I’m pleased to present the latest from Joe Guzzardi, a regular Wednesday and Saturday contributor here.
When 57,037 New York Mets fans filed into Shea Stadium for the May 31, 1964 Memorial Day doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants, not a single one could have remotely anticipated what awaited them that Sunday afternoon.
Ten hours and twenty-three minutes later, including an intermission, and after 32 innings, fans had seen a dazzling display of baseball oddities during the Giants’ sweep, 5-3 and 8-6.
The opener went a regulation nine innings in a relatively speedy 2:29. The night cap, however, was another story altogether. The second, played over 23 innings, took 7:23, the longest game in major league history measured by time.
The end came mercifully in the bottom of the 23rd at 11:35 P.M. when Mets’ second baseman Amado Samuel flied to left. The two batters who preceded Samuel, Chris Cannizzaro, and John Stephensen, had struck out.
By that time, only about 8,000 remained. But those brave souls had seen 41 players battle it out.
The 40th player, Giant pinch hitter Del Crandall, was the difference maker.
In the top of the 23rd, Jim Davenport lined a triple to the right field corner. Then when Mets’ manager Casey Stengel ordered third baseman Cap Peterson walked intentionally, the Giants’ countered by sending Crandall to the plate to face Galen Cisco. Crandall promptly doubled Davenport home and put Peterson on third.
The Giants iced the game when Jesus Alou beat out a chopper that Cisco couldn’t field. Peterson dashed home for the Giants’ eighth and final run.
Over the marathon afternoon and evening, fans witnessed baseball rarities like a two-man triple play executed by Roy McMillan and Ed Kranepool, twelve pitchers who shared two strike out records—36 in one game and 47 in one day.
Another out of the ordinary occurrence: Willie Mays made one of his two career appearances at shortstop but failed at bat going only one for 10.
Perhaps the most unusual of all is that the winning and losing pitchers, the Giants’ Gaylord Perry (3-1) and the Mets’ Galen Cisco (2-5) pitched the equivalent of complete games but in relief roles.
Perry’s line: 10 IP; 7 H; 0 ER; 1 BB; 9 K
Cisco’s line: 9 IP; 5 H; 2 ER 2 BB; 5 K
For Perry and Cisco, history repeated itself. Exactly two weeks earlier in San Francisco, Perry (2-0) pitching in relief of Juan Marichal beat the Mets and Cisco, also out of the bull pen.
As the season played out, losing the doubleheader didn’t make much difference to the Mets. Led by cast offs like McMillan, Frank Thomas and Frank Lary, who earned the team’s highest salary at $30,000, the Mets were terrible from start to finish.
The 1964 Mets went 53-109 (.329) and finished 10th. The team won only thirteen more games than the infamous 1962 Mets. (“Meet” them here.)
Nevertheless, New York loved the Mets. The attendance of 1,732,597 put the Mets second in the league.
From 1965 through 1966, the Mets were baseball’s biggest joke and finished ninth or tenth each year.
But in 1969, the Miracle Mets shocked baseball by winning not only the National League pennant but also the World Series.
Take the subway out to Shea here:
Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and writes Double the fun, a column which looks at one famous doubleheader every Saturday here. Email Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org