For many, the beauty of a game of baseball is that it’s never over until it’s over. Until all 27 outs have been recorded, a team can come back from the brink. However when a game is tied, a lot more than 27 outs can be required to split the two sides.
In recent years the powers that be in the MLB commissioner’s office have attempted to speed up baseball games. Methods including using a pitch clock to try and speed up the pitching team’s efforts and giving the offensive team a runner on second base to begin extra innings have been utilised, meaning these games may stand the test of time.
We may never see the like of the 25+ inning game again, but baseball loves nothing more than to admire its history so let’s run through the longest MLB games since 1900.
Brooklyn Robins 1, Boston Braves 1, 1920, Length: 26 innings
The record for the longest MLB game of all time goes to the clash between the Brooklyn Robins and the Boston Braves on May 1st 1920, which took 26 innings to complete.
The fact that both teams who contested this game no longer exist gives a sense of how long ago this record was set.
Brooklyn opened the scoring in the fifth inning before the Braves responded immediately in the sixth. The teams then went scoreless for the next twenty innings before bad light ended play as night fell.
In the days before floodlights’ popular usage, the game simply had to end as a tie. Perhaps the most alien aspect of this game for the modern fan is that both starting pitchers pitched the entire 26 innings. Sore arms in the morning.
Chicago White Sox 7, Milwaukee Brewers 6, 1984, Length: 25 innings
In terms of time, this is the longest game ever played in the MLB. It took eight hours and six minutes spread over two days to complete. The two sides played 17 innings on May 8th and could not be separated at 3-3 when the decision was made to call it off until the day after at 1am.
The following day the Brewers took the lead with a three-run homer in the 21st before Chicago miraculously clawed back those runs in the bottom half of the inning. In the bottom half of the 25th inning, Harold Baines hit a walk off home run to send whatever supporters were left home happy.
St. Louis Cardinals 4, New York Mets 3, 1974, Length: 25 innings
Slightly shorter than the White Sox v Brewers game was a mammoth one-day affair between the Cardinals and Mets that took over seven hours and didn’t finish until 3.13 in the morning. The Mets were one out away from finishing the game in regulation before their 3-1 lead was tied with a two-run home run.
The teams then went on to play 14 innings of scoreless baseball before Bake McBride scored from first on a wild pickoff attempt in the 25th. The Mets couldn’t rally in the bottom half of the inning and the 1,000 Mets fans still in attendance went home disappointed.
Houston Astros 1, New York Mets 0, 1968, Length: 24 innings
Scoreless games through nine innings are rare enough in baseball, but this game between the Astros and Mets had no score until the bottom of the 24th inning, the longest streak in MLB history.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 24th, a routine ground ball skidded on the astroturf under the shortstop of the Mets’ glove and won it for the Astros.
Detroit Tigers 1, Philadelphia Athletics 1, 1945, Length: 24 innings
Completed in just four hours and 48 minutes, this game was fairly brisk for a 24-inning marathon. Both sides used just two pitchers. Philadelphia opened the scoring in the fourth inning before Detroit tied it up in the seventh.
From then on the game would stay scoreless until night fell and the game was called off due to darkness.
Perhaps the most astonishing fact about this game is the age of A’s manager Connie Mack, who was 82 at the time and managing his 45th season with the team.