Longest Professional Game in Baseball History

Cal Ripken, Jr.. 3B, Rochester Red Wings

It started thirty years ago on Easter Saturday, April 18, 1981. The longest professional game in baseball history began to play out its tired and weary way to a 33-inning 3-2 conclusion that would ultimately unfold over three dates in time before it pinged to a ragged conclusion June 23, 1981. In the end, the home town Pawtucket Red Sox defeated the visiting Rochester Red Wings on a single in the bottom of the 33rd off the bat of Pawtucket first baseman Dave Koza.

The game began before an International League crowd of 1,740, but it started at 8:25 PM due to a half hour delay caused by trouble with the lights. It was an omen for “late start” playing directly into “late finish” – as in latest finish ever for any International League game. The league had a rule ending or suspended any game from starting a new inning beyond 12:40 AM of the next day, but Dennis Cregg, the umpire who worked home plate for this game in McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket that night, had a rule book copy that contained no reference to the time-top rule. As a result, the game played on in zombie-like speed into the wee small hours. Finally, some time after 3:00 AM, someone called league president Harold Cooper. Mortified by the news, Cooper ordered that the game be stopped at the end of its current 32nd inning, if not ended by a score differential, and rescheduled for continuation later.  The inning finally droned to a halt 4:07 AM with score still tied at 2-2.

What a way to drift into Easter Sunday. Only nineteen fans remained in te stands by this time and all were given season passes for their willingness to stick-it-0ut to the very end. No note is made of what the married ones received from their wives after stumbling home that late in the pre-dawn hours of Easter Sunday morning. I can’t see that going so well in a number of instances.

Another interesting sidebar note is the fact that each club featured future Hall of Famers playing third base. Cal Ripken, Jr. handled those honors for Rochester that night. Wade Boggs played thrid base for Pawtucket. Ripken ended up setting a record with two teammates for most plate appearances in a game with 15. Ripken was 2 for 13 in official trips. Wade Boggs was 4 for 12 with a game-ting RBI in the bottom of the 21st.

Wade Boggs, 3B, Pawtucket Red Sox

Following the suspension, the same clubs were set to play a fresh game at 11:00 AM on Easter Sunday morning. That sounded like a stroke of bad timing anyway, but it was mainly the fear of injury that led the two teams to reschedule the continuation of their unsettled marathon for the next regular trip to town for Rochester. The game would be continued in the top of the 33rd at McCoy Stadium on June 23, 1981.

As so often proves true, the spell, tempo, and mood of the continued game was no longer controlled by the tempo of the original production. After Rochester went down harmlessly in the top of the 33rd, Pawtucket quickly put men on base in the bottom half and won on the Koza hit described earlier. It was a game for the ages, setting numerous records that were only reachable because of its longevity.

The time of the game, 8 hours and 25 minutes, set a record of its own as the longest game ever played by the clock.

For further information, here’s a nice little summary of the whole ordeal.


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