On July 29, or rather the morning of July 30, I woke at 2 am. I turned on the television and was surprised to see a Cubs game on WGN. Was it a long game from the west coast? No, I saw brick and ivy. Was it a replay? No, it was live. The announcers were claiming it was the longest game in Cubs history, by length of game. It ended at after 6 hours and 27 minutes at 2:32 am. Catcher John Baker pitched a scoreless top of the 16th inning and scored the winning run in the bottom of the 16th.
What is the longest game? Is it the longest by game time, in which case the Tigers' 19 inning battle with the Blue Jays bested the Cubs record by 10 minutes? Is it the longest number of innings? Is it the latest into the night the game was played?
The Tigers did play a longer game by time. On Sunday, June 24, 1962 the Yankees scored two in the top of the 22nd inning to win 9-7. Jim Bouton was awarded the win with seven scoreless innings. Joe Pepitone replaced Mickey Mantle in the 7th inning. The game lasted an even seven hours.
The Yankees and Sundays show up frequently in a list of long Tiger games. On Sunday, June 1, 2003 the Tigers somehow lasted 17 innings before losing to New York 10-9 in a game that lasted five hours and ten minutes. Roger Clemens started, Mariano Rivera pitched two innings in relief, and David Wells pitched five and two-thirds for the win. The Tigers used Matt Roney, Chris Spurling, Franklyn German, and Steve Sparks among others. Sparks went seven and two-thirds innings, in relief. Brandon Inge caught all 17 innings.
On Monday, July 20, 1998 the Tigers and Yankees played a 17 inning game in 5:50. But it was only the first game of a double-header, and they started at 4:06 pm. The second game started at 10:32 pm and ended uneventfully at 1:17 am. Mariano Rivera pitched one and third innings in game one, and saved game two with another inning.
On Sunday, September 11, 1988 the Tigers and Yankees played 18 innings in just over six hours. They were both three-and-half games back of first place, and late in the season the game was important. Mike Henneman pitched seven innings and threw 99 pitches in relief. Claudell Washington hit a walk-off home run to give New York the win. And you thought yesterday was painful.
On Friday, August 23, 1968 the Tigers played the Yankees even for 19 innings. The game was stopped at 1:07 am. It was the second game of a double-header. Apparently 28 innings were enough for the day.
The longest Tiger game by innings was a 24 inning affair with the Philadelphia Athletics on Saturday, July 21, 1945. The game ended in a tie, one run apiece. Hank Greenberg pinch hit and walked in the 22nd inning. Chuck Hostetler pinch ran, but did not score. There were plenty of players left on the bench, as managers Steve O'Neill and Connie Mack each used only two pitchers. George Kell, playing for the A's, was hitless in 10 at bats.
The Tigers were involved in the longest doubleheader in the history of the American League. On Saturday, June 17, 1967 the Tigers and Kansas City Athletics played the first of two games. Jim Northrup scored with two outs in the ninth for a walk-off win. At 3:25, it was the seventh longest game of the season. But the day was just beginning. Game two lasted 19 innings and 5:40 of playing time. There was also a 15 minute rain delay. The A's won game two with a Dave Duncan home run off of Mike Marshall.
Games ending late on the clock are fun, especially for kids who are allowed to stay up late until the ending. Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS ended at 1:02 am when the Tigers won 6 to 4. You surely remember that Delmon Young knocked in the winning run, and Don Kelly scored the insurance run.
I remember listening to the radio on April 27, 1984 when the Tigers were in the middle of their historic 35 and 5 start to the season. The Tigers had won seven in a row, and it took the Indians 19 innings to finally deliver the second loss of the season. With a game time of 5:44, it must have ended after 12:30 am. Aurelio Lopez pitched four and two-thirds innings in relief, allowing one hit and no runs. Who says relievers can only pitch a few innings?
The Tigers lost to Boston on June 5, 2001 in an 18 inning game that ended just before 1 am, with Tim Wakefield on the mound. The Blue Jays won somehow on Sunday without ever employing R.A. Dickey's knuckleball.
Detroit beat Milwaukee on July 8, 2000 in a 15 inning contest that ended around 1:30 am Detroit time.
On May 27, 1991 a 14 inning game in Milwaukee lasted 5:37, likely ending a little before 2 am.
West coast extra-inning games are always good for insomnia. On Saturday, July 22, 1989 the Tigers faced the Angels in Anaheim. The game started at 10:07 pm Detroit time, and ended 16 innings later at 3:14 am. Dan Petry pitched two innings for the win, but for the Angels. Paul Gibson pitched the first ten innings for Detroit, throwing 154 pitches.
The latest I have ever been at a ballpark was Friday, August 5, 1988. Detroit and Boston played a doubleheader that was interrupted with rain delays. Little Leaguers had an on-field ceremony between the games, around 11:30 pm. The second game ended at 2:32 am. The Tigers won both games to stay in first place, and I was with my then-girlfriend-now-wife, so I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
How many of these contests can you recall? Or are there other epically long battles that you remember?