On the latest episode of the Sports Uncovered podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia remembers a marathon hockey game — the five-overtime, seven-hour playoff battle between the Flyers and Penguins in 2000. But that's nothing compared to the longest baseball game in history, which wrapped up 39 years ago this week at McCoy Stadium.
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If you grew up in southeastern Massachusetts in the early 1980s, then the last day of elementary school brought with it a special treat — free PawSox tickets.
The principal handed them out in the cafeteria while we awaited the bus, and every year brought a mad dash trying to scoop as many as the other kids would throw away, because families that couldn't afford the time or expense of Fenway Park enjoyed the option of heading down 95 to McCoy Stadium to watch future Red Sox stars like Wade Boggs, Rich Gedman, and Bruce Hurst.
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It just so happens that in 1981, students at Mansfield's Robinson School received tickets to a June 23 game vs. the Rochester Red Wings, Triple-A affiliate of the Orioles. I was in second grade, and before boarding the bus I performed my customary act of asking every girl if they wanted their tickets, which they almost universally didn't. I walked in the front door with a fistful, even though I really only needed two extras for my brother and father.
Normally, the annual PawSox game served as an excuse to celebrate the end of school and eat ballpark franks, but this time our tickets held extra value. It turns out they were good for admission to a special event before that night's tilt — the completion of what has since been immortalized as Baseball's Longest Game.
That April, the two clubs had played for 32 innings and more than eight hours deep into Easter morning before halting play with the score tied at 2-2. Boggs went 4-for-12. Eventual big leaguers like Marty Barrett (2 for 12) and Chico Walker (2 for 14) battled futility. Hurst delivered five innings of shutout relief. A fellow by the name of Cal Ripken went 2 for 13 on the other side.
By the time June 23 rolled around, the completion of the game had become a certified event, with over 100 media in attendance, and the big leagues still on strike. And somehow we had scored free tickets.
Just one problem. We couldn't leave until my dad got home from work, and if the regular game started at 6, then the makeup probably kicked off at 5 (forgive my memory, it's been a while).
My dad worked at one of the Boston hospitals, so by the time he got home, the race was on. Without traffic, we could reach McCoy in 25 minutes. This was rush hour, however, so we started crawling. My dad flipped on the radio and we found the game as we searched for parking. We could literally hear the crowd as Dave Koza stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 33rd against Cliff Speck with Barrett on third.
Koza promptly singled to left, ending the marathon only 18 minutes after it had resumed, and about 10 minutes before we parked and made our way to the gate. We called him "King Kong Koza" and I've always assumed that was his nickname, but a quick search of the Google machine yields no references, so perhaps no one called him that except us.
In any event, we attended the nightcap and I don't remember a damn thing about it, except to say we were probably the only people in Rhode Island who believed the longest game hadn't lasted quite long enough.