for the Baltimore Orioles, and Wade Boggs.
■ Of the 41 players who made it into the box score, 25 would eventually play in the major leagues, including several notable players for the Sox: Barrett, Rich Gedman, Mike Smithson, Bruce Hurst, and Bobby Ojeda, the game’s eventual winning pitcher.
■ The PawSox manager was Joe Morgan, who would create a little magic of his own in the major leagues as Boston’s manager seven years later. In this game, however, Walpole Joe was tossed in the 22nd inning, for arguing on a bunt call. Might have been his most favorite heave-ho.
■ When the game was finally suspended early Sunday morning, 19 fans were left in McCoy. Each was given a lifetime pass to the ballpark by the team’s owner, Ben Mondor.
■ When the game resumed, a sellout crowd of 5,746 was on hand, as well as 140 members of the press from around the world, according to Baseball Reference. The game had added interest because it was played during the MLB players’ strike of that season. Again, the marathon game lasted only 18 minutes on this day.
■ The umpires went through 160 baseballs.
They said it:
Rich Gedman: “When we walked off the field at 4 o’clock in the morning, it was like, ‘You mean we’re not done with the game yet?’”
Bruce Hurst: “I remember striking out Cal Ripken on a 3-and-2 breaking ball at 4 o’clock in the morning, and I don’t think he ever forgave me.”
Wade Boggs, commenting on his hit that retied the game in 21st inning: “A lot of people were saying , ‘Yeah, yeah, we tied it, we tied it!’ And then they said, ‘Oh, no, what did you do? We could have gone home!’”
Cal Ripken Jr.: “It’s the only time I ever remember our postgame meal being breakfast.”
Joe Morgan: “I wanted 40 innings so nobody could ever tie our beautiful record.”