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26 INNINGS TO A TIE
April 11, 1955
The pitching got better after the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Robins passed the tough 17th inning of the longest game in all baseball history
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April 11, 1955

26 Innings To A Tie

The pitching got better after the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Robins passed the tough 17th inning of the longest game in all baseball history

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Boston police were uneasy the murky morning of May 1, 1920. With shoulders hunched against chill air and intermittent showers they trudged out in extra details, alert to the day's page one headline: "Guard Against Bolshevik Uprisings Here." As it turned out, the only bitter battle that day took place at the local ballpark, where Boston's Braves and Brooklyn struggled to a 26-inning 1-1 tie. The game remains in the record books as the longest in baseball history.

That year Brooklyn was under the colorful guidance of Wilbert Robinson. Although the Robins (so called in Uncle Robbie's honor) had finished fifth the previous season, prospects for 1920 looked good. Zack Wheat played the outfield and swung a mighty bat. Spitball Pitcher Burleigh Grimes was in good form. When Burleigh was not Uncle Robbie's starting choice, Leon Cadore sometimes got the nod, as he did today. The previous season had been the high point in Cadore's career. He won 14 games.

Leon had outlasted jovial Joe Oeschger of Boston 10 days previously, beating him 1-0 in an 11-inning game. Today Manager George Stallings of the Braves again started Oeschger. Joe had won 15 games in 1917 (his best season) but had turned in a drab 4-4 record in 1919. Finally, after learning a change-of-pace pitch, this castoff of the Giants and Phillies was apparently embarking on a second major league life.

It was drizzling when Umpire Bill McCormick called "Play ball!" and Leadoff Hitter Ivy Olson, Brooklyn second baseman, stepped into the batter's box. But the rain stopped abruptly at the close of the first inning and customers settled down to watch three more scoreless innings pass. In the fifth, however, Brooklyn Catcher Ernie Krueger got a base on balls. Cadore then bounced the ball to his rival pitcher. It was a perfect double play ball but Oeschger let it pop out of his glove. By the time he recovered it the only play was to first base to retire the batter. Krueger moved to second and went home when Olson singled over Shortstop Rabbit Maranville's head.

Boston scrambled to even the score. In their half of the sixth Right Fielder Wally Cruise tripled to the foot of the scoreboard in center. Walter Holke sent the ball beyond third base for what seemed to be a hit, but Zack Wheat tore in for an astonishing shoestring catch and almost doubled Cruise off third unassisted. When Tony Boeckel drilled a single to center field, Cruise came home. Score: 1-1.

A cold, damp wind was blowing in from the Charles River, just beyond the centerfield wall. It buffeted balls which might have gone for hits into harmless outs. The crowd, huddled in its raincoats, watched as a double row of zeros continued to build up on the scoreboard. Both Cadore and Oeschger were pitching warily, knowing that any pitch might mean defeat. Batters on both sides were trying for the one long hit which could break up the game. They swung in large, desperate, futile arcs. The harder they tried the easier it was for Cadore and Oeschger to get outs.

With one out in the ninth, however, Boston pressed hard for a score and the ball game. The bases were loaded ( Rabbit Maranville on third) when Second Baseman Charlie Pick hit a hard grounder. Ivy Olson got it in an heroic pounce, tried to tag Baserunner Ray Powell, finally threw to first to nip the batter. Meanwhile Maranville came home. But Base Umpire Eugene Hart ruled the run invalid because Powell had left the baseline to avoid being tagged.

The ciphers extended across the scoreboard until, the New York Times reporter observed, they "began to slide over the fence and reach out into The Fenway." Finally, in the 17th inning Brooklyn got to Oeschger and filled the bases. But again brilliant fielding preserved the tie. With one out and Zack Wheat on third, Harold (Rowdy) Elliott grounded to Oeschger. The throw to Catcher Hank Gowdy forced Wheat. Gowdy's toss to First Baseman Holke was wild, and Holke barely knocked it down. Ed Konetchy tried to score from second on the play but the intrepid Gowdy, after taking Holke's throw to one side, threw himself across the plate, meeting Konetchy's spikes with his bare fist.

The pitchers completed the 18th inning in good shape. Each had full control, each was bearing down whenever he had to. When they completed the 23rd inning they broke the National League record for number of innings played in any game. The tension was tremendous. They finished 24 innings, then 25, breaking the major league record. When two more ciphers (for the 26th inning) went up, Umpire Bill McCormick dubiously surveyed the graying field. Olson, guessing his intent, rushed up and said, "Wait one more inning! I want to be able to tell my grandchildren I played the equal of three nine-inning games in one afternoon."

"Not without a miner's lamp!" snapped McCormick. And he raised both hands, calling the game because of darkness.

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