I Don’t Care If I Ever Get Back: Marathons Lasting Six or More Hours

This article was written by Philip J Lowry

This article was published in 2005 Baseball Research Journal

For more than 40 years I have exhaustively researched marathon games by time and by innings played at all levels of professional and amateur baseball. Last year the Baseball Research Journal published part of that research: marathons lasting 20 or more innings. Continuing that effort, I now present the research on games lasting six hours or more.

My marathon research into longest games has resulted in rewriting five records in four different record books. Since 1919, the major league record for shortest full-length game by time, the first game of a doubleheader September 28, 1919, at the Polo Grounds between the Phils and Giants, had been recorded as 51 minutes. However, in my research I discovered the record correctly belongs to the 50-minute game played April 12, 1911, also at the Polo Grounds between the same two teams.

Before my research, the NCAA record was 22 innings. However, I uncovered a 23-inning NCAA game in Lafayette, Louisiana March 27, 1971 between McNeese State and SW Louisiana. The NAIA record was also 22 innings, set in 2005, but I discovered a second 22-inning NAIA game played in Arkadelphia, Arkansas April 28, 1970 between Harding and Henderson State. The NCAA record for most innings in a doubleheader was 29, but the McNeese State-SW Louisiana 23-inning game was the opener of a 30-inning DH.

Since 1976, the National Federation of State High School Association’s (NFSHSA) record for most innings had been recorded as 23 innings. However, this research discovered that the record correctly belongs to two 24-inning games, played on April 23, 1970, in Miami Beach, FL, between Miami HS and Hialeah HS, and May 18/25, 2004 in Norridge, IL, between Evergreen Park HS and Ridgewood HS.

A rough guess for the number of baseball games that have ever been played is 16 million (see 2004 BRJ). So far I have discovered only 106 games lasting six hours or more. This indicates one game in roughly every 149,000 takes six hours or more.


The Longest Game

The longest that baseball has been continuously played in one game was 31 hours, 30 minutes, for a planned marathon at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton, MA, on April 16-17, 2005. Team Marciano beat Team Hagler 88-79 in a 100-inning game to raise funds for ALS research.

A 19th-century game played under Massachusetts Rules established a record time of game which has never been equaled. However, this record must be considered differently from other records, since one inning was defined not by three outs, but rath­er by one out. On September 25, 1860, at the Agricultural Grounds in Worcester, MA, the Upton Excelsiors and Medway Unions began a game that would take 172 innings over seven days! Play contin­ued through September 26, 27, 28; October 1, 4, and 5 until finally it was called a complete game with the score Upton 50, Medway 29 after a time of game of 21 hours, 50 minutes. Total elapsed time also set an all-time record of more than 25 hours, including a dinner delay, lunch delay, and four rain delays.


Hard-to-Understand Marathon #1
10:00 in Piedras Negras, Mexico

Our first “mystery” is this 10-hour long July 18, 1926 game. The July 20 Eagle Pass Guide (TX) states the San Luisito team from Eagle Pass defeated Piedras Negras 29-19 Sunday in a “scrap” which began at 9:00 a.m. and was called due to darkness in the sixth inning at 7:00 p.m. The July 24 San Antonio Express (TX) and the July 25 Lima Sunday News (OH) say the game lasted from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and San Luista defeated Piedras Legras Negras from across the border 129-119, with shortstop Mircles committing 24 errors in the 3rd inning (and only 30 or 31 for the entire game).

The August 20 Lincoln Star (NE) and August 25 Los Angeles Times (CA) state the Mexican team won 129-119, with one play­er making 24 errors in the third inning. And the June 18, 1938 Lowell Sun (MA) says San Luista defeated visiting Piedras Legras of Mexico 129-119 in a game beginning at 10:00 a.m. with the losing team making 23 errors in the 3rd inning.

The Mexican town of Piedras Negras (Black Rock) is just across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, Texas. San Luisito (not San Luista) is a neighborhood in Eagle Pass. But who won? Was the score 29-19 or 129-119? Did the shortstop make 24 errors, or did the entire team make 23 errors in the 3rd? And most importantly, why did it take 10 hours to play only 5 1/2 innings? We may never know. Some answers will remain forever shrouded in the fog of the past.

First Lieutenant Abner Doubleday of the U.S. Army Field Artillery was stationed in Eagle Pass at Fort Duncan in 1854-55. His wife, who was petrified of mice, arranged for a mice-protection net to be built around their bed. 


Hard-to-Understand Marathon #2
8:30 in Pottsville, PA

Our second “mystery” is how a game between two unnamed Pottsville teams on July 8, 1902, could have taken eight and a half hours to play. The final score was 38-36. The local paper relates that the game began at 9:00 a.m., and finished at 5:30 p.m., with no break for dinner.

So OK, it was high-scoring. But how could it have taken almost an hour to play each inning? Assuming the game took nine innings, which we don’t know for sure, it would have taken 57 minutes per inning. That is high, but not a record. The Piedras Negras game took 109 minutes per inning.

But that’s nothing if we count elapsed time. The Tigers and Yankees struggled through two long rain delays at Yankee Stadium in the first game of a scheduled doubleheader on August 9, 1991, and took 5 hours, 41 minutes, to play just two innings before the umpires finally called it at 10:16 p.m. This works out to 170.5 minutes, or almost three hours per inning! A critical fact to remember: the Tigers led 1-0 when the game was called off.


Longest Minor League Marathon
8:25 in Pawtucket, RI

At 4:07 a.m. on Easter morning, April 19, 1981, just 51 minutes before sunrise, 17 freezing and very fortunate souls huddled in the 28-degree pre-dawn chill of Pawtucket, RI’s McCoy Stadium. Their beloved Paw Sox had just failed to break a 2-2 tie with the Rochester Red Wings in the bottom of the 32nd. When the umpires suspended the game, these brave 17 fans looked back on eight hours and seven minutes of baseball, preceded by a half-hour power-failure delay.

The game resumed on June 23 with McCoy packed to capac­ity, and the mercury all the way up to 80. The Paw Sox won, 3-2, in the 33rd on Dave Koza’s bases-loaded single. The final totals of eight hours, 55 minutes, elapsed time and eight hours, 25 minutes, game time are modern baseball records.


Longest Japanese Marathon–8:19 in Mito

When play began on September 20, 1983, in the title game of the 38th annual Emperor’s Cup Nan-shiki Tournament in Mito, Japan, nobody had the least idea what lay ahead! The game between Light Manufacturing of Tokyo and Tanaka Hospital of Miyazaki began at 8:50 a.m. The local Mito Band was to be ready at 11:00 a.m. to play at the post-game award ceremony.

The game finally ended at 5:15 p.m. after Light Manufacturing scored in the top of the 45th to win 2-1 after 8 hours, 19 min­utes, of baseball. Including a six-minute delay in the 26th, the game lasted 8 hours, 25 minutes. The Mito Band finally got to play after waiting for over six hours.


Longest American League Marathon
8:06 in Comiskey Park

At old Comiskey Park on May 8-9, 1984, the White Sox downed the Brewers, 7-6, in 25 innings and 8 hours, 6 minutes, the major league record for game time. Suspended after 17 innings at 1:05 a.m. by the AL curfew, the game was won the next evening in the 25th by Harold Baines’ homer which just barely cleared the bullpen fence in center.

The White Sox scored two in the ninth, and three in the 21st to keep the game tied, and would have won in the 23rd except that Dave Stegman was ruled out for coach’s interference. Third-base coach Jim Leyland helped Stegman to his feet after he tripped rounding third.


Hard-to-Understand Marathon #3
8:00 in Carrollton, KY

This is our third “mystery” marathon. Ghent defeated Carrollton, 179-70, on July 4, 1868. The game began at 9:00 a.m. and was called off in the sixth inning due to darkness at 10:00 p.m. The time of game was only eight hours, though, because the players and the umpire took a five-hour break for dinner.

Questions are numerous. Why did it take eight hours to play less than six innings? That’s almost an hour and a half per inning. How could they play until 10:00 p.m. without lights? Why did they take five hours to eat dinner? That’s almost 15 minutes per bite. Did they use Massachusetts Rules? Why did they score so many runs? And why is the only source of information on this game Mr. Stonecroft’s personal notes from a Carrollton newspaper?


Longest Two-Year College Marathon
7:30 in Bradenton, FL

On April 4, 1987, at Wynn Field, the Hillsborough Hawks defeated the Manatee Lancers 6-4. The original crowd of 200 had dwin­dled to just 45 loyal fans when the end came at 9:30 p.m.


Longest National League Marathon
7:23 in Shea Stadium

In the nightcap of a doubleheader on May 31, 1964, the Giants beat the Mets, 8-6, in 23 innings as Willie Mays played center field and shortstop for the Giants. 8,000 Mets fans from the origi­nal crowd of 57,037 stayed until the bitter end at 11:25 p.m.


Longest High School Marathon
7:15 in Byron/Plainview, MN

On June 22 and July 6, 2003, the Byron Braves defeated the Plainview Bucks, 4-3, in 21 innings. The game began in Byron and was suspended due to darkness after 5 hours and 15 innings. Two weeks later, the game was concluded in Plainview.


Longest Four-Year College Marathon
6:43 in Houston, TX

On February 21. 1999, at Cougar Field, the Baylor Bears beat the Houston Cougars, 8-2, in 22 innings. Given the large number of four-year college games, we should expect a longer marathon someday soon.


Longest Minor league Playoff
6:25 in Nashville, TN

It was 3:50 a.m. when the Omaha Royals finally defeated the hometown Sounds, 8-7, in 20 innings on the evening/morn­ing of September 7/8, 1990, in an American Association playoff game. The crowd of 14,482 shrank to only 500 during a long 106-minute rain delay in the bottom of the 11th, and 300 loyal fans remained until the very end.


Longest American Legion Marathon
6:06 in Midwest City, OK

In July 1973, Post 170 of Midwest City defeated Post 170 of Choctaw 2-1 in 24 innings at Regional Park. Of the original 50 fans, only 15 remained until the end at 2:06 a.m.


Longest Major League Playoff
5:50 in Minute Maid Park

Down 6-1 to Atlanta on October 9, 2005, the Astros rallied to win 7-6 with an eighth-inning grand slam by Lance Berkman and Brad Ausmus’ game-tying homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth that hit just inches above the yellow home run stripe on the left-field wall. Chris Burke’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the 18th ended the game. The game broke by one minute the old 5:49 record set when the Red Sox and David Ortiz defeated the Yankees 5-4 in 14 innings on October 18, 2004.


A Different Type of “Marathon” at the Ballpark

On May 31, 1952, starting with the first pitch and ending with the last pitch of a Carolina League doubleheader between Greensboro and Danville at Greensboro’s War Memorial Stadium, marathon runner HardRock Simpson delighted 2,678 fans by running 99 times around the 1,140-foot-long dirt racetrack surrounding the ball field, for a total of 21.4 miles.


Longest Doubleheader
9:52 in Shea Stadium

The longest doubleheader took almost ten hours to play May 31, 1964, as the Giants swept the Mets, 5-3 in the opener and 8-6 in the nightcap in 23 innings. New York’s WOR-TV broadcast all 32 innings, in the process attracting the highest number of viewers in the station’s history. Elapsed time was 10:20, from 1:05 p.m. to 11:25 p.m., which is not a record. The Phils and Padres split in 12:05 on the evening/morning of July 2/3, 1993, beginning at 4:35 p.m., struggling through three rain delays, and ending at 4:40 a.m.


Longest Tripleheader
10:20 in Lubbock, TX

On March 6, 2004, Harvard beat Air Force, 25-20, before dropping a pair to Texas Tech, 18-6 and 30-8. Elapsed time was 11:15, from 12:32 p.m. to 11:47 p.rn., which is not a record. Georgia Tech’s Ramblin’ Wreck swept NC, Florida State, and NC State in 11:20 on May 25, 2003, in the ACC tournament, beginning at 9:34 a.m. and finishing at 8:54 p.m.


Longest Quadrupleheader
9:08 in Buffalo, NY

On March 29, 1998, Siena beat Canisius, 6-3, and then Canisius swept three games, 9-4, 9-6, and 11-10. All games were sched­uled for seven innings. In the last game, Siena scored three in the top of the seventh to take a four-run lead, but Canisius stormed back with four to tie, and won it in the eighth, so the entire day took 29 innings. Elapsed time was 10:08, from 11:54 a.m. to 10:02 p.m., which is also a record.


Longest Elapsed Time Game
10:02 in Holyoke, MA

Counting rain delays, the longest NL game is 8 hours 28 min­utes on July 2, 1993 at the Vet when the Phils and Padres nine­-inning opener ended at 1:03 a.m. after three long rain delays. The nightcap ended at 4:40 a.m. The longest AL game is 9:01, September 19, 2000 at Camden Yards when the A’s and O’s nine­-inning day game ended at 10:36 p.m. after two rain delays. The PA announcer said the night game would begin “shortly”, but five minutes later announced it was postponed. The longest minor league game is 9:56 at Yogi Berra Stadium in Little Falls, NJ on August 14, 2000 when the Catskill Cougars and NJ Jackals game was delayed by rain for 7 hours 6 minutes. The longest game ever is 10:02 on May 24, 1978 at Holyoke, MA when Delaware emerged victorious over Harvard with a 6-inning 1-0 NCAA tourney win after an 8 hour 12 minute rain delay.


Summary: Piedras Negras, Pawtucket, and Enya

So can lightning strike more than once in the same place, in the same ballpark, in the same city? Yes, it can! Five marathons lasting six hours or more have been played in New York, four in Chicago, and three each in San Antonio and Cleveland. Two each have been played in eight major league ballparks – the Astrodome, Cleveland Stadium, Comiskey Park (I), DC/RFK Stadium, San Diego Stadium, Shea Stadium, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium (II); and also in four minor league ballparks – Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Keefe Stadium in San Antonio, and Municipal Stadium in Greenville, SC. The most at any one site is three ( two at Yankee Stadium [II] and one at Yankee Stadium [I]).

Baseball fans, who continue to be fascinated by marathon games, are probably of two minds: one part says, “Gee, it would have been great to be at the Pawtucket game in 1981 that lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes,” while the other half is saying, “I’m glad I could just read about it.” Will a game ever break that record or the others listed here? As Enya sings: Only time will tell.


Appendix: List of Every Marathon of Six or More Hours