Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-6-23

Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Top of the 1st
For those of you who have ever seen guys like Steve Trachsel or Matt Clement pitch, you know what it feels like to watch what seems to be the longest game ever, but tonight the Pawtucket Red Sox are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the actual longest game in professional baseball history. It was a game that begun Saturday, April 18, 1981 (Easter eve) at McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket, R.I, against the Rochester Red Wings that spanned two nights and ended June 23.

The Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston’s affiliate hosted the Rochester Red Wings, the Baltimore Orioles affiliate that cold evening. 1,740 fans were on hand when the game was scheduled to begin at 7:35 but was delayed because of light problems until 8. That was the least of their troubles.

Rochester broke a scoreless duel in 7th and in the bottom of the 9th the Paw Sox tied it at 1 on a double, wild pitch and sacrifice fly. Then on this cold night, the pitchers took over and the batters just couldn’t buy a run.

“Guys that were big league players and on their way to being big league players (Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken )couldn’t get a hit and couldn’t do anything to change the course of the game for 32 innings,” said Dallas Williams, a Rochester outfielder who is now hitting coach for the Triple-A Ottawa Lynx and went 0 for 13 in that game.

It was cold and the wind was blowing. At one point, Sam Bowen, a powerful hitter for Pawtucket, belted a ball that looked to be a home run, until it was blown back and caught. As the game wore on, the temperature dropped into the low 40s. When the players weren’t on the field they were in the clubhouse drinking coffee and hot chocolate. They even put broken bats in a barrel and lit them on fire to try to keep their hands warm.

“I remember thinking, ‘This is different,'” said Bruce Hurst (who later pitched for the Red Sox), who was the seventh pitcher of the night for the PawSox.

“People were very upset as it went on,” said Marty Barrett (who later played second for the Boston Red Sox). “They were like, ‘Come on,’ especially after it got on to 1 o’clock.”

The Pawtucket management tried to remind the umpires of an International League rule forbidding an inning from starting after 12:50 a.m. the only problem was that the umps did not have that in their early season official guidelines and the players kept on playing. PawSox officials tried calling Harold Cooper the International League Commissioner for a ruling but at 1 am he wasn’t home.

Much to the relief of players and fans alike Rochester finally broke through in the top of 21st to take a 2-1 lead. However, in the bottom of the 21st Wade Boggs drove home the tying run with a double. Boggs said afterward, “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!'” But they didn’t go home, they kept playing.

The PawSox kept trying to reach Cooper but he apparently was a party machine and wasn’t home at 1:30 nor at 2 or 2:30. The PawSox manager Joe Morgan was thrown out for arguing a call in the 22nd. He was no fool, the clubhouse was warmer than the dugout.

“It was a little difficult to stay focused because in the back of your mind, you’ve got to be thinking, ‘Geez, when is this game going to end?'” said Dave Koza

“We ran the gamut,” said Hurst, who recalls striking out Ripken around 4 a.m.”We went from, ‘Okay, let’s win this thing’ to ‘Okay, I don’t care who wins this thing,'” to realizing that the game had a shot at breaking a record.

At the time, the record in the minor leagues was 29 innings, set in 1966. The game might not have kept going if Harold Cooper had not been reached at 4:00 and he said if the game was still tied after the inning they were playing they were to suspend the game.

In the bottom of the 32nd, Sam Bowen threw a Red Wing John Hale out at the plate and the 32nd inning came to an end at 4:07, with the score still tied, 2-2 and the game was stopped. By the time the players left the field, the sun was starting to rise. Nineteen fans remained when the game was suspended and each was presented a season ticket by PawSox owner Ben Mondor. The Easter Sunday game was cancelled.

Red Wings’ pitcher Jim Umbarger pitched innings 23 through 32, allowing only 4 hits, no runs or walks striking out 9, at one point warned his third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. to watch for the bunt and Ripken wearily replied “I’ve been watching for the bunt for 23 innings now.”

“When we walked off the field at 4 in the morning it was like `You mean we’re not done with this game yet?'” said Pawtucket catcher Rich Gedman.

The game was not resumed until prior to the regularly scheduled game on June 23, 1981, Rochester’s next visit to Pawtucket, with 5,756 fans at McCoy. Because of a major league players strike the press realized this was the biggest game not only the longest game. All three networks, as well as ESPN and Japanese networks, were there to catch the finish.

Steve Grilli, who wasn’t with the Red Wings when the game began recalls, “(Rochester manager) Doc Edwards kept it a secret until we got to the ballpark (who would pitch). Nobody knew who was going to get the ball. When I got there and the ball was in my locker, that’s usually how they do it, I looked at Doc and he goes, get ready. Later on, he was telling me I gave you the ball because you had been in the big leagues and wouldn’t be too nervous. I was a little caught up in what was going on.

That first pitch I drilled (Marty Barrett). They executed a perfect hit and run on the next pitch and wound up with first and third and nobody out. Then they asked me to walk the next guy. They pulled me for Cliff Speck.”

The count was 2-2 when Dave Koza’s lazy single to left field with the bases loaded scored Marty Barrett with the run that gave the PawSox a 3-2 victory over Rochester in 33 innings. The winning pitcher was Bobby Ojeda.

The resumption of baseball’s longest game took all of 18 minutes.

Grilli’s hat is in the Hall of Fame, “It’s red. It’s almost like a spring training hat. It wasn’t even a fitted hat. We were wearing these aerated caps that were adjustable in the back. That’s what sits in the Hall of Fame. It’s not even a New Era. I’ve seen it. Took pictures of it; in front of it with family. I was quite a few games short of winning 300 games. I wasn’t going to get in there in another fashion. I tease about that.”

Hurst says he ran into Ripken, who will very shortly be in the Hall of Fame for other feats, on a golf course not long ago. “We both looked at each other and said, ‘Remember that night?’ Through it all, through his Hall of Fame career, through it all, that’s still the night we talk about.”

But for Grilli there is consolation, “What people don’t realize, we continued with another game after that and I came in and had a significant role in getting us a win. I shut Pawtucket down for three or four innings.”

Pawtucket will honor the 25th anniversary with a players’ luncheon in Providence and a ballpark ceremony.

The box score of the Longest Game –

Top of the 2nd
The focus of the night going in was the re-entry of The Rocket, story after it was all said and done was the emergence of The Rookie.

Francisco Liriano, Minnesota’s 22-year-old phenom, pitched eight brilliant innings to lead the Twins to a 4-2 win over Roger Clemens and the Houston Astros. Belatedly beginning his 23rd major-league season, Clemens (0-1) was looking for his 342nd win. But it was Liriano who earned the seventh victory of his season and his career.

Clemens was effective but not sharp and left after throwing 100 pitches in five innings. He allowed six hits and two runs while striking out four and walking two.
Liriano (7-1) gave up just four hits in eight innings and didn’t allow a run until Jason Lane’s two-run homer in the 8th, helping the Twins to their ninth win in 10 games and their fourth straight series victory.

Top of the 3rd
So here’s how it works for the White Sox this season, Ozzie Guillen manages the blowouts and Joey Cora manages the squeakers. Last night behind Freddy Garcia’s eight shutout innings, the Sox overcame a one-hitter by St. Louis rookie Anthony Reyes to complete their first sweep of the Cardinals with a 1-0 victory. The one hit was a 7th inning solo home run by Jim Thome, who leads the AL with 24 homers.

In the words of acting manager Joey Cora, “It was the one that they couldn’t catch that was the difference.” Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was serving a one-game suspension after he was ejected from Tuesday’s game when reliever David Riske hit the Cardinals’ Chris Duncan.

“He had been throwing me the fastball early on, and I just wanted to make sure I was ready for that,” Thome said, “I was just looking for a good pitch to hit.”

In the first two games of the series, the Sox outscored the Cardinals by a 33-11 combined margin and registered 40 hits against the NL Central front-runners. The Sox (47-25) cut the Tigers’ lead in the AL Central to a half-game with their seventh straight victory.

The Cardinals had Albert Pujols back in the starting lineup after missing 15 games with a strained right oblique muscle. The first baseman went 0-for-4, “It was a good ballgame,” Cora said. “It was great there was no controversy. Great defense, great pitching, Pujols came back. It was good that the fans of Chicago got to see him. He’s special, and we kept him in check.”

“We’re playing as good as we have all year, without a doubt,” Cora said.”Can we play better? Yeah, I think we can play better. But we’re playing like last year: winning one-run games, playing defense, pitching deep into games.”

The White Sox are 8-1 this season in interleague play.

The one hit was the fewest in a victory for the White Sox since May 21, 2000, when they beat Toronto 2-1, also with one hit.The last time that a major league team won a 1-0 game in which a home run provided the winning team’s only hit was last Aug. 23, when the White Sox were the victims of Jacque Jones’ home run that led the Twins to victory.

The last time that the Cardinals had lost a game in which they had allowed just one hit was on July 30, 1914, when Dan Griner lost a complete-game 2-1 decision to the Boston (Miracle) Braves. The Cardinals committed four errors in the game; hence, the headline in the Boston Globe: “Cardinals Spoil Griner’s Fine Hurling by Their Foozles.”

Top of the 4th
Back in the year 1884, Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn won the pitching “Triple Crown” with 59 wins, 441 strikeouts and 1.38 an ERA, and a record 29 Canadians played in the major leagues.

When Cambridge, Ontario’s Scott Thorman suited up for the Atlanta Braves this week, he became the 21st Canadian to suit up for a major league club this season, the most in any one season since 1884.

Thorman, who went hitless in his debut became the 225th Canadian to play at the big league level.

Here are the Canadians who have played in the majors in 2006:
Jason Bay, Trail BC – Pittsburgh Pirates
Erik Bedard, Navan, ON – Baltimore Orioles
Jesse Crain, Toronto, ON – Minnestoa Twins
Rheal Cormier, Moncton, NB – Philadelphia Phillies
Aaron Guiel, Vancouver, BC – Kansas City Royals
Ryan Dempster, Gibsons, BC – Chicago Cubs
Jeff Francis, Vancouver, BC – Colorado Rockies
Eric Gagn