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Fit to be tied (or something like that)

10.28.08 at 11:37 pm ET
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People are understandably dismayed by the suspended state in which Game 5 of the World Series has remained since Monday night. Those who want to drink from a half-full glass would do well to recall the great moments in baseball history resulting from suspended games. In honor of this year’s World Series, a top six of other great suspended games in baseball history:

6) JULY 18, 2001 – DIAMONDBACKS VS. PADRES

A pair of explosions in the light tower at Qualcomm Park in San Diego prompted the suspension of a game between Arizona and the Padres. The D’backs could be forgiven their dismay about the development, as the suspension of play meant that Curt Schilling (who had retired the first six San Diego hitters of the game) would be unavailable to continue.

Arizona manager Bob Brenley, however, made the most of the situation. With his team leading 2-0 at the start of the next day, he decided to have Randy Johnson, the scheduled July 19 starter, enter the suspended contest in relief of Schilling.

Johnson mowed through the next seven innings by striking out 15 Padres (the most punchouts ever by a reliever) and held San Diego hitless until the bottom of the eighth, when Wiki Gonzalez collected a single for the only Padres hit.

Other Wiki Gonzalez trivia: he once hit into a round-the-horn triple play on his birthday, and he now plays for the St. George Roadrunners of the Golden Baseball League. So it seems safe to say that breaking up this no-hitter ranked pretty high on his list of career milestones.

Schilling, meanwhile, made his next start on two days of rest and produced a dominating seven-inning, one-hit, 12-strikeout effort.

5) MAY 8, 1984 – BREWERS VS. WHITE SOX

The longest game (by time) in baseball history lasted 8 hours and 6 minutes, and had to be broken up over two days. The ChiSox assumed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth and immediately gave it back to the Brewers in the top of the seventh. The Brewers scored a pair in the top of the ninth, only to watch Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers give back a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. A curfew led to a pause after the 17th inning, and the two teams resumed play the next day.

Both teams scored three runs in the 21st (1), before Harold Baines finally won the thing with a fireworks-inspiring walkoff homer in the bottom of the 25th. The game was so long that the White Sox had time to reconsider their mystifying shorts-wearing experiment in favor of other aesthetic atrocities that, at the least, involved pants.

The Boston Braves and Brooklyn Robins squeezed 26 innings into a single afternoon in 1920, but with the game remaining deadlocked 1-1, it was suspended due to darkness and replayed in its entirety. The Mets and Cardinals locked down for 25 innings on Sept. 11-12, 1974, and, of course, the mighty, mighty PawSox claimed a 3-2 triumph in a 33-inning battle of attrition with the Rochester Red Wings in 1981. The epic conflict of Triple-A teams–which featured 28 combined plate appearances for future Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken–was suspended after 32 innings at 4:06am on April 18 and resumed on June 23.

4) OCTOBER 9, 1912 – RED SOX VS. GIANTS

The first-ever World Series game at Fenway Park ended in an inglorious tie. Game 2 of the 1912 matchup between the Red Sox and Giants produced an 11-inning, 6-6 deadlock (Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson was believed to tell New York manager John McGraw that he could stick his pitch count in a pipe and smoke it) that was called due to darkness.

The result of the prolonged series was rather remarkable, as the Game 8 showdown ended in a 3-2, 10-inning walkoff win for the Sox. The Giants appeared to be on the cusp of a startling victory in the series when they pushed across a run in the top of the 10th to take a 2-1 lead, but the Sox scored a pair against Mathewson (who was still pitching in the 10th, and might have benefited from a pitch count on the heels of a 310-inning workload in the regular season).

Tris Speaker had a game-tying single, and then Larry Gardner collected the first-ever walkoff hit in Sox postseason history, lofting a sac fly to score the immortal Steve Yerkes and prompting a series of celebratory kicks to the groin. The World Series title was the second in franchise history, and would spark a Sox dynasty that produced four championships in seven years.

The other World Series games that ended in suspended ties proved less meaningful. The Cubs and Tigers played to a 3-3, 12-inning tie in Game 1 of the 1907 Fall Classic, but the Cubs went on the sweep the next four games. And in Game 2 of the 1922 World Series between the Giants and Yankees (no Subway Series, this–both teams resided at the time at the Polo Grounds), the game got banged at a 3-3 deadlock after 10 innings, but the Giants went on to sweep the rest of the contests.

3) JULY 9, 2002 – AMERICAN LEAGUE VS. NATIONAL LEAGUE

The All-Star Game at Miller Park in Milwaukee was supposed to represent a career triumph for Bud Selig. Instead, it served as one of the worst moments of his baseball life.

Both sides ran out of pitchers with the game tied 7-7 after 11 innings. A distraught Selig–who was the driving force behind the building of the ballpark in his home city–repeatedly flapped his arms in agonized fashion, and appeared to devolve amidst his distress, as most pictures from that night featured him at a loss for opposing thumbs.

2) SEPTEMBER 23, 1908 – GIANTS VS. CUBS

The suspended game to end all suspended games. The Giants (then of New York) and Cubs were tied for first in the National League with roughly two weeks left in the season. The teams played a game that offered further evidence of their evenly matched talents, taking a 1-1 tie into the bottom of the ninth.

The Giants staged a rally in the ninth, putting men on the corners with two outs. New York shortstop Al Bridwell lined a single to center, inspiring pandemonium at the Polo Grounds. But with Moose McCormick having already crossed the plate with what appeared to be the winning run, the runner on first, Fred Merkle, a rookie making his first big-league start, made a beeline for the Giants clubhouse without touching second base.

The practice was standard at the time, in the ur-culture of the walkoff. You did not have players clearing a landing spot around the plate or a base and pointing in exaggerated fashion to cross safely before delivering a pounding.

Instead, players lived in terror of the fans. Typically, at the end of games’€”particularly walkoffs’€”

they were left to run for their lives, fearful of the likelihood that the rambunctious fans of the era might punch them in the nether-regions or torch the premises.

Merkle followed the well-accepted strategy, defined later in ‘€œMonty Python and the Holy Grail’€ as the ‘€œRun Away! Run Away!’€

But Johnny Evers took issue with the tactic, somehow retrieving the ball through the throng, touching second, and informing the umpires that Merkle should be out on a force.

Umpire Hank O’€™Day said that he would think on the matter, largely to ensure that he did not have to soil himself while confronting an angry mob at the Polo Grounds. That night, O’€™Day ruled’€”from the comforts of his hotel room’€”

that Merkle was out at second. Instead of a 2-1 win that would have given New York a one-game lead in the standings, the Giants and Cubs had played to a 1-1 suspended tie.

At the time, teams did not resume suspended games. So, the Cubs and Giants’€”who finished the regular season deadlocked in first’€”had to play a makeup game at the end of the season. The Cubs won to claim the National League crown en route to the World Series’€”the last in franchise history, as it turned out. Merkle’€™

s Boner, as the play came to be known, assumed a place in baseball infamy.

Mathewson, incidentally, pitched all nine innings of the Merkle’s Boner game, and pitched seven innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the makeup game. In retrospect, it comes as little surprise that Mathewson was done as a productive pitcher at the age of 34. It is, in fact, mind-blowing that he squeezed 361 of his 373 wins into a 14-year span.

The centennial of the infamous play passed last month, bringing a rash of excellent retrospectives, including Keith Olbermann’s analysis and this history.

1) JULY 4, 1908 – CHICAGO CUBS VS. IOWA BASEBALL CONFEDERACY ALL-STARS

A scheduled exhibition double-header between the Cubs and a traveling team of All-Stars instead turns into a single game that persists–with breaks for dinner–over the course of 40 days and more than 2,000 innings. The event serves as a black hole that swallows not merely most of the participants but also the historical memory of the contest, most of its participants and an epoch in American history. Or something like that.

SOME BONUS SUSPENDED CONTESTS FROM OTHER SPORTS

–May 24, 1988: Bruins/Oilers Stanley Cup Finals Game 3 suspended in the second period, while tied 3-3, due to a power outage in the Boston Garden.

–January 4, 1987: Canadian vs. USSR World Junior Hockey Championship – The Punch-Up in Piestany produced perhaps the most insane brawl in televised sports history. That designation includes professional boxing, the WWF/WWE and Ultimate Fighting.

ANY OTHERS?

Surely there are other memorable suspended games out there… Anyone? Anyone? Enter suggestions in the Comments section or email me at aspeier@weei.com.

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