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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

After 32 Innings, Pitcher Was Called Out at Home

April 18, 2001|HOUSTON MITCHELL

When pitcher Luis Aponte arrived home at 5 in the morning, his wife refused to let him in the apartment.

He tried to convince her that he had come straight from the ballpark, where his team had just played in the longest professional game in history--32 innings, 8 hours 7 minutes. And it still wasn't finished.

"His wife just wouldn't believe him," Pawtucket Red Sox owner Ben Mondor said of that morning two decades ago. "He came back here and had to sleep in the clubhouse."

That game between the PawSox and the Rochester Red Wings was played on April 18, 1981. Twenty years later, memories of the wild event--which included future stars Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs and many shivering players who burned bats to keep warm--survive, even if only 17 fans stayed for all 32 innings.

"Of all the games I've played in, that's one of the few that I easily remember," Ripken has said. "It's still fresh in my mind. We've all played in marathon nine-inning games and extra-inning games, but that game was different."

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Trivia time: Toronto Blue Jay Tony Batista, who hit 41 homers last season, weighs only 185 pounds. Who is the lightest player to hit at least 40 homers in a season?

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More on marathon game: The game started 30 minutes late because of electrical problems on a cold, windy Saturday night. Rochester scored one run in the seventh inning; the PawSox tied it in the ninth, sending it to extra innings.

"It was the wind," Pawtucket President Mike Tamburro remembered. "Every fly ball you thought was going out was just held up by the wind."

Rochester took a 2-1 lead in the 21st inning, only to be matched by Pawtucket in the bottom half. That's where it stood when the umpires stopped the game at 4:07 a.m. By then it was Easter Sunday.

Despite its length, the contest wasn't decided until nine weeks and three days later. The PawSox eventually won the triple-A International League game in the 33rd inning, 3-2, on June 23, the next time Rochester came to town.

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Still more: It may have been the wind that kept both sides from scoring more runs, but the game should have been stopped hours earlier, according to a league rule that states no inning should begin after 12:50 a.m. But Jack Leitz, the umpire crew chief, was missing that bylaw from his rule book.

"Our umpiring manual didn't have anything mentioning that, so we just kept playing," said home plate umpire Dennis Cregg, now a supervisor with Minor League Baseball. "By the time we got the call to suspend the game, it was around 3:30 in the morning."

When the Red Wings returned to Pawtucket two months later, summer had arrived and the world was focused on the old New England mill town, known as the Home of the Industrial Revolution.

"The whole world was here," Mondor said. "It put Pawtucket on the map."

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What a Scrooge: Atlanta Brave pitcher Greg Maddux hasn't given up an earned run in 20 innings this season and going back to last Sept. 2, he has yielded only four earned runs in his last 60 innings during the regular season, a 0.60 earned-run average.

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Great Scott: Scott Brosius' 14-game hitting streak is the longest by a New York Yankee to start a season since Willie Randolph, now the team's third base coach, hit safely in the first 15 games in 1986.

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Trivia answer: Ben Oglivie, who at 160 pounds hit 41 homers for Milwaukee in 1980.

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And finally: Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic, on the eve of his team's playoff opener against Vancouver: "Everybody knows there's always one upset in the first round. You've just got to make sure it's not you." Sakic needn't have worried. Colorado has a 3-0 lead in the series.

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