Sometimes the game doesn't end.
When you think of a baseball game going into extra innings, you probably think tenth innings, maybe a few more, right? You may have heard of a few major league games that went on for twenty. Seems pretty extreme, right? Well, the game I'm going to talk about today had runs scored by both teams in the twenty-first inning, and there were still more than ten innings left to play.
Yes, you read that right. I'm talking about a game that went on for thirty-three innings. It lasted for eight hours.
It began on April 18, 1981. (Yes, began on.) The teams were the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. The PawSox are the AAA minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, or otherwise known as the most direct development feeder for the team. (Incidentally Maine got the AA affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs, a while back. Hadlock Field was subsequently retrofitted as a miniature Fenway Park, complete with a Green Monster.) The Red Wings were at the time an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles (though currently doing the honors for the Minnesota Twins).
Now, half the reason I'm telling you any of this at all is because a few of the players involved went on to prominent major league careers. The most famous of them would be Cal Ripkin, Jr., playing for the Red Wings. He had thirteen at-bats. (Thirteen!) Of course, he only got two hits, no runs. The final score, by the way, was 3-2 PawSox. There was also Wade Boggs, playing for Pawtucket. A couple of other names Red Sox fans would recognize are Marty Barrett and Bruce Hurst. Boggs went on to become one of the best hitters in baseball. In twelve at-bats he had four hits, one of the best totals in the game, naturally.
The MLB was apparently in the midst of a strike at the time, which was why a lot of reporters were paying attention to this game in the first place, but surely not the reason they wrote about it later. Normally seven reporters covered PawSox games, but this one drew one hundred seventy-one passes.
The Red Wings scored the first run, in the seven inning. The PawSox struck back in the bottom of the ninth. And as you know, no other run was registered until the twenty-first, when both teams reached home once each. And then it was a long wait until the bottom of the thirty-third.
The Red Wings utilized sixteen fielders, six pitchers (their starter went over eight innings, another went about the same, and then there was one who went ten). The PawSox were more conservative, sticking to eleven fielders, but eight hurlers, none of whom went for as long as any of the Rochester set, the starter lasting only the first six frames.
The Red Wings had thirty hitters left on base during the game, Pawtucket twenty-three. PawSox manager Joe Morgan was ejected in the unlucky twenty-first inning.
I'm sure it was a heck of a game to see live, although I'm sure more than a few observers opted out of baseball for at least a few days afterward. Baseball is oftentimes a game of momentum. When one team is doing well on the field, it saps the resolve of the other. And then sometimes it's all about a true showdown (no wonder it was arguably at its most popular when people also loved to watch westerns). Some people call the game boring, but to me it's packed with dramatic moments, an infinite amount of suspense. You just never know what's going to happen.
In a game like this one, that was never more true.