1. Cubs over Cardinals, 12-11, in 11 innings on June 23, 1984
So what's so special about this game? Well, Willie McGee hit for the cycle, the first Cardinal to do so since Lou Brock in 1975, and drove in six runs. The Cubs won despite trailing 7-1 going into the bottom of the fifth and 9-3 going into the bottom of the sixth. Their big comeback inning was a five-run rally in the sixth that featured only a single hard-hit ball, along with two walks, a plunked Penguin, a bloop single, and a seeing-eye double down the third-base line. Spike's big brother, Dave Owen, played hero by lining a game-winning walk-off pinch-single in the eleventh.
Of course, nobody remembers any of that, because this was The Sandberg Game. The one where Ryne Sandberg cemented his MVP credentials by taking Bruce Sutter deep twice, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth and again with two outs in the bottom of the 10th. The one where Cubs fans started to believe that their team might actually win something. I've written about this game before, having watched it both live and again a few years ago on an MLB Network re-broadcast, and it's improved with age. For me, of course, it's great because the home team wins, but watching it years later there are a million details that make this game a joy. To wit:
- Willie McGee: speed, defense, fantastic hit tool, and the longest neck in baseball history.
- Ozzie Smith, because Ozzie Smith.
- As you watch, you keep expecting hidden wildebeest to wander out of the untamed savannah grassland that passed for the left side of the Wrigley infield, grown long to protect Ron Cey and Larry Bowa.
- With Gary Matthews at the plate, you get to hear Tony Kubek lecture Bob Costas on the overlooked importance of walks and OBP compared to batting average.
- Multi-inning closers! Sutter entered this game with two out in the seventh, and hit for his damn-self with two on and two out in the top of the ninth. Arguably the most dominant closer of his era, this was The Bearded One's seventh plate appearance of the season, and it was not yet July.
- Steve Bartman's reverse-doppelganger makes an appearance in the tenth, when a rough-looking customer with a black leather vest, cigarette a-dangle, interferes with Matthews on a pop-fly down the left field line. True to form, Sarge pounds his glove and pumps his fist in anger, and the opposing batter (Smith) eventually reaches base and comes around to score. This time, though, the Cubs win anyway.
2. White Sox over Brewers, 7-6, in 25 innings on May 8, 1984
I wasn't at this game, nor was I old enough to be aware of it, but as a lover of a good extreme box score, this game holds a special place in my heart. It was a random Tuesday night in Chicago and a game between two teams who were around .500 coming in to play. It's a good thing that Dan Okrent, when he decided to write a book about a single Milwaukee Brewers game, didn't pick this one. It would have been called 25 Innings. The game itself featured five future Hall of Famers, two per team (including Milwaukee starter Don Sutton, reliever Rollie Fingers, and shortstop Robin Yount and Chicago catcher Carlton Fisk—who caught all 25 innings!—and reliever and winning pitcher Tom Seaver. The Chicago Nine were managed by newly enshrined Hall of Famer Tony LaRussa). It was a 1-1 game going into the ninth, but in the top of the last frame — or what was supposed to be the last frame, Yount doubled, stole third, and scored when Fisk's throw was errant. After a Ben Ogilvie RBI single, the Brewers were up 3-1 and had Fingers ready to nail down the win. Because it was save situation.
Except that didn't work. The Sox pushed across two unearned runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 3-3 and send it to extra innings. No one scored again that night. Not-quite-legendary Brewers relievers Tom Tellman and Rick Waits matched Hall of "Who?" Sox relievers Al Jones and Juan Agosto for another eight innings of scoreless ball. What's amazing about this game is that this was still the era of five- or six-man bullpens. The fact that the Brewers ledger lists only six pitchers in the game is something that I'll eventually have to explain to my daughter. The potential for #WeirdBaseball—which in 1984 would have been posted on a bulletin board (the cork kind!) somewhere at a bar in Chicago—was at its height, but other than a random Jim Sundberg TOOTBLAN, very little happened. The game was suspended after the 17th inning.
The next day, the two teams came back to Comiskey Park (the first one), determined to finish what they started. The White Sox Juan Agosto had thrown four scoreless innings (14 through 17) the night before, but since he was still technically in the game, LaRussa sent him back out to start the 18th. Agosto threw three more scoreless innings. The Brewers also running out of ideas (and pitchers) send Chuck Porter pitch in the bottom of the 18th. Apparently the Brewers told Porter that it was his game. During the regularly scheduled game the next day, when the Brewers needed relief, they turned to Mike Caldwell who had started three days earlier for the Brewers, and Pete Ladd who had thrown a single inning the night before. It's likely that the Brewers had no one else left in the 'pen.
In the 21st inning, Ben Ogilvie once again came through (dude is clutch!) and hit a three-run home run off of White Sox reliever Ron Reed, and it looked like the Brewers would finally walk away with a 6-3 win, but in the bottom of the 21st, Porter was unable to shut the door and after an error by Randy Ready, and a flurry of singles and walks, Tom Paciorek's single scored pinch runner (and normal starter) Rich Dotson to again tie the game at 6. The White Sox, out of just about anyone else on the active roster made a move that would eventually forfeit the DH. I suppose that after 21 innings, you don't go quietly into the night.
In the 23rd inning, Dave Stegman was somehow called out on "coach's interference" Apparently, the White Sox third base coach (Jim Leyland!!!) helped runner Dave Stegman to his feet after he tripped on third base. I guess he just wanted it all to end. By the 25th inning, Tony LaRussa sent Tom Seaver, out to pitch. Tom Terrific set the Brewers down quietly, and "earned" a win when Harold Baines finally won the game with a 25th inning walk-off home run. It remains the only home run ever hit in the 25th inning in MLB history. It remains one of the few things that anyone's ever done in the 25th inning.. Amazingly, because this was a continuation of a suspended game, there was still another regularly scheduled game to play. Seaver started it for the White Sox—who won 5-4—and pitched 8 1/3 innings to pick up two wins in the same day.
The teams combined for 198 plate appearances, 43 hits, 18 walks, and 37 runners left on base (24 by the White Sox), and one Ron Kittle injury. The joyful thing about extreme games is that like a good work of literature, you can re-read the box score and play-by-play, and even though you weren't there for the game itself, recognize new details that you hadn't seen before. This one is a staggering work of post-apocalyptic survivalist fiction, despite the fact that it was real. And just a baseball game. —Russell A. Carleton
3. Kent State over Kentucky, 7-6, in 21 innings in the 2012 NCAA Baseball Tournament Regional
This was the second-longest game in NCAA tournament history. Kentucky tied it with a run in the ninth. Kent State added a run in the 18th, and Kentucky countered with an RBI double that almost ended it, but the game-winner was thrown out. Another run was pushed across in the top of the 21st by the Golden Flashes. And this was the first game of the regional.
At the time, I caught wind of this game happening in extra-innings and combed the net for a radio feed, stumbling upon the Kent State baseball radio team—there is a Kent State baseball radio team!—trying to futilely fill dead air in the 15th inning. The TV pros are fairly capable at keeping composure and focusing on the game, but college radio crews are not well-equipped for this. For a few innings, one of the broadcasters would disappear entirely. At one time I could hear a pop can opening, followed by the broadcaster saying “That was a Coke can, by the way,” meaning the play-by-play coverage now included his own fluid intake.
Kent State beat Kentucky one more time in the regional on a boring 3-2 nine-inning affair and would reach the College World Series. About a dozen players involved are now in the minor leagues, none of them huge prospects. One of them was Nick Hamilton, son of Indians radio broadcaster Tom Hamilton, who DHed and went 2-for-9 and is now in the Cleveland organization. Who knows if any of them will ever reach the bigs, but a 21-inning game is still a 21-inning game. [click-ksssssh] —Matt Sussman
4. Durham over Pawtucket, 2-0, in 14 innings in Game Three of the 2013 International League Championsip Series
The pivotal third game of last year’s International League Championship series between the Durham Bulls and the Pawtucket Red Sox was tied, 0-0, through 13 innings. The teams combined to put at least one runner on base in every single inning. They stranded 33, including 19 in scoring position. Fifteen pitchers struck out 36 hitters.
There was something appropriate about all this scoreless baseball between two Triple-A teams, robbed as they were of most of their best players after September 1 roster expansion—like machines with their power packs removed. And as the game wore on, the venue was appropriate, too: the longest professional game ever played was at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium, where in April of 1981 Pawtucket beat Rochester in 33 innings.
In the 10th inning of last September’s game, a bizarre altercation between a player and the other team’s manager gave the ballpark a tense, dangerous energy, and in the 14th, an unforgettable, gobsmacking Little League mistake decided the outcome. Durham put runners on the corners with one out. The next batter hit what might have been an inning-ending double play grounder toward second base, but the Pawtucket second baseman, either confused about the number of outs, unsure if there was time to turn two on the medium-paced grounder, or overly confident in erasing the potential go-ahead run, decided to try for the out at home instead. He fired home. The catcher, however, had followed the play up the first-base line, as his training correctly taught him to do. Thus, the second baseman fired to an uncovered home plate, the run scored, the ball sailed to the backstop, and the Bull who had been on first advanced all the way to third. He subsequently scored on a force out, and the Bulls went up, 2-0. That was plenty, although they had to sweat out a two-out, bases-loaded, full-count jam in the bottom of the 14th inning to win the game. It took nearly six hours to play, and the blood went right out of Pawtucket with the loss. The next night, the Bulls exploded for many early runs, and took the trophy.
I have many vivid memories of this game, but the one most present these days is that the second baseman who made the fatal misplay is one of the surprise darlings of major-league baseball this year, among my favorite players to watch. It was Brock Holt. —Adam Sobsey
5. Mets over Reds, 6-3, in 14 innings on July 22, 1986
Like many epic extra-inning affairs, for 8 1/2 innings this Mets/Reds game seemed fairly pedestrian. The first place Mets were cruising in the NL East, entering the day with a ridiculous 61-28 record and a 13 ½-game lead over the second-place Phillies. But July 22 didn’t look the Mets day. A two-run home run by Dave Parker in the home third gave the Reds a 2-0 lead early, and while the Mets chipped in a run in the fifth on a Lenny Dykstra RBI triple, the Reds responded in the bottom of the frame with a Buddy Bell home run. The score remained 3-1, and that’s where it stayed entering the bottom of the ninth.
Two quick outs by Reds reliever Ron Robinson left the Mets down to their final out with no one on base. But then the Mets—as they often did during that magical year—cobbled together a rally. Lenny Dykstra worked out a walk followed by a Tim Teufel double to deep center. With two on and two out, player/manager Pete Rose brought in his closer, John Franco. Franco was an absolute shutdown reliever against left-handed batters. Sure enough, Hernandez lofted an easy fly ball to right field, and the ball game looked like it was going to end.
Except Dave Parker dropped the ball, Dykstra and Teufel scored on the play, and all hell broke loose in extras.
Franco escaped a jam of his own making in the top of the tenth, punching out three batters after walking three (one intentional). Then with one out in the bottom of the tenth, Rose delivered a pinch-hit single. He immediately removed himself from the game for the speedy 24-year-old Eric Davis. Davis stole second and then quickly proceeded to steal third. Mets third baseman Ray Knight was straddling the bag and as Davis popped up he jostled Knight, who refused to surrender any ground. Davis shoved at Knight and Knight proceeded to throw and land a punch.
The benches cleared, with both Davis and Knight ejected from the game. Nearly everyone else on the field had tried to play peacemaker save for Kevin Mitchell, who was also ejected for throwing punches. With a short bench, Johnson was forced to move Gary Carter to third and put backup Ed Hearn behind the plate. But the craziest thing he had to do was move relief pitcher Jesse Orosco into right field, with Roger McDowell replacing him.
As the extras wore on, Johnson alternated Orosco and McDowell between pitching and playing the outfield. It has been written elsewhere that Orosco and McDowell traded off between lefties and righties, but in reality with the exception of the 10th and one batter in the 11th, McDowell and Orosco simply alternated innings. Nevertheless, the novelty of the move was twofold:
1)Would Johnson switch Orosco and McDowell with every batter?
It didn’t work out this way, but as the game unfolded the suspense was palpable each time a new hitter stepped to the plate.
2) Would Orosco or McDowell muff a ball in the outfield?
More than the relief switcheroo, this was where the drama of the game rested. Orosco started in right field in the tenth, didn’t get a fielding opportunity, and didn’t get to make a play in the eleventh either. When McDowell and Orosco switched places in the eleventh, Orosco struck out Max Venable. Then in the 12th after a leadoff single by Buddy Bell, Johnson pulled yet another rabbit out of his hat, switching McDowell in right with Mookie Wilson in left. The next hitter, Parker, hit a single to Wilson in right. McDowell avoided a chance.
Finally, in the 13th, one of the pitchers saw his first fielding chance. Tony Perez flew out to right field and Orosco—who had once again switched places with Wilson—caught it.
The dramatic game ended in the 14th, with Howard Johnson crushing a three-run home run off of Ted Power, scoring Hearn and Orosco. The Reds would go quietly in the bottom of the frame, ending one of the most unusual and wildest games I have ever seen. —Mike Gianella
6. Mets over Braves, 4-3, in 15 innings in Game Five of the 1999 NLCS
I had the luxury of being raised a Mets fan. We were a purebred family too–there was not a single stray uncle or cousin who rooted for the Yankees. My dad and I shared season tickets with a few families in our town, and we went to countless games, seated out by the left field pole at Shea Stadium. I was alive and cognizant of 1986, though far too young to either stay up to watch or appreciate what was happening. As Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, and Howard Johnson aged, as did I. The Mets became mediocre in their good years. They finished under .500 each season from 1991 to 1996.
But the year before Y2K smothered us all into the super death, they were back in the playoffs. I was at a Sam Ash in Manhattan, pretending to buy new cymbals for my drum set, so I could be huddled around the television to watch Todd Pratt hit the series-winning homer against Arizona. Then came the Braves. I hated the Braves. Oh man, did I hate the Braves. In the blink of an eye, the Mets had lost the first three games. It was over. I didn't want to watch what I presumed to be the last game of the season. By the time John Rocker came into the game in the eighth inning, there was no point. But a double steal and a John Olerud single later, there was another night.
Game Five of the 1999 NLCS is the greatest game I've ever watched in its entirety. It was tense, went on forever, and was played through a steady, light rain–as though it was put there by a Hollywood director. The celebration of the Grand Slam Single would be short-lived, as less than 48 hours later, the Kenny Rogers walked the Mets out of the post-season. However, despite the indelible image of Todd Pratt refusing to wait until Ventura crossed home plate to celebrate, there are plenty of things that have seemingly been long forgotten about this game. Here are my three favorites:
1) Ventura may not have gotten the glory of Kirk Gibson, with his one-and-done off Dennis Eckersley the year before, but he was hobbled in this series with a calf injury. He would finish the series with a brutal .120/.185/.160 line in 25 at-bats–though to be fair, the slugging percentage would have been higher had he been allowed to finish the homer. He was spent, and he fought through it.
2) The Mets nearly lost the game in the 13th inning. With John Rocker all ready to go in the bullpen for the bottom of the inning, Chipper Jones stepped up with two outs and Keith Lockhart on first base. He proceeded to double off Octavio Dotel (who had debuted earlier that summer, and was the long man who no Mets' fans wanted to see enter the game), but a strong relay throw from Melvin Mora to Edgardo Alfonzo to Mike Piazza nailed Lockhart at the plate.
3) Despite the fact that the game was tied when Ventura came up to bat, the Mets trailed heading into the bottom of the 15th inning. Lockhart, who was thrown out at the plate in the 13th, drove in Walt Weiss with a triple in the top of the inning. This whole falling-behind-in-extras-before-winning strategy had worked so well in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, so why not try the same thing again? —Bret Sayre
7. Cubs over Marlins, 5-4, in 11 innings in Game Three of the 2003 NLCS
Though this series is remembered for the odd events of game six and the Cubs shocking elimination in game seven, those games actually overshadow what was a pretty great series. Game five featured a dominant pitching performance from an emerging youngster, Josh Beckett. Sammy Sosa sent game one into extra-innings with a two-run, two-out homer, before Mike Lowell hit the eventual game-winning home run in the eleventh. Games two & four were impressive displays from a Cubs offense that was better than many remember, a unit boosted by a midseason trade that added Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez.
But it was game three that really stood out to me. While Lofton and Ramirez were the big name additions, the Cubs made two smaller moves during the season and both players came up with big hits in this game.
With the series tied at one and the Cubs trailing 3-2 in the top of the eighth, Randall Simon came up after a Tom Goodwin triple. Simon, a left-handed first baseman the Cubs acquired in August, drilled a line drive into the right field stands. Simon was with the Cubs for barely two months, but he developed a solid fanbase among the Wrigley faithful. Anyone who watched the Cubs regularly during that time is sure to recall the free-swinging Simon smacking his right thigh with his hand every time he took a pitch, almost as if to punish himself for not taking a hack. It may not have been the most sound approach at the plate, but it was certainly entertaining.
The Marlins would tie the game up in the next half-inning, but that just allowed Doug Glanville, who was acquired as depth in late July, to be the hero in extras. Glanville tripled in Lofton in the 11th and Mike Remlinger closed the game out as the Cubs took a 2-1 series lead.
As we all know, the Cubs would win the next game to take a commanding 3-1 lead, only to drop the next three and the series. That stretch kicked off the nine-game playoff losing streak the North Siders currently find themselves in. —Sahadev Sharma
8. Red Sox over Yankees, 6-4, in 12 innings in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS
I have a hard time imaging a more memorable extra-inning game than Game Four of the 2004 ALCS. Apologies if you've heard this story a billion times already, but the Yankees were up three games to none after having beat essentially the same Red Sox team in the ALCS the season before. This after every other time the Red Sox lost to the Yankees, which, at the time, felt like an uncountable amount. When the ninth inning arrived, the Red Sox were down by a run, 4-3.
I was standing, shirtless, in my apartment, jumping up and down, pacing, yelling, crouching, sitting, whatever with the windows open on a very cold evening in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I'm one of those superstitious types who thinks the place he sits, the food he eats, or even the fact he's shirtless with the window open on a 25 degree night, has some impact on a baseball game being played by other people hundreds of miles away. I'm stupid that way. But, ha ha, the joke is on you, person who didn't get hypothermia that night because Dave Roberts stole second and scored on a Bill Mueller single up the middle that Mariano Rivera tried to kick-save, but just missed. I think I hit my head on the ceiling when Roberts slid home.
Every single pitch was cause to yell or fall over, or shake my fist, or jump, or lean, or make some type of guttural noise. Then, in the bottom of the eleventh inning, David Ortiz's crunched a line drive over the right field fence and the Red Sox were alive, the series was alive, and I was alive. Also I was quite cold, but man, was I alive. —Matthew Kory
9. The Art Shamsky Game, 1966
By now, you have either heard about the Art Shamsky game or you don't actually have the internet, and you've somehow stumbled upon a paper copy of this lineup card that somebody left in the library printer. Every writer discovers the Art Shamsky game at some point and, unable to resist, writes about it; I've done it, you've done it, she's done it, on a long enough timeline we'll all do it. The Shamsky game in a sentence: Art comes into a 1966 game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, homers three times to tie or give his team the lead, racks up the highest win probability added in history, and his team still manages to lose. Great game. But if you know about this game, you might not know a few other things about Art Shamsky, so here are five:
1. In 2009, 40 years after the Miracle Mets, Shamsky and his '69 teammates were at a benefit for the American Heart Association. Screw American hearts, his ex-wife figured, and she crashed the event, "chasing him down the street to air her allegations that he’s a lying snake in the grass who carried on affairs with both men and women while they were married." The New York Post then gave her about 20 column inches to rage about her ex-husband, and to vow that "she’ll likely continue to publicly confront Shamsky – although she hasn’t decided how often." That article also noted that she had purchased the domain name artshamskysucks.com, but as of 2014 it's not in use and, so far as this writer is concerned, he does not.
2. He's got a Twitter account, unverified but pretty clearly him. Two hundred and fifty-five people follow him, and he uses it to, among other things, document his visit to a children's sportswriting camp, where we should all pray his ex-wife never finds him.
3. The dog on Everybody Loves Raymond was named aft–oh, you've heard this one?
A guy asked if I knew that a dog was named after me on Everyone Loves Raymond. Told him I heard about it a million times. He looked sad
— Art Shamsky (@ArtShamsky)
4. Shamsky wrote a book about the 1969 Mets, as well as the Jets and Knicks, who all won championships. The Magnificent Season generally has positive reviews on Amazon, and this: "While this book won't win any awards for literary style or lack of cliche…," which is interesting because the Art Shamsky game was notable for incredible literary style and lack of cliche.
5. According to his SABR bio, written, by Eric Aron, "After the (famous Art Shamsky) game, he took the loss hard and declined an opportunity to go on a Cincinnati post-game radio show, Star of the Game.. 'How can you be a star when your team loses?' he commented."—Sam Miller