As the Red Sox quickly dispatched the Dodgers in five games — just as they did in 1916 — tonight I will be going to bed on Ben Franklin time: early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
As seen in Grading Kramer & Kramer’s 2016 baseball predictions, during the 2016 playoffs my father often stayed awake late into the night, even watching one game past 2:30 a.m. In 2016, often, I was Franklinian, missing the early morning drama.
But this Series, I was proudly televiewing all the way to the end for games three (3:29 am), four (12:06 am), and five (11:15 p.m.). As you know, game three went 18 innings and 7 hours and 20 minutes, both World Series records.
At first, I fretted when Boston tied it in the 8th, fearing a long night. But at about 1:30, I made my commitment: to the finale. Once on board, I wanted the game to go as long as it possibly could. Theoretically, the game could last forever.
At about three, Friday’s New York Times plopped onto the driveway and I read Tyler Kepner’s “Win No. 2 for a Red Sox Team Looking Like the Inevitable Champion.” Indeed, a Red Sox victory would seal the Dodgers’ fate. But at 3:28, I wanted more history. Could we go till four? Four thirty? Even five! But then at 3:29 Max Muncy hit his walk-off homerun.
Actually, as far as history goes, an 18 inning baseball game is nothing, although the time of 7 hours and 20 minutes did make game three the third longest game in major league history.
I know this because I read — if one can read such a book — Baseball’s Longest Games: A Comprehensive World Wide Record Book (2010) by Philip J. Lowry.
As the back cover explains, Lowry — who teaches Arabic language and Middle East politics in Minnesota — has now been studying long games for 55 years. Lowry remembers the exact date his obsession with long ballgames began, August 9, 1963. His father took him to a Houston Colts vs. Pittsburgh Pirates doubleheader. After extended rain delays, extra innings in both games, Lowry’s night/day at the ballpark ended at 2:30 in the morning. He was hooked on the subject ever since.
Actually, an 18 inning game is not so rare. Based on Lowry’s calculations, we should expect a 50% chance to experience a major league game of 20 or more innings in any given season. When Lowry wrote in 2010, the probability that a minor league of 20 or more innings in any given season was 99.3%. However, to lessen the chances of long games, all minor leagues now place a runner on second base for the start of every extra inning. As such, 18 inning games in the minors may become extinct.
With most of his research done before the internet, Lowry has scanned newspaper archives, studied box scores and made inquiring phone calls around the globe, all to compile his ongoing database of 871 baseball games that lasted 20 innings or more. His files are sorted by attendance, date, innings, location and teams. The breadth and depth of Lowry’s passion can be seen in the table of contents:
In the course of his research, Lowry found a high school game in Japan that endured 50 innings, documented a 20-inning Class D marathon in Kentucky where the umpire asked fans if the game should continue (they unanimously voted “yes”) and discovered a 23-inning contest that took place on an Air Force base in 1923.
Lowry’s research also led to an update of the official NCAA record book. The NCAA listed its longest game ever as 22 innings until Lowry called the association 15 years ago sharing the details of a 23-inning game at Southwestern Louisiana in 1971. Similar investigations led to changes in the NAIA and National Federation of State High School Associations official record books.
Lowry has an extended discussion of the major league games that ended the latest, one in Philadelphia in 1993 (4:40 a.m) and one in Atlanta in 1985 (3:55 a.m.).
Our 3 hours and 20 minutes pales compared to those in Philadelphia and Atlanta. Of course, the circumstances were different. We were up until 3:30 a.m. only because the game was in Los Angeles where it ended at 12:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. At the same time, we did share a similar experience with those 4,000 fans in Philadelphia and 8,000 fans who soldiered on to the finale. (In both those cases, the fans were waiting for planned fireworks displays. In Atlanta, the fireworks were postponed, thinning the crowd to 3,000, but when people heard the game was still going, another 1,000 returned just to witness history. In one of the most bizarre scenes in baseball history, six minutes after the game, fireworks brightly burned in Atlanta.)
4th of July fireworks in Atlanta that began a few minutes after the game ended at 4:40 in the morning.
And who can forget the 33 inning game played between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox, the first 32 innings played at McCoy Stadium in Rhode Island on April 19th, 1981 until 4:09 in the morning and then completed at McCoy — in only one inning — on June 23rd, for a total elapsed time of 8 hours and 57 minutes.
Lowry also cites games that mirrored ours, only longer by an hour. In Texas on September 24/25th, 1971, fans could hear on the radio an Astros/Padres game that finished at 4:29 Central Standard Time (2:29 a.m. in San Diego). The record latest finish was most similar to ours. On May 24/25th fans in New York listened — if there were any — to the Mets/Dodgers 19 inning game until 4:31 Eastern Standard Time — 14 minutes after sunrise.
As for games I didn’t stay up for, although I was only 12, I will never forgive myself for going to bed at my usual time during game six of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds/Boston Red Sox World Series. I missed Carlton Fisk wave fair the game winning home run in the 12th inning.I also cringe when remembering going to sleep prematurely during game six of the 2011 Texas Rangers/St.Louis Cardinals World Series. I missed the Cardinals’ David Freese tie the game with a two-out, two-strike, two-run triple in the bottom of the 9th. The Rangers went ahead with a run in the 10th, but the Cardinals again tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Stunningly, Freese then won the game with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th.
As seen in 30 years ago when Billy Buck broke Rhode Island’s heart, I did stay to the bitter end for game six of the Red Sox/Mets 1986 World Series when the ball when through Bill Buckner’s legs.