On Tuesday October 2, 1962, the Los Angeles Dodgers played a must-win game against the San Francisco Giants, who led them by one game to none in a best of three games playoff for the National League pennant. Dodgers manager Walter Alston turned to his ace, 25-game winner Don Drysdale. Although Double D would have to pitch on only two days of rest, he seemed a better option than rookie Pete Richert and Stan Williams, a 14-game winner who had faltered in September.
Giants manager Alvin Dark also called upon his ace, 24-game winner Jack Sanford. Because of a rainout on the previous Friday, when he was scheduled to pitch, Sanford’s most recent start had been pushed to Saturday. This meant that, like Drysdale, Sanford would be working on only two days of rest. But Dark’s other available starters, veteran Mike McCormick and young Gaylord Perry, both sported ERAs in excess of 5.00. So Dark, though less desperate than Alston, opted for quality over rest.
Predictably, Drysdale and Sanford both started strong. After five innings, the Giants led 1-0. Drysdale had allowed 4 hits; Sanford only 1.
But in the top of the sixth inning, the Giants scored 4 runs to take a 5-0 lead. The key plays were an error by Drysdale (only 2 of the 4 runs were earned), and RBI singles by Chuck Hiller, Jim Davenport (at the expense of Drysdale), and Willie McCovey (off reliever Ed Roebuck).
When the Dodgers batted in the bottom of the sixth, they hadn’t scored in 35 innings. And in the previous 23 innings, they had totaled only 9 hits.
Jim Gilliam led off the inning with a walk. At that point, Dark removed Sanford even though he had allowed only one hit and three walks. “Sanford was suffering from a cold and he was pooped,” Dark later explained.
With Stu Miller on in relief, the Dodgers finally broke out of their slump. Duke Snider doubled and Tommy Davis drove in Gilliam with a fly ball. Then, Wally Moon walked and Frank Howard knocked in Snider with a base hit.
Dark brought in lefty Billy O’Dell, who had started and pitched 7 innings on Sunday, to face left-handed hitting Johnny Roseboro. Alston countered with right-handed hitting Doug Camili, who was enjoying his only good year at the plate. Camili singled to load the bases.
Alston then called on another right-handed pinch hitter, ex-Yankee Andy Carey, to bat for Willie Davis. O’Dell hit Carey with a pitch, reducing the Giants lead to 5-3, with the bases still loaded.
Next, Alston used his third right-handed pinch hitter in a row, Lee Walls, to bat for reliever Ed Roebuck. The journeyman outfielder, an outstanding clutch hitter in 1962, delivered a base-clearing double. Suddenly, the Dodgers led 6-5. Walls took third on the throw home. There was still only one out.
Dark lifted O’Dell who had failed to retire anyone. On came Don Larsen who, of course, had pitched a perfect game against the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.
Larsen had to face the speedy Maury Wills. With the infield in, Wills chopped the ball to first baseman Orlando Cepeda who threw home. Walls slide in hard, spikes up, and catcher Tom Haller dropped the ball. Haller was charged with an error, and the Dodgers led 7-5.
Haller had to leave the game, and Wills promptly stole second against replacement catcher John Orsino. When Orsino’s throw skipped past second base, Wills attempted to take third. But Willie Mays was backing up and he threw Wills out. Larsen then retired Gilliam, to end the Dodgers 7 run inning.
The Giants threatened but failed to score in the top of the seventh against reliever Ron Perranoski. In the top of the eighth they quickly threatened again. Davenport and Mays led off the inning with singles. Ed Bailey batted for Larsen, who had been slotted into the clean-up position (in place of McCovey) on a double switch. Alston brought in little used rookie Jack Smith to face him.
Bailey singled to drive home Davenport. But on an enormous play, Tommy Davis threw out Willie Mays (famous for his first-to-third dashes) at third base. The play was so close that umpire legendary Jocko Conlan seemed at first to want to signal safe. So now, two of the best base runners in baseball history (Mays and Wills) had been thrown out at third base – Mays with no one and Wills, more forgivably, with one out. And instead of having runners on first and third with no outs, the Giants had only a runner on first, with one out.
But the Giants were back in business when Frank Howard misplayed Cepeda’s fly ball for an error. Now the tying run was on third.
Alston had ridden his luck with Smith as far as he cared to. With Felipe Alou at the plate, he called for Stan Williams.
The big right-hander walked Alou, not a terrible thing with Orsino up next. But the young catcher came through with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 7-7.
It was still 7-7 going into the bottom of the ninth. Bobby Bolin was on the mound for the Giants, their fifth pitcher of the day. Bolin began the inning in just the wrong way, by walking Maury Wills, who recently had set the major league record for stolen bases in a season.
With Gilliam up, Dark pulled the right-handed Bolin in favor of southpaw Dick LeMay. Gilliam was a switch hitter who hit lefties and righties equally well. Dark probably wanted the left-hander to hold Wills closer to first. But LeMay had pitched only 9 and a third innings in the majors during which he allowed 8 earned runs.
Wills didn’t steal second, but he got there anyway when LeMay walked Gilliam.
With Duke Snider up next, Alston called on yet another right-handed pinch hitter, Spencer. Surely, Spencer was going to bunt, but Dark had seen enough of LeMay, in any case. He replaced the young lefty with a young righty, future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.
Spencer successfully bunted Wills to third and Gilliam to second. Some thought the Giants had a play on Wills at third, but Perry took the safe route.
That was it for Perry’s contribution. Dark put the game in the hands of veteran left-hander Mike McCormick, who had suffered through a terrible year, mostly as a starter, but probably should have come on instead of LeMay earlier in the inning.
Dark had McCormick walk the dangerous Tommy Davis to set up the double play with left-handed hitting Ron Fairly at the plate. Fairly lined a fly ball to Mays in center field, and Wills dashed home with the winning run.
The Dodgers had broken their five game losing streak with an epic win, in what was then the longest 9 inning game in baseball history (4 hours and 18 minutes). Walter Alston used 19 players, 5 of them pitchers. Alvin, who arguably over-managed the affair, used 23 players including 8 pitchers.
The two pitching-depleted teams would play one game (a classic, as it turned out) for the pennant the next day.