The New York Mets have a healthy respect for history. Maybe too healthy.
They spent last weekend turning a four-game series in Philadelphia into a siege.
The clubs battled for 14 innings through Friday night. Saturday they slogged through 14 more. Sunday they tried something completely different. They ceased the struggle after 11.
That’s the first time two teams have played three straight games lasting 11 innings or more since 1991. The Phillies had never before played back-to-back 14 inning games. The Mets, of course, had.
The Mets are practiced at the art of the lengthy game. They’ve participated in three of the most interminable games in major league history. The first took place 50 years to the day before the Mets played that second straight 14 inning affair, on May 31, 1964.
Shea Stadium, baseball’s newest cathedral, wasn’t even two months old when the Giants came to town for a four game series. In those days, it was a huge event when the former New York teams came back to their former city. 57,037 fans showed up for the Sunday doubleheader, the largest crowd of the baseball season.
They sure got their money’s worth.
The Giants won the opener, 5-3, behind their ace, Juan Marichal. The game featured Orlando Cepeda stealing home. This might amaze those who remember Cepeda as a rather stationary first baseman for the Braves from 1969-73.
The second game would last for 7 hours 23 minutes and run 23 innings, before the Giants pushed across two runs for an 8-6 win. The entire doubleheader lasted 10 hours, 23 minutes and ended at 11:25 pm.
It remains unsurpassed as the longest doubleheader in major league history. The 32 innings played in a single day also remains a record.
Perhaps most amazing of all, according to the account written by Joe Durso for the New York Times, between 8,000 and 10,000 fans still remained in the stands when the second game ended.
Willie Mays played in 2,992 games, and this was one of only two where he spent a few innings playing shortstop.
The Mets recorded the second triple play in team history in the 14th inning. Cepeda lined out to Mets shortstop Roy McMillan behind second base. McMillan stepped on the bag to double up Jesus Alou, and then threw to Ed Kranepool at first to triple up Mays.
Kranepool had just been promoted from AAA Buffalo, where he had played in a doubleheader the previous day.
Jim Davenport mercifully tripled in the 23rd inning, and Del Crandall hit a ground-rule double, breaking the 6-6 tie that had stood for 16 innings. Alou then beat out a dribbler to the mound as the final run scored.
The losing pitcher, Galen Cisco, pitched nine innings and allowed only those two runs. His predecessor on the mound, Larry Bearnarth, had pitched seven shutout innings.
Gaylord Perry, the winning pitcher, threw 10 shutout innings. He observed in his 1974 book, "Me and the Spitter," that this game was the first in which he threw a spitball. Of course, over the years Perry has both admitted and denied ever throwing any illegal pitches.
Bob Bolin, the Giants starter, was cruising along with a 6-1 lead until the sixth inning, when the Mets nicked him for two runs. In the seventh, Joe Christopher followed singles by McMillan and Frank Thomas with a home run to left center, tying the game, seemingly for eternity.
Christopher had already gained a place in Mets lore. In 1962, centerfielder Richie Ashburn kept running into Spanish-speaking shortstop Elio Chacon on short flies. Chacon failed to yield when Ashburn yelled, "I got it!"
So Christopher taught Ashburn how to say "I got it" in Spanish. Next game, Ashburn charges in, yells, "Yo la tengo!" and Chacon peels off.
Whereupon leftfielder Thomas crashed into Ashburn.
Also of note was home plate umpire Ed Sudol, who called every one of the record 36 strikeouts.
On April 15, 1968, he’d be behind the plate when the Mets and Astros went a record 23 innings without scoring a run. The Astros won, 1-0, on an error by Al Weis in the 24th inning.
And on Sept. 11, 1974, Sudol was again behind the plate when the Mets and Cardinals went 25 innings. The Cardinals won, 4-3, as Bake McBride scored the winning run from first after an errant pickoff throw by Hank Webb.
"Why does it always happen to me?" Sudol asked Durso after the game ended at 3:13 a.m.