JACK REED

The 20-inning game the Mets won on Saturday got me to thinking about a 22-inning game between the Yankees and the Tigers in June 1962. I was watching that game at home, but I left, drove about 10 miles to visit a friend for several hours, and then drove home and found my brother watching the Yankees and the Tigers. That was long before VCRs and the YES Network’s “encores,” and I was dumbfounded when Tony told me it was the same game I had been watching before I left. It ended exactly seven hours after it had started. The Yankees won, 9-7.

As if the game wasn’t enough of a curiosity in itself, the way it ended was one of those delightful surprises that baseball is so good at providing. For a few years back then, the Yankees carried on their roster an outfielder named Jack Reed, whose job was to play center field in the very late innings so that Mickey Mantle, near the end of his career, could rest his battered and diseased legs.

CLETIS BOYER

Nothing more was expected of Reed, and usually nothing more was forthcoming. But the young man from Silver City, Mississippi, picked the top of the 22nd inning in that game to hit the only home run of his career, providing the Yankees with the runs they needed to win. Reed, incidentally, may not have spent much time in major league baseball, but he is one of a handful of players who can boast of appearing in both the World Series and a college bowl game – three games with the Yankees in the 1961 fall classic, and the 1953 Sugar Bowl with Ole Miss.

Yankee third baseman Cletis Boyer had hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Tigers starter Frank Lary, who was usually hard on the Yankees.

ROCKY COLAVITO

And while Rocky Colavito probably would have said that he’d rather the Tigers had won, even if he had gone hitless — ballplayers always say things like that — he had one of the biggest days of his career, collecting seven hits in ten times at bat. Meanwhile, the Tigers pitchers held the Yankees scoreless for 19 consecutive innings in that game — two shutouts, end to end.

Another note: Yogi Berra, who was 37 years old, caught the complete game.

JOE OESCHGER

JOE OESCHGER

The announcement that post-season baseball games broadcast on Fox will start before bedtime this year is better than no progress at all. Games that were running well over three hours and ending after midnight on the East Coast were hard on fans who have to get up early, and they were precluding many kids from watching – and that’s an audience baseball shouldn’t take for granted.

Of course it wasn’t the bleary-eyed fan or the starry-eyed kid who inspired this change. It was the poor ratings for last year’s American League playoffs and for the World Series, both of which threaten revenues from advertisers who were probably nodding off while their own commercials were playing.

If the advertisers get nervous enough, maybe the post-season process itself will be streamlined so that it isn’t crowding Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the announcement by Fox that many of the games will start earlier has evoked comments about the fact that the games are too long no matter how early they start. I, for one, am in no hurry when I watch baseball on TV or listen to it on the radio, and at the prices we pay now to see a game in person, I figure the longer it takes the more I get for my money. After all, one of the things that makes baseball unique among American spectator sports is that it has no clock; a game – in theory, at least – can go on forever. That’s what Katie Casey was referring to in the lyric of Jack Norworth’s song: “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack. I don’t care if I never get back.”

To some extent, nothing can be done about the length of games that are held hostage to the radio and TV commercial schedule. The plate umpire still carries out his responsibility and strides ominously toward the mound if the pitcher and catcher confer for more than 20 seconds, but he’s not about to interfere with the shilling that creates the wide gap between half innings. Nor will he reprimand the batter who steps out after every pitch to adjust his golfing gloves.

LEON CADORE

LEON CADORE

To put the modern, televised, 3 1/2-hour game in perspective, the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Dodgers played to a 1-1 tie in 26 innings on May 1, 1920. That game took 3 hours and 50 minutes so the teams, in effect, played one game every hour and a quarter. There was no pitch count in those days, fewer calls to the bullpen, and the starting pitchers – Joe Oeschger for Boston and Leon Cadore for Brooklyn – both pitched complete games (and, incidentally, lived to pitch another day). There was no lack of offense – a total of 25 hits – and there was a total of 8 walks. To look at it another way, on Sept. 26, 1926, the St. Louis Browns and the New York Yankees played a nine-inning game in 55 minutes, the Browns winning 6-2. That projects to a little less than 2 3/4 hours if that game had gone on at the same pace for 26 innings.

When I was a kid in elementary school, and the World Series was played in the daytime as God intended, instruction was suspended, and we were told to work quietly at our desks while the play-by-play was piped in through the public-address system. It all depends on what’s important to you.