Where Were You on May 1st, 1920?

Since I’m fed up with the Red Sox (except for Darnell McDonald who just clubbed his 2nd homerun in as many games), I’ll do a post on baseball at Boston University.  I’m pretty obsessed with varsity athletics here on campus, whether it be men’s or women’s basketball or hockey or anything else they put out on the field/ice/court.  It’s a little disappointing that there is currently no varsity baseball team on campus, but it wasn’t always that way.  I’ll do a post like this whenever I’m in the mood because writing about BU baseball is like combining my two biggest passions- BU sports and baseball (I realize this is sad).

BU’s Nickerson Field, which still stands today, is home to a fair amount of baseball lore.  It was called Braves Field from 1915-1952 while the Boston Braves, who later became the Atlanta Braves, called it home.  In addition to hosting 3 World Series (including Red Sox victories in 1915 and 1916), it also hosted the 1936 all-star game.  But perhaps most interestingly, baseball history was made there on May 1st, 1920.  The Brooklyn Robins, who would eventually become the LA Dodgers, tied the Braves 1-1 in a 26 inning battle.  With the games 90th anniversary just a couple weeks away, it remains the longest game ever played in baseball history.  
Baseball Reference lists the attendance at 4,500 and the duration of the game at 3 hours, 50 minutes.  Imagine how long such a game would take today?  And I wonder how many of those 4,500 were there for the final pitch.  There are a number of noteworthy stats in this game, which was the epitome of a pitcher’s duel.  Both teams used exactly one pitcher.  Brooklyn’s Leon Cadore faced 96 batters and allowed 15 hits while Boston’s Joe Oeschger faced 90 batters and allowed just 9 hits.  Oeschger even collected a hit of his own hitting from the 9th spot.  The most pathetic hitting performance was turned in by Boston’s 2B Charlie Pick, who finished 0-11 with a strikeout.  He saw his season batting average drop from .324 to .250 in under four hours.  Brooklyn’s lineup featured slugger and future hall of famer Zack Wheat, who escaped the game with a .385 season batting average despite a 2-9 showing.  There was no offense to speak of after the 6th inning, when Tony Boeckel tied the game at 1 for the Braves.
But this game is just the beginning of the real story.  For Brooklyn, it was day 3 amidst a 5 day stretch during which they had a game each day.  After this marathon, they traveled back to Brooklyn and lost to the Philadelphia Phillies the next day, 4-3 – in 13 innings.  Then they traveled back to Boston for a rematch with the Braves on May 3rd and lost 2-1 – in 19 innings.  They played a remarkable 58 innings of baseball over 3 games in 3 days.  And they had nothing but a 0-2-1 record to show for it.  Burleigh Grimes pitched all 13 innings in Brooklyn, and Sherry Smith got through 18.1 against the Braves before allowing a walk-off single in the 19th inning.  But don’t feel too bad for the Robins, who would win the NL pennant that year before dropping the World Series to the Cleveland Indians.  
Both starting pitchers entered May 1st with two wins on the season.  Leon Cadore would wait 20 days after the record setting game before recording his third win of the season, and wrapped up the season with 254.1 innings pitched.  Boston starter Joe Oeschger didn’t record another win for 30 days after the marathon game, and finished the season with 299 innings pitched. Starting pitchers just aint what they used to be.
When I began writing this post, I intended to write about BU alums in the big leagues, but this was too interesting to pass up.  But if that interests you, then be on the lookout for a post like that in the near future.

One comment

  1. uuketch@gmail.com

    The Charlie Pick stats are unbelievable. It would be hard for any major leaguer to go O-11. It is amazing (as you noted) that pitchers were handled so differently in the past. What workhorses they were!

    Also during the Boston Brave years you mentioned Bill McKechnie managed. If memory serves me he took the team from a ninth place finish before he managed them to a third place finish in his first year managing them.

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