It was some 37 years ago today, on a frigid Saturday night, that the Pawtucket Red Sox hosted the Rochester Red Wings. No one at the time ever realized how historically important this game would be. The game between the Paw Sox and Red Wings began on April 18th, 1981. The two teams battled up to the 32nd inning. At 4:07 A.M. on April 19th, 1981, play was suspended. While there were a solid group of fans at the beginning of the game (1740), only 17 fans stuck around until 4:07 AM. Nevertheless, Harold Cooper, the International League President, shockingly ordered the game to suspend play. Had I been there, I like to think I would be sticking it out with the other 17 fans. Nevertheless, I was not yet born.
This 33-inning game is historically significant for many reasons other than the length. One of the most notable facts about this game is that two Hall of Famers played on both sides. Wade Boggs for Pawtucket, and Cal Ripken Jr. for Rochester. Cal Ripken Jr.’s nickname “Iron Man” is on display here, as he played all 33-innings. Sticking with the theme of the Hall of Fame, Cooperstown is now home to the official score card from the game. A whooping 822 pitches met the 822 batters during the three-day game. Wade Boggs went 4-12. Cal Ripken Jr. went 2-13.
Both Cooperstown residents spoke about the game years later. Ripken saying, “Of all the games I’ve played in, that’s one of the few that I easily remember. It’s still fresh in my mind. We’ve all played in marathon nine-inning games and extra-inning games, but that game was different.” Wade Boggs spoke in a 2006 interview saying, “When I doubled in the tying run in the 21st inning, I didn’t know if the guys wanted to hug me or slug me. But, being competitors, we did want to win the game.” Boggs continued speaking later on, “I remember calling my father the next day and telling him I got four hits. “He said, ‘That’s great.’ I said: ‘Yeah, but I was up 12 times. We went 32 last night.”
June 23rd, 1981
The triumphant return of the game took place on June 23rd, 1981. Fans came into McCoy Stadium unsure of what to expect. Not to mention, 5,800 fans sold out McCoy Stadium. Nearly five times the amount of fans than April 18th. They were curious as to if the long game would keep going on. Nevertheless, the fans got a quick 18 minute inning. Pawtucket’s Bob Ojeda came in to continue the game. The eighth Paw Sox pitcher to appear gives up a single to Cal Ripken Jr. Ojeda went on the strike out Floyd Rayford and pop out John Valle to keep the game tied.
Steve Grilli came into pitch for Rochester. Grilli was not a member of the Rochester Red Wings on April 18th. Grilli hit Marty Barret by a pitch to get things going. Chico Walker stepped up to plate and ripped a single that Barret was running on to move him to third. To set up a force on any base, Russ Laribee was intentionally walked. Cliff Speck came in to save the game for Rochester but ended up only throwing four pitches. Dave Koza came up to the plate confidently. Koza was the best player in the game at the moment with a 4-13 day(s). Koza was able to groove a 2-2 curve ball into left field to bring Marty Barret home and, mercifully, ending the game.
Relive the game here:
Remember this when you are complaining that baseball games are too long.