"Holy Toledo!"

April 20, 2007

Extra Innings…

Filed under: Baseball — Bill @ 11:00 pm

Lodged deep in the brain of every baseball fan is a collection of games we will remember for our entire life.  You remembers the score, who won, who lost, and who made the big play.  You not only remember the game, but also where you were, and who you were with.  Out of the thousands of games you have enjoyed these are the ones that will stay with you

I have my own list, you have yours, but have you ever
wondered why those particular games are the ones your brain so vividly recalls?  I have.

Typically these games can be classified into one of five categories:
– World Series, playoff, or division clinching games
– Games in which a record was broken
– Games that involve a spectacular achievement
– Games you attended in person
– Games that ended in a dramatic or unusual way

If you think about it you will find that your list will fit into one of these five categories.  There are even some really spectacular games that might even fit into two or three.  This covers about 98% of the most memorable games in a baseball fan’s life.  What about the other 2%?

There is a sixth category, a very different type of game that all of us have tucked away and we can recall it as if it were yesterday.  A game where no titles were won, no records, just a regular season game where nothing really spectacular happened, yet we remember it forever.  I’m talking about the really, really long extra inning game.

The game that seemed to go all night and into the wee small hours of the morning.  The game where you learned that no inning can start after 2 a.m..  You would have your transistor radio tucked away just loud enough that Mom & Dad couldn’t hear it.  Mom would usually peek in and remind you that it was time to turn off the radio, you wouldn’t.  Instead you would just turn down the volume even lower, you might even turn it off quickly if you heard someone coming.

Why do we remember these games so fondly?  What is it about them that we love so much?  A long extra inning playoff game is different, they are torture.  You almost wish (key word is almost) that your team would lose just to end the agonizing  torture.  But a regular season long extra inning game could go on forever, while we just sit back and enjoy it.  It’s like extra time on a video game, like bonus coverage on an NFL Sunday afternoon. or like when you put your money into a vending machine and two candy bars fall into the tray.

My marathon memory occurred on Friday July 9th, 1971.

The California Angels were playing the A’s in Oakland, Rudy May vs. Vida Blue.

As if it were yesterday I remember being at my grandparent’s house playing cards with them, while Monty Moore was on the radio in the background.  The sun set as darkness invaded the warm summer evening.  Grandpa Ken retired for the night and my grandma (all us kids called her Nana)  & I listened as the game continued on.

I was only 10 years old but Nana knew I loved the A’s, so when she was ready for bed she let me keep listening.  By now the game had gone into extra innings at 0-0, both May and Vida were still cruising along.  After 11 innings Vida left with 17 K’s and no walks, he was relieved by Rollie Fingers.  May lasted 12 innings giving up only 3 hits and 13 K’s..

The Angels had guys like Sandy Alomar, Ken Berry, Tony Conigliaro. Ken McMullen, & “big” Jim Spencer.  The A’s had the usual suspects like Rudi, Bando, Jackson, Green, Dave Duncan, Angel Mangual in CF, and Tommy Davis playing 1B.  Instead of Campy at SS they had a guy named Larry Brown.  Tenace pinch hit for Brown and guess who came in to play SS?  Tony LaRussa (yes that LaRussa!).

Sometime later Nana came in and asked, “Are they still going?”  I answered with glee, “Yep!” She said it was time for me to go to bed, but she gave me a small transistor radio so I could keep listening.  It was great.

After 16 inning it was still 0-0.  Eddie Fischer pitched thru the 17th for the Angels, Fingers finished the 18th for the A’s (he ended up going 7 innings that night).  Still no score.

Bob Locker had to be bailed out by Darold Knowles in the 19th.  The righty Mel Queen retired the A’s in the bottom of the 19th, Knowles did the same to the Angels in the top of the 20th.

In the bottom of the 20th inning Curt Blefary (who was now catching) was hit by a pitch.  With one out Dick Green singled so Dick Williams, who was now out of position players, inserted Catfish Hunter as a pinch hitter for Knowles.  Hunter promptly struck out.

0-0 in the bottom of the 20th, 2 runners on, 2 outs, and up steps Angel Mangual.  He was 2 for 7 with a walk, and was facing Mel Queen.  Base hit!  Blefary scores, and after 5 hours and 5 minutes this marathon game that I will never forget was finally over.

As baseball fans we all have our cherished moments.  Particularly unique are the ones from the 6th category, the marathon extra inning games we listened to all night long.  On a special night in 1971 the Baseball Gods gave me an extra candy bar from the vending machine and I was able to share with my grandparents.

(Here is a link to the boxscore)


* Feel free to share your marathon memories here, I’d love to hear them.


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