Memorial Day, Sunday May, 31, 1964 – Thirty-Two Innings
Across from the magnificent New York World’s Fair is a spacious arena which is popularly known as Shea Stadium. During the spring and summer months, baseball is played there. In the fall, football attracts fans to the new arena. This essay concerns baseball and, more specifically, two teams that on a part cloudy, part rainy, part clear, and much too long day, played a doubleheader during which records were set, broker, and made altogether unrecognizable – and after which the result was absolutely clear. The San Francisco Giants had swept two games from the New York Mets.
The “Official Program and Scorecard,” available at the Stadium, includes a number of features, one of which is a higher price than existed during the days when the Mets played their home games at the Polo Grounds. Looking around the stadium, one could notice that it was very difficult for those keeping score (most had given up), to find room on the scorecard to keep an account of the second game as it went into its latter stages.
The first game will be mentioned here only to fill a void in the minds of any readers who may not be familiar with the result.
Clouds hung overhead as the first remnants of a crowd entered the Stadium. The time was half past ten. It was unbelievable, unless one had seen the lines of fans outside the stadium purchasing tickets (and knowing that the lines were longer than any that existed on the other side of the tracks at the World’s Fair) that the crowd would eventually number 57,037, paid. It would be the largest major league crowd since another sweep had taken place, that being in the 1963 World Series when the Los Angeles Dodgers, formerly of Brooklyn, had defeated the New York Yankees.
By noon, most of the seats not sold in advance had been gobbled up. However, a mist like rain began to fall. Umbrellas sprung up all over the park, and some spectators elected to purchase hats in order to shield their heads from the steadily falling rain. The rain stopped just as the game was to begin. The time was 1:05 PM. The Mets took the field and were wildly applauded by their fans. The Mets, for those who do not know, are an expression of human futility.
The Mets gave their fans something to cheer about in the second inning. Joe Christopher, who, as the day passed into night, was to gain a great following in right field, singled. Ed Kranepool singled. Ed was tired. He had just been called up to the Mets from their Buffalo farm team after playing a doubleheader for the Triple A affiliate. With two men on base, Giant Pitcher Juan Marichal faced Jim Hickman, an original Met more commonly known as “Whiff.” Hickman put the Mets ahead with a home run over the left field wall.
The score remained 3-0 until Jesus Alou, batting against the Met starter Alvin Jackson, knocked in Orlando Cepeda with San Francisco’s first run in the fourth inning. The Giants took the lead with three runs in the fifth inning, all charged to Jackson. After allowing the first three batters to reach safely, Jackson was relieved by the former Yankee, Tom Sturdivant. The lead run was scored by the Baby Bull, Orlando Cepeda. After doubling and going to third base on a sacrifice by Jim Davenport, Cepeda stole home. His steal was remarkable in that Sturdivant’s pitch appeared to have the runner beaten by at least ten feet. It has been said by some observers that catcher Jesse Gonder’s better-than-average stomach got in the way of the tag.
The Giants completed the scoring in the ninth when Harvey Kueen drove in Jesus Alou with the Giants’ fifth run. Juan Marichal completed the game by striking out two batters in the ninth inning, bringing his total to seven. In wrapping up his eighth win of the season, the San Francisco ace allowed nine hits.
The time of game was 2:29.
Between games, the Sunrisers Band from Mineola, Long Island, presented entertainment for those fans wishing to remain in their seats. As the musicians completed a fine performance, the two teams returned to their respective dugouts.
The Giants continued their scoring binge as they took the second game lead with two runs in the first inning of the Mets’ starter Bill Wakefield.. The runs were driven in by Jesus Alou and Willie Mays. The Mets closed the gap by scoring an unearned run of the Giants’ Bob Bolin in the second. A four run outburst by San Francisco in the third inning widened the gap to 6-1. Met Pitchers Craig Anderson and Tom Sturdivant were victimized by the Giant rally which featured six singles and no extra-base hits. Singles by Jesus Alou, Cepeda, Tom Haller, Chuck Hiller, Jim Ray Hart, and Bolin resulted in some fans heading home. The exodus was slowed by not stopped when the Mets scored two runs in the sixth inning. The rally featured singles by Christopher and Charley Smith sandwiched around a triple by Kranepool past Mays in center.
In the Mets’ have of the seventh inning, Roy McMillan and Frank Thomas singled. Joe Christopher then stepped in. Encouraged by his supporters in right field, he hit a pitch to deepest centerfield, 410 feet from home plate. The biggest roar of the afternoon came as Mays, the great San Francisco centerfielder, leaped against the wall and, with his glove extended over the wall, grabbed the ball as it was leaving the field. He came to the ground with his glove high in the air, signifying for all to see that he had caught the ball. There was one thing wrong, however. There was no ball in the glove. After Christopher had circled the bases and touched home plate, the score was knotted at six-six.
From that point on, the score remained tied. It was not an absolute pitchers’ battle however, as Cepeda, Haller, and Jesus Alou maintained hot bats for the Giants against the superb Met relief pitching of Larry Bearnarth and Galen Cisco. In the top of the tenth, Haller tripled but was stranded at third as Bearnarth got pinch hitter Matty Alou to ground out.
Shuffling of players between positions became commonplace. In the bottom of the eighth, after Willie McCovey had pinch hit for shortstop Gil Garrido, Jim Davenport was inserted into the game to shortstop. In the bottom of the tenth, after Matty Alou had pinch hit for Jim Ray hart in a lefty-righty switch, Davenport was moved to third base (his natural position) and Willie Mays took over at shortstop. Mays, temporarily, was replaced in cernterfield by Matty Alou.
The Mets, especially Charlie Smith and Christopher, would get some hits, but were unable to convert anything into a run. The hits were singles, and the Mets were not able to bunch three singles together to score a run.
The pitchers were in control. Giant relief ace Ron Herbel pitched the 10th, 11th, and 12th innings, allowing two hits and striking out three. Bearnarth of the Mets pitched from the 8th through the 14th inning. In his seven innings of work, he gave up three hits and struck out four.
But Herbel and Bearnarth’s accomplishments were to be overshadowed by the exploits of Gaylord Perry of the Giants and Galen Cisco of the Mets.
Perry entered the game in the bottom of the thirteenth, and there were wholesale changes in the fielding alignment. Mays went back to centerfield. He did not have anything hit at him during his three innings at shortstop. Davenport went back to shortstop and was replaced by Cap Petersen at third base. Matty Alou moved from centerfield to leftfield, replacing Harvey Kueen.
In the thirteenth inning, Amado “Sammy” Samuel reached Perry for a single. This was followed with a single to right field by Roy McMillan. A great through by Jesus Alou cut down Samuel trying to advance to third base.
In the fourteenth, the Giants had Jesus Alou on second and Mays on first with none out, with the great Cepeda coming to the plate, prompting more fans to head for the exits. Dark, with fast runners on base, put on the signal for a hit-and-run play. It was the obvious thing to do, and why shouldn’t Dark have made that call with Cepeda, the hottest bat in the Giant lineup, coming up. Well, as one Met fan may have reasoned – if Cepeda should hit a line drive at an infielder, there could be a triple play. He did, there was, and the fans returned to their seats.
The Mets’ 15th inning provided the best argument of the long day. Dark argued that umpire Ed Sudol should have conferred with the other umpires before making a decision on a pitch that resulted in a walk. Sudol, whose temper had become very hot, quickly ejected Dark, but before he left the playing area, the Giant manager put the game under protest. The base on balls was not fatal. Davenport grabbed a hot grounder off the bat of Cisco, and turned it into an inning-ending double play. From then on, Sudol became the target of taunts from the Giant fans in attendance.
At this stage of the game, the impatient fans could hear constant police whistles as fights sprang up around the stadium. Hunger was a problem throughout the park. The vendors had left the park at 8 o’clock. Most fans were not about to leave their seats for food, fearing that they might miss an important piece of action. Up until that advanced stage off the game, the spectators had felt that the game would not last more than fifteen innings. Over the course of the day, twenty-four innings had been played before their eyes, and those eyes were beginning to close. It looked as though the game would go on forever.
The Mets were not going to remove Cisco, as they had run out of pinch hitters. The Giants had back-up catcher Del Crandall on the bench available for pinch-hitting duties, but opted to leave Perry in the game. Perry, in relief, went on to strike out nine batters, allowing seven hits.
In the top of the 20th inning, Haller singled with one out, was slow getting back to first on a fly ball to right by Hiller, and was thrown out by Christopher.
It seemed as if every longevity record would fall. The first record to fall was time for a doubleheader, followed by innings in a doubleheader. The teams went into the twenty-third inning, and it became clear that the single game record for time would quite obviously be broken. The teams set a new record as they went into the eighth hour of the second game.
In the Giants’ half of the inning, Hiller and Matty Alou were out before some fans in the front row had had the time to sit down from their between inning stretch. Jim Davenport, who had been excelling in the field, then stepped in. The crowd roared as he hit a ball that travelled into the right field corner. By the time a very tired Joe Christopher could retrieve the ball, Davenport was standing at third base with a triple. Met Manager Casey Stengel ordered Cisco to intentionally walk Cap Peterson, bringing up Perry. Perry was not your typical hitting pitcher. He was worse, and had gone 0 for 3 with a strikeout and two ground balls. The brain trust of the Giants sent in Crandall to pinch hit for Perry. Of course, Giant fans were a bit apprehensive as Perry was not showing any signs of tiring on the mound. Crandall proceeded to break up the game, plating Davenport with a ground rule double to right field. Peterson advanced to third and scored on an infield hit by Jesus Alou. The Giants were to take an 8-6 lead into the bottom of the 23rd inning, and very few fans were around for the finish. Bob Hendley then came in to settle the issue retiring the three Mets he faced, striking out two.
In the twenty-third and final inning, two records were set – one was a National League Record, and the other was a Major league record. One was about time, and the other was about dexterity. The strikeouts by Hendley brought the total by Giants pitching for the game to twenty-two, eclipsing the mark for strikeouts in an extra-inning game, set by Tom Cheney of Washington who had struck out 21 in a sixteen inning complete game against Baltimore in 1962. When Jesus Alou caught the final out, the game became the longest ever, in terms of time, to be completed in the history of the national League – 7 hours and 23 minutes.
Fans filed out of the ball park, and the looks on some faces implied that some fans were hoping for the game to last even longer so as to break more records. None of the Met fans seemed to mind the loss because in that loss there had been several wins – the thrills of such a game, the fact that the Met pitchers had kept the Giants scoreless for twenty straight innings, and the realization that it would not be hard to fall asleep. How could you stay awake after a game like that?
Postscript and Notes:
This was originally written in June, 1964.
In those days, fans would come early for batting and fielding practice. Fielding practice for the Giants was always a highlight as Willie Mays played at shortstop during the infield drills. Thus it was no big surprise when Giant manager Alvin Dark played Mays at shortstop during the nightcap.
The New York World’s Fair lasted from 1964 through 1965. Not much is left. The Unisphere was US Steel’s contribution. This large globe is still there, as are the towers of the New York Pavillion. The Singer Bowl was renamed the Louis Armstrong Arena and is part of the US Tennis Center. It has played host to numerous US Opens and now stands aside the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center.
Shea Stadium did not see much baseball activity during the fall months during its first years of existence. There was post season play starting with the Miracle Mets of 1969. Shea Stadium was torn down prior to the 2009 season and replaced (to use a Paul Simon lyric) with a parking lot.
The New York Jets played at Shea Stadium until they moved to Giants Stadium in New Jersey in the 1980’s.
One of Shea’s drawbacks, abundantly clear on that day, was that there was little protection from the elements.
Joe Christopher was to go on to play 154 games and bat .300.
And yes, Orlando Cepeda did steal home.
And yes, Kranepool tripled past Mays.
Gaylord Perry, prior to this outing, had minimal success. In this game, legend has it, he used a new pitch, his “hard slider”, to dominate the Mets. Over the course of his more than twenty year career, many accused him of doctoring the ball.
The second game ended at 11:30 PM, prompting Met announcer Ralph Kiner that it had been the longest color television broadcast ever. In New York, TV ratings were higher than those for such stalwarts as “What’s My Line?” on CBS.
This writer took the subway to Woodside, Queens and transferred to the LIRR for the long trip to Babylon. Mom came to pick me up at the station. The next day was a school day. In homeroom (I was a High School Senior at the time), I mentioned that I was at the game, and the girl to my left had also been there.
Five future Hall-of Famers were in the second game for the Giants: Mays, Cepeda, Perry, McCovey, and Duke Snider. Another Hall of Famer, Marichal, had pitched in the first game of the doubleheader.
The extra inning team strikeout record has been eclipsed on four occasions. The record, set by the Oakland A’s (in 20 innings) in 1971, and tied by the Angels (also in 20 innings) in 2004 stands at 26. The double header strikeout record of 29 still stands.
Combined team strikeouts were equally impressive. Mets and Giants pitchers combined for 36 strikeouts in the second game and 47 strikeouts for the doubleheader. The single game record, set in 1971 by the Angels and A’s is 43. The double header strikeout record of 47 still stands.
The record for the longest game in terms of elapsed time is 8 hours and six minutes, set by the Brewers and the White Sox in 1984. The game began on May 8, suspended at 12:59 AM on May 9, and resumed later in the day on May 9. The Mets-Giants game is still the longest without an interruption. The Mets have been involved in five games of twenty innings or more, including three of the eight longest.
The records for most innings in a double header (32) and time of a double header (9 hours 52 minutes) still stand.
Chris Cannizzaro (Mets) and Tom Haller (Giants) caught all twenty-three innings of the second game.
Harvey Kueen went on to become a Manager. Al Jackson, Larry Bearnarth and Galen Cisco became pitching coaches.
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