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This day in baseball history

On June 24, 1962, the New York Yankees defeated the Detroit Tigers 9-7 in 22 innings. The game lasted exactly 7 hours, making it the longest ever played in terms of elapsed time as of that date.

The Yankees and the Tigers had battled for the 1961 pennant, with the rest of the American League far behind. But heading in late June of 1962, as the Yankees headed to Detroit for a five game series, the Yankees were in fourth place and the Tigers were in sixth.

Here’s how the top of the American League standings looked as play began on Friday, June 22:

Cleveland –
Los Angeles 2
Minnesota 2
New York 3
Baltimore 5.5
Detroit 6

But because everyone understood that the Yankees were the team to beat, the Tigers could reasonably feel that they were only three games off of the real pace. A five game series provided the opportunity to narrow or erase thes gap.

Things started well for Detroit. They won the Friday game and split a doubleheader on Saturday. Moreover, Frank Lary, the notorious “Yankee killer,” was set to start on Sunday. Plagued by arm trouble, Lary was having a tough 1962 season, but had pitched a shut-out in his previous start. Meanwhile, the Yankees were relying on Bob Turley, whose best days were well behind him.

But the Yankees jumped on Lary for 6 runs in the top of the first inning. A three-run homer by Clete Boyer was the biggest blow.

Turley walked the first two Tigers he faced in the bottom of the inning, and then yielded a home run to Purnal Goldy, who had recently been called up from the minors to fill in for the injured Al Kaline. When Turley walked another batter with one out, manager Ralph Houk replaced him with Jim Coates.

The Yankees added a run off of Lary in the second inning to make the score 7-3. Lary survived the top half of that inning, but the Tigers used a pinch hitter for him in the bottom.

Detroit made it 7-6 in the bottom of third, thanks in large part to a double by reserve catcher Mike Roarke. They then tied the game in the sixth, when veteran Bill Bruton singled with one out, stole second base, and scored on a two out double by Rocky Colavito.

There would be no scoring for 15 innings. In fact, there were few genuine scoring threats.

The most serious threat occurred in the bottom of the 11th inning. Colavito led off with a triple and the Yankees intentionally walked the next two hitters, Norm Cash and Dick McAuliffe. Walking McAuliffe to load the bases with no outs was risky, as it created immense pressure to throw strikes to the next batters. But Houk didn’t want his right-handed reliever to face the left-handed McAuliffe with the winning run on third. In addition, the two walks brought him to the bottom third of the Tigers batting order, with Detroit having already used all of its non-pitchers.

Chico Fernandez hit the ball to left field, but not far enough to drive in Colavito. Catcher Dick Brown was next, with one out. Brown always represented a serious double play possibility and, assuming no double play, Hank Aguirre – a famously poor hitter – would follow Brown. Thus, manager Bob Scheffing tried to force the issue by ordering a suicide squeeze.

Unfortunately, Brown popped up his bunt and catcher Yogi Berra tagged the onrushing Colavito to end the inning. Berra, by the way, caught all 22 innings at the age of 35.

When the Yankees finally broke through, they did so through the unlikeliest of heroes. Following a one-out walk to Roger Maris, Jack Reed hit what turned out to be the game winning home run. Reed, a former football star at Ole Miss, was on for Joe Pepitone, who had replaced the injury-plagued Mickey Mantle in right field. This would be the only homer of Reed’s brief baseball career.

In the bottom of the inning, Colavito singled with two outs, but Cash flied out to end the game. Taking into account the previous day’s doubleheader, the Tigers and Yankees played 40 innings of baseball two days.

Looking at the box score, I’m struck by the fact that Terry Fox, Detroit’s closer, pitched 8 full innings. Of course, the role of the modern closer hadn’t really been developed as of 1962 – top relievers were often expected to pitch up to three innings. But Fox wasn’t far from being a prototypical closer. After missing the first part of the season, he pitched in 44 games, not counting this one, for a total of only 50 innings. Yet, Scheffing had him pitch, in essence, a complete game on this day.

Fox wasn’t the losing pitcher, though. That honor went to Phil Regan, a starter (and loser) in the previous day’s doubleheader, in which he worked 3 innings. The Yankees got to Regan in his very first inning of work, so Scheffing had reason to want to stay with Fox for as long as possible.

Houk, on the other hand, was able to use a starter for the last 7 innings of the game – none other than Jim Bouton, who limited Detroit to three hits, two walks, and of course no runs. This was Bouton’s rookie year, and the Yanks were grooming him as a starter by giving him spot starts along with relatively meaningless relief assignments.

Bouton’s performance in this game advanced his career. Before June 24, the future of >a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/762563.Ball_Four”> Ball Four had started only three times. On the strength of this outing – and the weakness of Turley’s – Bouton started 13 times the rest of the way. During the following two seasons, he would win a total of 39 games.

The Yankees went on to win the series finale on Monday, dropping the Tigers into seventh place with a below .500 record. In early July, the Yankees assumed their usual place at the top of the standings. They went on to win the pennant by 5 games over second place Minnesota, with Detroit finishing a distant fourth.

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