In the last 40 years, no National League game has gone more innings than the one played by the Cardinals and Mets on Sept. 11-12, 1974.
Beginning at 8:08 p.m. on Sept. 11 and ending at 3:15 a.m. on Sept, 12, the Cardinals beat the Mets, 4-3, in 25 innings at New York’s Shea Stadium. Started before a crowd of 13,460, it ended before about 1,000 spectators, including baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, his wife and their son.
The Cardinals-Mets marathon remains the longest National League night game in innings played.
In the longest major-league game by innings, the Dodgers and Braves played to a 1-1 tie in 26 innings on May 1, 1920. That National League game was played on a Saturday afternoon at Braves Field in Boston. Boxscore
Only one 25-inning game has been played in the major leagues since the Cardinals-Mets classic in 1974. In an American League game, the White Sox, managed by Tony La Russa, beat the Brewers, 7-6, in 25 innings at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. That game began on a Tuesday night, May 8, 1984, was suspended after 17 innings with the score tied at 3-3 and completed on May 9. Boxscore
With no National League curfew, the Cardinals and Mets played their 25-inning game without a stop in play.
When it ended, Cardinals outfielder Reggie Smith told his teammates, “There’s no way that your wives are going to believe you guys were out playing baseball all night.”
Reitz to the rescue
The Mets had been within an out of winning the game in nine innings.
Behind starter Jerry Koosman, the Mets took a 3-1 lead into the ninth. After Joe Torre struck out, Ted Simmons singled and was replaced by pinch-runner Larry Herndon. When Koosman unleashed a wild pitch while pitching to Bake McBride, Herndon advanced to second.
McBride struck out.
The Cardinals’ last hope was Ken Reitz. He had hit just one home run since July.
Reitz lofted a two-run home run against Koosman, tying the score at 3-3.
Cardinals reliever Claude Osteen, who had a clear view of the home run from his perch in the bullpen, held his hands less than a foot apart when he told United Press International that the ball “went out by about that much.”
For the next 15 innings, Cardinals and Mets relievers threw shutouts.
Al Hrabosky, Rich Folkers, Ray Bare, Osteen and Sonny Siebert were the Cardinals relievers who stopped the Mets in extra innings. Osteen pitched 9.1 innings _ the equivalent of a complete-game shutout.
A pair of former Cardinals, Harry Parker and Bob Miller, joined Bob Apodaca and Jerry Cram as the Mets relievers who stopped the Cardinals. Cram pitched eight innings.
They escaped several jams.
_ Torre was out at the plate trying to score on a single by McBride in the 13th.
_ In the 20th, the Cardinals had runners on first and second, no outs, until Smith was picked off at second and the threat fizzled.
_ In the 23rd, the Mets loaded the bases with two outs before Cleon Jones flied out.
_ Both teams loaded the bases with two outs in the 24th but failed to score.
Bake was cooking
Hank Webb, making his first appearance of the season for the Mets, relieved Cram in the 25th inning. The first batter he faced, McBride, got an infield single. Reitz was up next.
Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst gave the hit-and-run sign. Webb, sensing McBride might be running, made a pickoff throw, but it sailed over first baseman John Milner and rolled into foul territory in right field.
“I figured I could get to third,” McBride told the Associated Press. “Then, when I turned second, I said to myself, ‘I’m going all the way.’ “
McBride raced around third without looking toward coach Vern Benson. “He was going too fast to see any sign anyway,” Benson said.
Milner, who had retrieved the ball, fired a throw to catcher Ron Hodges. McBride and the ball arrived at the plate about the same time. Hodges caught the ball, then dropped it before he could attempt a tag.
“I don’t think he would have had me, even if he had held the ball,” McBride said. “He was out in front of the plate and I was past him.”
The run gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead, but the Mets still had their turn to bat.
Siebert retired the first two batters, Ken Boswell and Felix Millan, on fly outs.
Brock Pemberton, appearing in his second big-league game, pinch-hit for Webb. He singled, prolonging the drama with his first big-league hit. When the ball was removed from the game so that Pemberton would have a keepsake, Mets pitcher Tom Seaver yelled from the dugout, “Don’t give it to him. It’s the last ball we’ve got left.” (Fifteen dozen balls were used in the game, The Sporting News reported.)
Milner, the Mets’ top home run hitter, batted next.
Siebert struck him out, ending the game at 7 hours, 4 minutes. Boxscore
The Cardinals used 26 players and the Mets, 24. The Cardinals stranded 20 base runners and the Mets, 25.
Nine players played the entire game. They were McBride, Reitz, Smith, Torre and Ted Sizemore for the Cardinals; Millan, Milner, Wayne Garrett and Dave Schneck for the Mets.
McBride, Reitz and Millan each had four hits in 10 at-bats. Garrett was 0-for-10 with four strikeouts. Lou Brock, the Cardinals’ future Hall of Famer, was 1-for-9 and was caught stealing in his lone attempt.
The home plate umpire, Ed Sudol, also had worked the plate in a 23-inning game between the Mets and Giants in 1964 and a 24-inning game between the Mets and Astros in 1968.
Asked to sum up the long night, Mets pitcher Tug McGraw said, “The only thing I regret now is that all the eating places are closed. I’ll have to go home and make myself a baloney sandwich.”
Previously: Reggie Smith and the Cardinals’ after-hours club