HOUSTON — How long was the 22-inning marathon played by the Dodgers and the Houston Astros Saturday night and into Sunday morning?
A man, identifying himself as a former Dodger employee, called the Astrodome in the 18th inning to say that he watched the first inning in Honolulu, flew into Los Angeles, rode home on a shuttle bus and made it in time to watch the last five innings in his living room.
Orel Hershiser said the game unfolded like a novel.
"You got emotionally tied up into it," he said. "The decision was out there to the end and you didn't know how it would wind up."
The longest night game in major league history finally ended Sunday at 2:52 a.m., CDT, when Rafael Ramirez lined a run-scoring single into right field to give the Astros a 5-4 victory after 7 hours 14 minutes.
In terms of innings, only eight major league games have gone longer, including a 1-1 tie between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves on May 1, 1920, which lasted 26 innings to establish the all-time record.
In terms of time, the game fell nine minutes short of the National League record, which was set on May 31, 1964, when the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets played 23 innings before the Giants won, 8-6, in the second game of a doubleheader.
The Chicago White Sox beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-6, in a 25-inning game that was suspended after 17 innings on May 8, 1984, completed the next day and lasted 8 hours 6 minutes, a major league record.
At the Astrodome, only about 5,000 of a crowd of 34,425 were still in attendance when Jeff Hamilton, the Dodgers' ninth pitcher and their regular third baseman, grooved an 0-and-2 fastball to Ramirez, who lined it off the glove of a leaping Fernando Valenzuela, who was playing first base.
The throw to the plate by right fielder Mike Davis was too late to get Bill Doran, who collided with catcher Mike Scioscia.
Hamilton was forced to the mound out of necessity.
Establishing a club record, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda used 23 of his 24 players, including Hershiser, who pitched seven scoreless innings of relief, allowing three hits and striking out eight on three days' rest.
"It's just a relief appearance," said Hershiser, who was scheduled to pitch the first game of a doubleheader today at Atlanta.
Hershiser, in fact, was upset when he was replaced.
Tim Belcher, who was the Dodgers' starting pitcher Sunday, was across town sleeping in his hotel room and Valenzuela wasn't available to pitch, having worked seven innings as the starter in a 1-0 loss Friday night.
Lasorda had nobody left.
So, when he made the change in the 21st, moving Hamilton to the mound, shifting Eddie Murray from first to third base and inserting Valenzuela at first, Hershiser protested.
"It felt to me that we were conceding the game," he said.
Hamilton, though, was impressive.
And why not?
"I was working on seven years' rest," said Hamilton, who hadn't pitched since his senior year at Carman High School in Flint, Mich.
One of his pitches in the 21st was clocked at 91 m.p.h.
"And he was hitting the black," Hershiser said. "He wasn't just throwing the ball down the middle. He was throwing the ball on the outside corner with movement. He just made one bad pitch.
"He had Ramirez 0-2 and he could have thrown three balls there and I guarantee you (Ramirez) would swing at one. But he threw him a fastball on the outside part of the plate and he got a hit. . . .
"But who's going to second-guess a third baseman?"
Said Hamilton: "I still can't believe I was out there. I've always wanted to pitch, but I'm mad about losing."
None of the Dodgers accepted the loss easily.
In losing for the fifth time in six games, they squandered a 4-1 lead in the sixth inning and didn't score a run in the last 17 innings against six Astro relievers, managing only two hits in the last seven innings.
Still, they twice prolonged the game with exceptional defensive plays involving home-plate collisions with Scioscia, who took throws from the outfield on both occasions and held onto the ball for inning-ending double plays, preventing the Astros from scoring the winning run.
"This is worse than a World Series (loss)," Hershiser said. "It becomes almost more than a game. It has sentimental value to it because you've played for so long. You don't play that much overtime and not care."
That became clear to an unsuspecting radio reporter, who greeted Lasorda after the game by saying, "Good morning."
Answered Lasorda: "What's so . . . good about it?"