A lot of attention and admiration have been paid to Cliff Lee and Matt Cain, who yesterday combined for 19 shutout innings in the Giants’ 1-0 victory over the Phillies. The classic pitchers’ duel between the two All Stars was only the 132nd game since 1918 featuring two starters with a game score of at least 85 as well as the 142nd time two opposing hurlers went a minimum of nine shutout innings. However, despite the impressiveness of that accomplishment, the efforts of both pitchers pale in comparison to the long day’s work turned in by the Boston Braves’ Joe Oeschger and the Brooklyn Robins’ (present day Dodgers) Leon Cadore back in 1920.
When Oeschger and Cadore took the mound at Braves field on May 1, 1920, it was already the second time the two had matched up in the young season. Two starts earlier, the pair had gone the distance in an 11 inning 1-0 shutout won by the Robins at Ebbets Field. Naturally, the expectation heading into the rematch was for more of the same, but no one could have imagined the degree to which the two right-handers would stage an encore.
The May Day contest started as innocently as the burgeoning spring, with each team scattering a few hits over the early innings before trading runs in middle. The scored remained tied 1-1 heading into the ninth, at which point the Braves loaded the bases with one out and seemed poised for walk-off vindication. However, Braves’ second baseman Charlie Pick rolled a grounder to counterpart Ivy Olson, who tagged the runner passing by and returned the ball to first for a double play. The rally was turned aside and the stage was set for history.
Inning after inning, Oeschger and Cadore set down the opposition with as much certitude as the lingering sun’s gradual descent on the horizon. Then, in the top of the 17th, the Robins finally seemed poised to breakthrough. For the first time in the entire game, the Brooklyn nine tallied two hits in the same inning, which helped to load the bases with only one out. Backup catcher Rowdy Elliot was now in a position to break the game open, but he promptly hit a grounder back to the mound. Oeschger fired the ball home for the force, but Hank Gowdy’s throw to first bounced in the dirt and rolled away from first baseman Walter Holke. Seeing the ball unattended, Ed Konetchy tried to scamper home, but by that point Holke had recovered and fired the ball back to Gowdy. With the runner bearing down on him, Gowdy received the throw on the first base side of the plate and then dove across just in time to beat the sliding Konetchy. On one play, the Braves had recorded two outs at home, and the tie was preserved.
After the exciting play at plate, which the New York Times called “one of the most remarkable double plays ever seen”, the restless crowd began to check their watches, not to mention the record book. As news spread about the teams’ march toward history (at the time, the NL and MLB records for most innings played were 22 and 24, respectively), the fans who remained began to root for the game to last longer.
Nervous prostration threatened to engulf the stands as the twentieth inning passed away in the scoreless routine and the word was passed from the knowing fans to those of inferior baseball erudition that the National League record was twenty-two innings.” – The New York Times, May 2, 1920
Almost everyone at Braves Field started to wear down as the game drew longer; that is, everyone but the two starting pitchers. Not only did Oeschger and Cadore manage to survive the marathon, but they seemed to get stronger as it progressed. Over the final six innings of the game, neither team recorded a hit, and it began to look as if the game would go on forever. However, the setting sun had the final say. With the shadows growing darker by the minute, home plate umpire Barry McCormick called an end to the proceedings with the game still deadlocked after 26 innings.
Most Innings Pitched in a Single Game
|Joe Oeschger||5/1/1920||BSN||BRO||T 1-1||26||90||9||1||4||7||153|
|Leon Cadore||5/1/1920||BRO||BSN||T 1-1||26||96||15||1||5||7||140|
|Bob Smith||5/17/1927||BSN||CHC||L 3-4||22||89||20||4||9||5||94|
|Lefty Tyler||7/17/1918||CHC||PHI||W 2-1||21||77||13||1||1||8||126|
|Art Nehf||8/1/1918||BSN||PIT||L 0-2||21||77||12||2||5||8||118|
|Milt Watson||7/17/1918||PHI||CHC||L 1-2||20||82||19||2||4||5||97|
|George Uhle||5/24/1929||DET||CHW||W 6-5||20||79||17||5||3||4||89|
|Les Mueller||7/21/1945||DET||PHA||T 1-1||19.2||74||13||1||5||6||112|
|Dana Fillingim||5/3/1920||BSN||BRO||W 2-1||19||72||12||1||4||4||111|
|Stan Coveleski||5/24/1918||CLE||NYY||W 3-2||19||73||12||2||6||4||103|
|Dixie Davis||8/9/1921||SLB||WSH||W 8-6||19||74||13||6||5||8||92|
Although Oeschger and Cadore probably would have liked a win for their efforts, it would have been a shame if either had been tagged with a loss. Besides, the two hurlers didn’t walk away empty handed. Because of their monumental efforts, these two otherwise anonymous pitchers from a bygone era have achieved immortality. Some records are made to be broken, but Cadore’s and Oeschger’s remarkable performance is as sure a bet as any to stand the test of time.