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For Dodgers, It’s a Long Lost Weekend : The Longest Night Game Ever Played

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

How long was the 22-inning marathon played by the Dodgers and the Houston Astros Saturday night and into Sunday morning?

A man, identifying himself as a former Dodger employee, called the Astrodome in the 18th inning to say that he watched the first inning in Honolulu, flew into Los Angeles, rode home on a shuttle bus and made it in time to watch the last five innings in his living room.

Orel Hershiser said the game unfolded like a novel.

An epic.

“You got emotionally tied up into it,” he said. “The decision was out there to the end and you didn’t know how it would wind up.”

Nor when.

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The longest night game in major league history finally ended Sunday at 2:52 a.m., CDT, when Rafael Ramirez lined a run-scoring single into right field to give the Astros a 5-4 victory after 7 hours 14 minutes.

In terms of innings, only eight major league games have gone longer, including a 1-1 tie between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves on May 1, 1920, which lasted 26 innings to establish the all-time record.

In terms of time, the game fell nine minutes short of the National League record, which was set on May 31, 1964, when the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets played 23 innings before the Giants won, 8-6, in the second game of a doubleheader.

The Chicago White Sox beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-6, in a 25-inning game that was suspended after 17 innings on May 8, 1984, completed the next day and lasted 8 hours 6 minutes, a major league record.

At the Astrodome, only about 5,000 of a crowd of 34,425 were still in attendance when Jeff Hamilton, the Dodgers’ ninth pitcher and their regular third baseman, grooved an 0-and-2 fastball to Ramirez, who lined it off the glove of a leaping Fernando Valenzuela, who was playing first base.

The throw to the plate by right fielder Mike Davis was too late to get Bill Doran, who collided with catcher Mike Scioscia.

Hamilton was forced to the mound out of necessity.

Establishing a club record, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda used 23 of his 24 players, including Hershiser, who pitched seven scoreless innings of relief, allowing three hits and striking out eight on three days’ rest.

“It’s just a relief appearance,” said Hershiser, who was scheduled to pitch the first game of a doubleheader today at Atlanta.

Hershiser, in fact, was upset when he was replaced.

Tim Belcher, who was the Dodgers’ starting pitcher Sunday, was across town sleeping in his hotel room and Valenzuela wasn’t available to pitch, having worked seven innings as the starter in a 1-0 loss Friday night.

Lasorda had nobody left.

So, when he made the change in the 21st, moving Hamilton to the mound, shifting Eddie Murray from first to third base and inserting Valenzuela at first, Hershiser protested.

“It felt to me that we were conceding the game,” he said.

Hamilton, though, was impressive.

And why not?

“I was working on seven years’ rest,” said Hamilton, who hadn’t pitched since his senior year at Carman High School in Flint, Mich.

One of his pitches in the 21st was clocked at 91 m.p.h.

“And he was hitting the black,” Hershiser said. “He wasn’t just throwing the ball down the middle. He was throwing the ball on the outside corner with movement. He just made one bad pitch.

“He had Ramirez 0-2 and he could have thrown three balls there and I guarantee you (Ramirez) would swing at one. But he threw him a fastball on the outside part of the plate and he got a hit. . . .

“But who’s going to second-guess a third baseman?”

Said Hamilton: “I still can’t believe I was out there. I’ve always wanted to pitch, but I’m mad about losing.”

None of the Dodgers accepted the loss easily.

In losing for the fifth time in six games, they squandered a 4-1 lead in the sixth inning and didn’t score a run in the last 17 innings against six Astro relievers, managing only two hits in the last seven innings.

Still, they twice prolonged the game with exceptional defensive plays involving home-plate collisions with Scioscia, who took throws from the outfield on both occasions and held onto the ball for inning-ending double plays, preventing the Astros from scoring the winning run.

“This is worse than a World Series (loss),” Hershiser said. “It becomes almost more than a game. It has sentimental value to it because you’ve played for so long. You don’t play that much overtime and not care.”

That became clear to an unsuspecting radio reporter, who greeted Lasorda after the game by saying, “Good morning.”

Answered Lasorda: “What’s so . . . good about it?”

Dodger Notes

Saturday night’s game was the longest in the history of each franchise, in terms of time. The Brooklyn Dodgers played in a 26-inning game, a 23-inning game and twice played in 22-inning games. The Astros played in a 24-inning game against the New York Mets on April 15, 1968. The Los Angeles Dodgers played a 21-inning game against the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 16-17, 1982. . . . The Astros used all but three of their players, pitchers Mike Scott and Bob Forsch and outfielder Kevin Bass. . . . Only 13 other games in major league history have lasted as long as 22 innings, including a 9-7 victory by the New York Yankees over the Detroit Tigers on June 24, 1962, when Yogi Berra, who is now a coach for the Astros, caught all 22 innings for the Yankees.

The Dodgers got to their hotel about 4 a.m., CDT, and had to be back at the Astrodome Sunday morning in time for a 1:30 p.m., CDT, game. Normally, the Dodgers leave their hotel 2 1/2 to 3 hours before a road game. Sunday, they left 1 1/2 hours before the game. . . . Both teams elected to skip batting and infield practice. . . . Maybe Houston first baseman Glenn Davis had the best idea. He spent the night sleeping in the trainer’s room.

Said Orel Hershiser of Jeff Hamilton: “He’s got job security. If he fails as a third baseman, he can make it as a pitcher.” Was he joking? “No, that’s the truth,” Hershiser said. . . . Hamilton, who said he threw only one curveball, said his pitches were clocked at 94 m.p.h. in high school. “I probably could have thrown harder,” he said of his appearance Saturday night, “but I didn’t want to be all over the field in that situation.”

Hamilton, who was the losing pitcher, was only the third position player in 21 years to be involved in a decision. Outfielder Rocky Colavito of the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox in 1968 and utilityman Jose Oquendo of the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Atlanta Braves on May 14, 1988. Oquendo pitched four innings of a 19-inning loss, allowing four hits and two runs. . . . John Shelby of the Dodgers was 0 for 10, falling one at-bat short of equaling a 69-year-old major league record. Charles Pick of the Boston Braves was 0 for 11 in a 26-inning game against the Brooklyn Dodgers on May 1, 1920.

LONGEST MAJOR LEAGUE GAMES

The 25-inning game between the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers became the longest game in American League history and the longest extra-inning contest in terms of elapsed time in baseball history. A brief rundown of the longest games in major league history:

Longest Game, By Innings NL--26 innings, Brooklyn 1, Boston 1, May 1, 1920 at Boston.

AL--25 innings, Chicago 7, Milwaukee 6, May 8-9, 1984, at Chicago.

Previous record--24 innings: Philadelphia 4, Boston 1, Sept. 1, 1906, at Boston; Detroit 1, Philadelphia 1, July 21, 1945, at Philadelphia.

Longest Night Game, By Innings

NL--25 innings: St. Louis 4, New York 3, Sept. 11, 1974, at New York.

AL--25 innings: Chicago 7, Milwaukee 6, May 8-9, 1984, at Chicago.

Previous AL record--22 innings: Washington 6, Chicago 5, June 12, 1967 at Washington.

Longest Extra-Inning Game, By Time

NL--7 hours 23 minutes: San Francisco 8, New York 6, May 31, 1964, second game (23 innings).

AL--8 hours 6 minutes: Chicago 7, Milwaukee 6, May 8-9, 1984, 25 innings.

Previous AL record--7 hours: New York 9, Detroit 7, June 24, 1962, 22 innings.


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