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Dave Distel

Hurst Recalls 3:45 Hammer, Car Keys and His Night in History

June 23, 1989|Dave Distel

You won't find it in a box score anywhere, but Bruce Hurst pitched five innings on April 20, 1981. He was the seventh pitcher to work for Pawtucket in a game against Rochester.

The catch was that Hurst had the "graveyard shift" in a game which started on April 19.

"I pitched from 2:30 to 4 in the morning," Hurst recalled. "I remember punching out Cal Ripken on a three-and-two hammer at 3:45."

A further twist was that the game was suspended at 4 a.m. and Hurst was the "pitcher of record" until it was resumed on June 23, eight years ago today.

By now, you have figured out that the Padre left-hander was a part of that 33-inning affair which stands now and likely will stand forever as the longest in the history of organized baseball. It took 8 hours 25 minutes on the clock and, as if that wasn't long enough, 66 days on the calendar.

Hurst remembers the guys on the bench at first complaining of the cold and then thinking how ridiculous it was getting to be and finally wondering what the record was for that type of longevity. If they really were going to spend the night in a ballpark, they may as well earn a place in history.

They did.

Games such as that one are special. The Sporting News ran a box score from that game in this week's edition, along with box scores from Philadelphia's 23-22 win over Chicago in 1979, Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956 and Pittsburgh's 22-0 win over Chicago in 1975. That's how special the Pawtucket-Rochester game was.

Hurst, who was pitching for Boston's triple-A affiliate against Baltimore's counterpart, remembers the cold that night in Pawtucket and that the wind was blowing hard toward the plate.

"One of our guys, Sammy Bowen I think, hit a 'home run' during the extra innings," Hurst said. "Their left fielder had his back to the plate, watching it go over the fence. The next thing you know, the wind's got it and he makes the catch back-pedaling toward the infield."

And so the beat went on.

"We were running out of everybody and I didn't have to pitch for a couple of more days so, about 2:30 a.m., Joe Morgan, our manager, tells me to get ready," Hurst said. "I pitched the 27th through the 32nd innings."

That would be six innings, but let's not get picky about something that happened eight years ago in the middle of the night. The box score says Hurst gave up two hits, walked three and struck out seven, including Ripken with that 3:45 hammer.

Hurst's wife, Holly, was there for all 32 innings on the night of April 19 and the morning of April 20.

"The keys to the car were in my locker," he said. "But she did take a couple of naps."

Ms. Hurst was not alone at the end. There were probably a couple dozen lunatics who were still there, and Pawtucket's owner gave them each season tickets just in case they had not already seen enough baseball.

The game might still have been going on when the sun came up on what was Easter Sunday, but for the intervention of International League President Harold Cooper.

"They were trying to get hold of him," Hurst said, "but they couldn't find him until 4 a.m." Hurst laughed. "I never thought to ask where he'd been. But he told everyone to go home and get to bed."

The sun was coming up on Easter Sunday by the time the Hursts got home.

"One of our guys, Luis Aponte, got home at 4 o'clock and his wife wouldn't let him in," Hurst said, laughing again. "She didn't believe he'd been at the ballpark all that time. She finally let him sleep on the couch."

The leftover business from April 19 would be resumed in the 33rd inning on June 23. This attracted just a little bit of media interest. Remember that 1981 was the year of the major league baseball strike.

"There was so much press," Hurst said, "that they were on the field in front of the dugout. There were writers from Japan and one guy from London who'd never seen a game. He had to get out of the way of a foul line drive and I remember him turning to the dugout and saying, 'Dangerous game, you chaps have.' "

Since it was Bob Ojeda's turn on June 23, he went to the mound for the 33rd inning. He was lucky back in April, because he was one of a couple of starting pitchers Morgan sent home early. His luck held in June.

"He was home in bed by the time I pitched my five innings in April," Hurst mused, "and now he throws 13 pitches in the 33rd inning and gets the win. Dave Koza got the hit and Marty Barrett scored the winning run."

That was it: Pawtucket 3, Rochester 2.

All in a night's work.

Bruce Hurst had the darkest part of the night, five innings over 75 minutes. He will always have his graveyard stint in one of baseball's historical games, even if hardly anyone was there to see it.

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