As America’s Pastime, baseball has been a part of the fabric of American society for over a century and, as a result, it has seen some of the longest and most intense games in sports history. As a game without a clock, each has the potential to wind up in the history books. With the number of professional baseball games played on any given day, it’s a recipe to produce some instant classics. With that said, let’s take a look at the longest professional baseball game in the history of the sport.
How Long Did the Game Last?
Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the world, and there are a lot of instant classics in the history of the sport that are discussed at captaingambling.com. On April 18th and 19th, 1981, when the Pawtucket Red Sox squared off with the Rochester Red Wings. What started as just a normal minor league baseball game quickly transformed into a marathon. Eventually, 8 hours and 25 minutes of game time later, the record for the longest professional baseball game made its way into the history books.
The game was close from start to finish. It took 33 innings to get to the final result—a 3-2 victory for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Over 32 players participated that day, adding to the many historical records set during the game.
The game appeared to be reaching its conclusion in the 21st inning when the Red Wings went ahead. Unfortunately for those wishing to go home early, future MLB Hall of Famer Wade Boggs would even the score in the bottom of the inning.
With the original cutoff time of 12:50 AM ignored, it appeared nothing would separate these two teams. However, at the end of the 32nd inning, and around 4:00 AM, league president Harold Cooper ordered the game to be halted.
The Restart of the Game
Baseball can certainly be a grueling affair both for the players on the field and even for those watching. By the end of the 32nd inning, 20 fans remained what would become the longest game in professional baseball history.
Eventually, the two sides met again when Rochester visited Pawtucket in late June and the game was officially resumed on June 23rd, 1981, this time in front of a sold out stadium. Unlike the first 32 innings, Pawtucket only needed 1 inning to put away the Red Wings, scoring when Dave Koza knoced in the winning run off of reliever Steve Grilli, who wasn’t part of the Rochester team when the game started.
International Games Add Length
Sometimes, International baseball matches can be unique and exciting as players face off against unfamiliar opponents. However, sometimes this unfamiliarity can lead to long, drawn out affairs. One such game occurred on July 12, 2000, an eight-hour, 23-minute game between Cuba and Japan was played at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia. This game went on for so long because of multiple errors by both teams and the strategic use of pitching. As a result, many players were substituted throughout the game, which made it difficult for fans around the world to follow.
Meanwhile, the length of the game had a significant impact on the players themselves. For example, Japan’s Takashi Saito was able to pitch for nearly nine innings—an impressive feat given that he was only averaging about two and a half innings per appearance up until that point in his career. However, because this match was so long, Saito’s body eventually gave out from fatigue.
The Fan Element
The extended game also had an impact on fans around the world. Many people could not stay up all night watched the final inning live via satellite or live-streaming services like YouTube. In fact, due to its long duration and exciting finish (Cuba won after being down 10 runs), this match is often cited as one of the most memorable international games in history.
So, why did this particular baseball match go on for so long? There are several factors at play here: some mechanical (such as multiple errors), some strategic (such as strategic pitching), and some related to logistics (like substitutions). But ultimately, we can learn something important about how long games should be played by looking at this particular match and how it impacted everyone involved. As international baseball continues to grow in popularity, matches must be kept short enough so that everyone can enjoy them—both players and fans alike.
The Bottom Line
What separates baseball from the other major team sports is the lack of clock during the game. Some sports, like football, basketball and hockey use overtime while soccer can end in a tie or penalty kicks. Meanwhile, baseball simply adds additional innings until one team can be declared a winner.
Even games that go the same amount of innings can greatly differ in time depending on the pace of play and how many runs are scored. Greg Maddux was known for pitching some of the fastest 9-inning games while the average Yankees/Red Sox game can easily last over 4 hours.
With the implementation of a ghost runner on second base starting in the 10th inning, it’s unlikely that we will see another game like we did in Pawtucket back in 1981. However, part of the beauty of baseball is you never know how long a game will last.
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Main image credit Embed from Getty Images