By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
THE LONGEST GAME
Listen, my children, this is a rhyme
About the longest game of all time.
For thirty-three innings it lasted. Oh boy!
In a stadium known as McCoy.
Rochhester versus Pawtucket, that’s right.
And it was played on a freezing cold night.
That happens in New England, I’m told;
Night games in April get really cold.
Just in order to warm up their hands
Players built fires in some trash cans.
In the twenty-first Rochester scored.
The Pawtucket put one on the board.
The game continued, score tied, two to two.
Would it ever end? Only God knew.
On they would play with no end in sight
At four in the morining they called it a night.
The game was suspended and, it was said,
“We’ll finish in June. Now let’s go to bed.”
And it was summer when they resumed play.
They all settled in for another long day.
But almost before the great rebeginning
Pawtucket won in the very next inning.
They’d played for eight hours in April, no less.
In June, just an inning. That’s baseball I guess.
On Saturday, August 19th The Pawtucket Red Sox will sponsor a thirty-three inning
game played by the Pawtucket Slaterettes, a women’s baseball league for players of all
ages. The event commemorates a game that was begun on April 18, 1981 between the
visiting Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox. The longest game in the
history of organized baseball, it went on for thirty-three innings and wasn’t decided until
the following June.
It has become the most storied game in minor league history and is now shrouded in
romance, but it wasn’t very romantic for those who played, or were otherwise involved,
in it. Several years ago Dan Barry of the New York Times wrote a book on it called The
Bottom of the 33 rd . It’s one of the best baseball books ever written, right up there with
The Boys of Summer and The Teammates.
It tells of the torture of playing (to say nothing of watching!) for eight hours in forty
degree temperatures with a strong wind blowing straight in from the outfield. There was
not even any radio coverage in Rhode Island, though it was broadcast back in Rochester.
What began as a small crowd of 1,740 spectators had dwindled to just 19 (19!) by the
time the game was suspended just after 4 AM on Easter Sunday morning.
Beyond the game itself the book is a story about life in the International League, the last
stop before the majors. It can serve as a springboard to stardom, as it did for the opposing
third basemen in that game, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Wade Boggs, who went all the way to
Cooperstown, New York and the Baseball Hall of Fame; or it can be a dead end road, as
it was for the hero of the thirty-three inning game, Dave Koza; he scored the tying run in
the twenty-first and drove in with winning run in the thirty-third. Koza played first base
for Pawtucket for five years but never was called up to Boston, forty miles and a million
light years away. Never even got a cup of coffee. His name does not appear in The
Baseball Ecyclopedia, which lists everyone who ever got into a major league game.
If you want to read abook about perseverance, about dreams, about heartbreak and most
of all about baseball, read Dan Barry’s book.