Dan's Dugout: Don't Mess With Extra-Inning Tradition • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Don’t Mess With Extra-Inning Tradition

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There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing.

That’s why baseball has no clock and broadcasters describe extra-inning games as “free baseball.”

Rob Manfred wants to speed up pace of games

Rob Manfred wants to speed up pace of games

Trying to make his mark, Commissioner Rob Manfred has made it a personal mission to cut game time – even if it means starting each extra inning by awarding automatic baserunners to teams at bat.

He’s already swept the intentional walk into the dustbin of history by eliminating the need for pitchers to throw four balls out of the strike zone.

That’s bad enough – but placing runners on base without benefit of a hit, walk, or error is even worse.

Beyond the boxscore dilemmas that would pose for SABRmetricians who monitor on-base percentages and earned run averages, such a move would further dilute the game’s history and tradition.

In short, it’s an idea even worse than eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency.

Baseball fans already miss the old umpire manager arguments, displaced by the use of instant replay. They miss the potential drama of a pitcher firing a third strike during an apparent intentional walk [Rollie Fingers vs. Johnny Bench in the 1972 World Series]. Putting marathon games on the funeral pyre too merely adds insult to injury.

Johnny Bench once fanned during an apparent intentional walk in the World Series Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Johnny Bench once fanned during an apparent intentional walk in the World Series
Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Extra innings may tire the players, coaches, and managers but actually help the sponsors and vendors, whose products gain more exposure. Plus it’s fun for fans to figure armchair strategy, especially when a position player comes in to pitch.

Jose Oquendo, Mr. Versatility during his long career with the Cardinals, once pitched four innings of relief in an extra-inning game against the Braves after Tony La Russa ran out of pitchers.

Brent Mayne, a catcher for the Colorado Rockies, even picked up a win while working in an overtime game at Coors Field, again against Atlanta.

And how about that 19-inning game in Atlanta prolonged by the lone home run in the career of light-hitting relief pitcher Rick Camp? Thanks to a pair of rain delays, the July 4 game ended on July 5 – with the Braves launching an advertised fireworks display and awakening their neighbors well after 4 a.m.

Extra-inning games are as much a part of baseball as balls and strikes.

The 16-inning game between the Mets and Marlins last week hardly merits a mention when compared to the great marathons of baseball history. Consider these:

• May 1, 1920 – The Boston Bees and Brooklyn Robins battled to a 1-1 tie that consumed 26 innings, the most in major-league history, with both starting pitchers working the route before darkness made play impossible
• May 8, 1984 – The homestanding Chicago White Sox needed a record eight hours and six minutes to beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-6, after both teams scored two runs in the ninth inning and both scored three runs in the 21st

The Mets have managed to play multiple marathon games Image Credit: NY Mets

The Mets have managed to play multiple marathon games
Image Credit: NY Mets

• Sept. 11, 1974 – The New York Mets, masters of blown marathons, lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in 25 innings after the Mets failed to hold a ninth-inning lead
• April 15, 1968 – The only run of this Astrodome game between two 1969 NL expansion teams was scored in the 24th inning by the Houston Astros, then in the National League
• May 31, 1964 – The Mets, in their second season, needed “only” 23 innings to lose when the San Francisco Giants scored twice in the 23rd inning – in the nightcap of a Memorial Day doubleheader
• September 1, 1906 – With two outs and two strikes in the 24th inning and darkness a serious issue, Ossie Schreckengost put the Philadelphia Athletics on the scoreboard with a single that sparked a 4-1 victory
• June 21, 1945 – Not content with just one 24-inning game in their legacy, Connie Mack’s club did it again, forging a 1-1 tie with the Detroit Tigers
• June 27, 1939 – Remember the teams that produced the 26-inning game 19 years earlier? They did it again, scoring two runs apiece before darkness ended the drama
• June 24, 1962 – Jack Reed, a backup outfielder for the Yankees, hit the only home run of his career to help the Yankees beat the Tigers, 9-7, in 22 innings at Tiger Stadium

The Jack Reed game was one of a half-dozen that lasted at least seven hours though not the longest by innings.

In fact, a minor-league game once consumed 33 innings. With future Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken, Jr. playing for Pawtucket and Rochester, respectively, the Triple-A farms of the Red Sox and Orioles needed two days to complete their marathon. The game was suspended by mutual agreement, though it could have been suspended when the concessionaires ran out of hot dogs and blankets.

Cal Ripken, Jr. and Wade Boggs combined for six hits in the 33-inning game

Cal Ripken, Jr. and Wade Boggs combined for six hits in the 33-inning game

Each team scored once in the 21st inning, keeping the game tied when it was suspended after 32 innings in the wee hours of April 19, 1981. When play finally resumed on June 23, the clubs needed only one more inning for resolution. Pawtucket won, 3-2. Game time was 8 hours and 25 minutes.

Rob Manfred wants to change all this? Who elected that guy anyway?

Elsewhere in baseball:

Calf injuries to Toronto slugger Josh Donaldson have already sent him to the sidelines twice while plunging the team to the bottom of the highly-competitive AL East with a 1-9 start . . .

Deciding to platoon the two Aarons (Judge and Hicks) in right field has been Joe Girardi’s best brainstorm in years . . .

Ervin Santana’s one-hit, complete-game shutout for Minnesota versus the Chisox Saturday shows he’s got plenty left . . .

What is it about San Francisco pitching that makes Nolan Arenado turn into Babe Ruth? . . .

Noah Syndergaard's blisters worry the Mets Photo Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

Noah Syndergaard’s blisters worry the Mets
Photo Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

The Mets are concerned about the recurring blister problems of staff ace Noah Syndergaard . . .

Colorado’s Tyler Chatwood, always better away from Coors Field, blanked the Giants in San Francisco over the weekend . . .

The Yankees are encouraged by the early work of erstwhile southpaw standout CC Sabathia . . .

After hitting three home runs all of last season, Atlanta centerfielder Ender Inciarte hit just as many over a two-game span last week . . .

Poor Jarrett Parker: the 28-year-old rookie leftfielder whose hot spring earned him a spot in the San Francisco lineup, will miss substantial time after crashing into the outfield wall Saturday and suffering a fractured clavicle while making a difficult catch . . .

As predicted, San Diego’s awful offense is sabotaging good work by its pitching and defense . . .

After winning their first two games at Sun Trust Park, the Braves were buoyed by the news that cleanup man Matt Kemp plans to return from hamstring problems this week.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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