The Longest Game

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Aug. 11) – Back in the day, Major League Baseball teams used to play actual doubleheaders – not the day/night cash-grabs we have now. A fan would get two games for the price of one ticket. In the early Blue Jays era, the club played “twi-night” doubleheaders. The first game at Exhibition Stadium would start at 5:35 p.m. There would be a 35-minute pause afterward and Game 2 would then begin (usually around 8:40). Barring anything silly, you’d be out of the ballpark by 11:15.

An unplanned reprisal occurred at Rogers Centre on Sunday afternoon. The Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers were deadlocked, 5-5, after nine innings. Then they kept playing… and playing… and playing. When the dust finally cleared – and Toronto starter R.A. Dickey was warming up in a depleted bullpen – the Jays prevailed, 6-5, in the bottom of the 19th inning. Once the game went to the top of the 19th, it became the longest in Blue Jays history – 37 years, four months and three days after the historic first encounter of Apr. 7, 1977 at the CNE.

Veteran slugger Jose Bautista had been bouncing out and popping up all afternoon until he finally singled to right with the bases loaded at 7:44 p.m. By that time, the announced crowd – rather inflated – of 46,126 had dwindled to roughly 8,000. The game ended in shadows six hours and 37 minutes after it began amid bright sunshine. For a bit more perspective, a Blue Jays night game at home starts at 7:07 p.m.  

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As per usual, I had my trusty NIKON with me at Rogers Centre. Its battery, however, died in the ninth inning. Thankfully, my son Shane conserved his camera energy and was able to get the most important photos of the day – the Jumbotron wrap (above) and the Toronto players whooping it up (below) after Bautista’s walk-off single. A brilliant afternoon, and the bright-red jerseys worn by the Blue Jays on Canadian Baseball Hall-of-Fame Day, made for some very decent images. 

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SHANE ALSO TOOK THE ABOVE PHOTOS – SCOREBOARD (LEFT) SIGNIFYING THE TOP OF THE 19th INNING AND THE MESSAGE BOARD (RIGHT) INDICATING HOW UTTERLY RIDICULOUS THE DAY HAD BECOME. NONETHELESS, IT WAS HISTORY.

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AS MENTIONED, MY NIKON LOVED THE BRIGHT SUNSHINE. THE C.N. TOWER ROSE MAJESTICALLY OVER TOP ROGERS CENTRE WHILE BAUTISTA – ALONE IN RIGHT-FIELD – WAS PROBABLY WISHING HE COULD DRIVE HIS HONDA TO PICK UP A PIZZA.

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JOSE REYES KEPT REACHING BASE – PROBABLY TO GET A CLOSE-UP LOOK (ABOVE) AT MIGUEL CABRERA’S RATHER HUMOROUS GOGGLES. REYES, HOWEVER, WAS GUNNED OUT ATTEMPTING TO STEAL THIRD BASE (BELOW) IN THE BOTTOM OF THE SEVENTH. LITTLE DID HE REALIZE THERE WERE STILL 12 INNINGS TO PLAY.

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THE VIEW FROM MY SEATS IN SEC. 535 OF THE UPPER-DECK. I WORE SUNGLASSES TO PROTECT MY EYES FROM THE MAN IN FRONT OF ME.

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DETROIT STARTER DAVID PRICE – ALWAYS DEADLY WHEN FACING THE JAYS – SAILED THROUGH 52/3 INNINGS UNTIL DANNY VALENCIA HIT A LINE-DRIVE OFF HIM AND INTO RIGHT FIELD FOR A DOUBLE. AFTER TOSSING A FEW WARM-UP PITCHES (BELOW) PRICE GAVE UP A TWO-RUN HOMER TO DIONER NAVARRO. HE WAS YANKED FOR RELIEVER PHIL COKE IN THE BOTTOM OF THE SEVENTH, WITH TWO ON AND NOBODY OUT.

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THE OUTFIELD IN BASEBALL IS A WIDE EXPANSE OF TERRITORY.

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THE BLUE JAYS CLAIMED A SELL-OUT BUT THIS MID-4th-INNING PHOTO INDICATES COUNTLESS TICKET-BUYERS FOUND OTHER ACTIVITIES TO OCCUPY THEIR TIME.

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MELKY TAKES ONE HIGH AND OUTSIDE.

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THE ‘EDGE-WALK’ CRAZIES WERE AT IT AGAIN ATOP THE C.N. TOWER RESTAURANT (ABOVE). A JET LEAVING PEARSON AIRPORT (BELOW) LIKELY HAD A GOOD VIEW.

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BLUE JAYS STARTER MARK BUEHRLE GOT SMACKED AROUND PRETTY GOOD BY THE TIGERS, GIVING UP NINE HITS AND FIVE RUNS (TWO EARNED) IN 3.1-INNINGS OF WORK BEFORE MANAGER JOHN GIBBONS ASKED FOR THE BALL.

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PLAYERS BECAME RATHER ACQUAINTED WITH THE FAKE GRASS ON SUNDAY.

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DETROIT RELIEVER JOBA CHAMBERLAIN WASN’T ALLOWED TO GROW A BEARD IN HIS DAYS WITH THE YANKEES. CLEARLY, HE HAS MADE UP FOR LOST TIME.

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CHAMBERLAIN KEPT ANTHONY GOSE IN CHECK – TOSSING TO CABRERA AT FIRST BASE.

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TORONTO SEEMED TO LOAD THE BASES ALL AFTERNOON BEFORE JOSE BAUTISTA FINALLY CAPITALIZED IN THE 19th INNING.

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IT WAS A LONNNNNNG DAY UP IN THE SPORTSNET TV BOOTH FOR BLUE JAYS ANNOUNCERS BUCK MARTINEZ (RIGHT) AND PAT TABLER.

MONDAY HEADLINES…

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EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

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