Notes on Long Games, Part I

Game 1 of the ALCS was one of those games that make baseball (and all sports, really) so great. It was an immensely important game, a near no-hitter (which would have been the first combined no-hitter in postseason history), and a 1-0 game, keeping the tension up for all nine innings. There’s something I’ve always found charming and pure about 1-0 games (whether in soccer, baseball, or hockey); they tend toward the intense, fluid, and (usually) quick.

Game 1, however, was anything but quick, lasting four minutes shy of four hours. It’s a nationally televised game, the Red Sox have a rep for playing slowly, and there were a hefty number of pitching changes. Still, it’s a ridiculous length of time for a 1-0 game, especially a one hitter.

As it turns out, that was the longest 9 inning 1-0 game on record by a margin of 36 minutes, or 15%, which is an astonishingly large leap. (Retrosheet has confirmed this.) I was curious about the prior record holder, so I did some digging, the results of which below. (All info comes from Retrosheet or Baseball Reference, more about which at the bottom of the post.)

There’s now a tie for #2 on the list; one of those games is a 3:20 1997 game between the Brewers and A’s. It’s a bit easier to see why this game lasted so long: there were a combined 341 pitches thrown, 19 more than 2013 ALCS Game 1. (14 walks were issued and 22 runners were left on base, so I imagine it was a pretty ugly game.) A writeup for the game says it was the longest 9 inning 1-0 game in history.

The other 3:20 game? There were only 270 pitches thrown, but it was in the postseason, so that probably accounts for some of it. Either way, it’s maybe my favorite game I’ve ever watched. Yeah, it’s Game 4 of the 2005 World Series. Unsurprisingly, the record was not the lede in any of the recaps I read. (One cause of the length might be things like Carl Everett’s taking about 75 seconds from the time of the previous out to see his first and only pitch (see 1:57:48 of the video). Guess he was moving like a dinosaur.)

One further note: Retrosheet actually lists two 1-0, 9 inning games as having lengths longer than 3:20 before this week. The first was the game between the Phillies and Cubs on July 19, 1949 listed at 3:34. The game looked otherwise entirely ordinary, and in fact, digging through the NYT archives finds a time of game of 1:54. If I had to guess, 1:54 became 5:14 became 214 minutes. The other game—the second of a doubleheader between the Phillies and Brooklyn Robins in 1917, also has the wrong time listed per the NYT archive (note the amusing old-timey recap in the latter link). Here it appears 2:06 became 206. I’ve reached out to Retrosheet and will hopefully have those corrected soon.

Check back in the near future for more on baseball game length.

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