SPORTS WATCH : Field of Sleep

Baseball is turning into a marathon sport this season.

The Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies played a 20-inning game last week. That's the equivalent of a doubleheader with two extra innings thrown in for good measure. The runs, hits and errors took six hours and 10 minutes, the longest major league game so far this season.

The contest started at 7:35 p.m. and lasted until 1:47 a.m. The end finally came when, alas, the Dodgers lost in the 20th inning.

National League scheduling rules even allow play to start after midnight, as another Phillies game, against the San Diego Padres, crazily illustrated. On July 2, the Phils and Padres were supposed to play a doubleheader, but the first game was delayed almost six hours by rain. That stalled the start of the second game until 1:28 in the morning; it ended at 4:40 a.m. That's definitely a major league record, but not the kind that inspires bragging.

In the American League, no inning may start after 1 in the morning; play must be suspended and completed either the next day or on another date. That's more sensible.

Are baseball games getting too long?

Typical games take about three hours. In the good old days, before the interruption of television commercials, when pitchers threw--and umpires called--more strikes than balls, nine innings averaged two hours.

The shortest game in major league history took only 51 minutes--a matchup between the Phillies and the old New York Giants in 1919.

Now that's a record worth emulating.

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