Apr-18-1981: The Longest Game in Baseball History
When we walked off the field at 4 o’clock in the morning, it was like, ‘You mean we’re not done with the game yet?
–Pawtucket catcher Rich Gedman
On Saturday April 18, 1981 the AAA Rochester Red Wings came to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to play the Pawtucket Red Sox. The game started at 8:25 due to a delay caused by a problem with stadium lights. Nearlty 8 hours later, they were still playing, as the game was ordered stopped at 4:07 a.m. after the end of the 32nd inning.
Both teams signed a baseball on Sunday for display at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooper had suggested that the game resume that day, but Rochester manager Doc Edwards requested a delay because of the risk of injury. Instead, it resumed on the evening of Tuesday, June 23, the next time the Red Wings were in town. A sellout crowd of 5,746 and 140 reporters from around the world were present, partly because the major leagues were on strike at the time; the players voted against an offer to resume the game at Fenway Park to avoid crossing the picket line. On that evening, it took just one inning and 18 minutes to finish the game, with Koza driving in the winning run in the bottom of the 33rd.
Two future Hall of Famers were part of the historic game. Cal Ripken, Jr., who was inducted in 2007, went 2–for–13 on the night playing third base for Rochester. Ripken was the American League‘s Rookie of the Year the following year. Wade Boggs, who was inducted in 2005, played third base for Pawtucket and went 4–for–12 with a double and an RBI. The Baseball Hall of Fame possesses other artifacts of the game, including the official scorecard.
Twenty-three other future major leaguers played in the game.
- From Pawtucket:
- Bob Ojeda, the winner of the game after pitching a scoreless 33rd inning, would go on to pitch for 15 major league seasons, most notably for the New York Mets (going 18–5 in 1986 to help the team win the World Series that year), Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers. While many of Pawtucket’s players would play key roles in the 1986 World Series as members of the Boston Red Sox, Ojeda would go on to play for their opponent, the New York Mets. He then became the lone survivor in a boat crash that claimed the lives of two other pitchers in spring training before Ojeda’s first season with the Cleveland Indians.
- Bruce Hurst pitched for 15 seasons in the majors for the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres. His career record was 145–113, a .562 winning percentage.
- Rich Gedman caught for the Boston Red Sox for most of his 13-year major league career.
- Marty Barrett played ten major league seasons at second base for the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres, hitting .278 for his career.
- Chico Walker later played 11 seasons in the majors with the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, California Angels, and New York Mets.
- Mike Smithson started 204 games for the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and Boston Red Sox.
- Manny Sarmiento pitched in 228 major league games for the Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, and Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Luis Aponte made 110 pitching appearances as a reliever with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians.
- Julio Valdez played 65 games with the Boston Red Sox, mostly serving as a shortstop and second baseman.
- From Rochester:
- Floyd Rayford went on to play third base and catch for seven years with the Baltimore Orioles and the St. Louis Cardinals. His best year was 1985, when he hit .306 with 18 home runs and 48 RBI.
- Jim Umbarger appeared in 133 games as a pitcher for the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics between 1975 and 1978. He pitched in the minors until 1983.
- Steve Grilli‘s major league career was already over by the time he pitched in (and lost) this game. Grilli pitched in 69 games for the Detroit Tigers from 1975-77, and one game as a Toronto Blue Jay in 1979. Grilli, the father of Jason Grilli, retired from baseball at the end of the 1981 season.
- Cliff Speck went on to pitch for the Atlanta Braves in 1986, appearing in 13 games, including one start.
- Mark Corey played in 59 games in his three years as a Baltimore Oriole outfielder.
- Bobby Bonner played for four years in the early ’80s as a middle-infielder with the Baltimore Orioles.