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Sunday, June 24, 2012
Fifty years ago today, was a special day in the history of Tiger Stadium.
The old ballpark hosted many games in its day—6,879 regular season ones, 27 postseason contests, plus an All-Star game or two—but none were longer than the marathon game that took place a half-century ago today.
On June 24, 1962, the Tigers hosted the Yankees. The year before, Detroit had won 101 games, only to finish well behind the 109-Yankees, who won the World Series that year. In early 1962, however, both teams were off to shaky starts, playing around .500 ball.
Early on, it looked like it would be anything but a marathon. In the top of the first, the Yankees jumped all over veteran Detroit starting pitcher Frank Lary. (A 23-9 pitcher the year before, Lary would win just two games in ’62, a big part of the reason why the Tigers wouldn’t be competitive this year). New York batted around, scoring six runs in the first.
Detroit immediately came back, leading off its half of the first with two walks and a three-run homer. In fact, the Yankees pulled starting pitcher Bob Turley immediately after that. He recorded just one out. The Yankees would rely on their bullpen for the rest of the way.
This looked to be like an all-time great slugfest as the first inning ended with the Yankees up, 6-3.
In the second the Yankees pushed another run across the plate, so when it was Lary’s turn to bat in the bottom of the second, Detroit lifted him for a pinch hitter. Just two innings into the longest game in Tiger Stadium history, and Detroit was diving into its bullpen. The score was 7-3 heading into the third.
In the third inning, the Tigers staged another rally and scored three runs to make it 7-6. To this point, it had been a high-scoring slugfest. That was about to come to an abrupt end.
For the rest of regulation, the teams combined for just one more run. In the sixth, Rocky Colavito singled—his second hit today—and drove in Bill Bruton to even things up at 7-7. Aside from that, no one could break the deadlock.
Both sides had their chances. The Yankees loaded the bases in the fourth and again in the seventh, but both times grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning. Twice Detroit got a runner on third, but couldn’t move him the final 90 feet. Thus extra innings beckoned.
Early on, it looked like Detroit was going to do it. The Tigers put runners on the corners in the bottom of the 10th, but couldn’t deliver. The 11th was far more promising. Colavito led off with a triple—his third hit of the game so far—and then the Yankees intentionally walked the next two batters to set up a force play at the plate.
However, with the bases loaded and nobody out, shortstop Chico Fernandez lined out to left, and then catcher Dick Brown bunted into a double play. Those intentional walks had paid off.
Both teams threatened to score again in the 15th frame. The Yankees did it when Tom Tresh singled, stole second base, and then advanced on a wild pitch, but he didn’t score. Detroit put two on with one out thanks to a hit batsmen and a Colavito single—his fifth hit of the game so far. But that also fizzled.
Both bullpens were relentless. For Detroit, Hank Aguirre pitched 5.1 innngs of scoreless ball while fanning eight. When he left, Terry Fox came in and nearly threw a complete game shutout in relief—eight innings out of the bullpen. For New York, Tex Clevinger recorded 19 outs without allowing a run. The Yankees later turned to a young kid named Jim Bouton, making just his 14th career appearance. He entered in the 16th with the Yanks intending him to last the rest of the game.
As the game went on longer, opportunities to score grew scarcer. In the 20th, the Tigers staged a two-out rally by putting a man on third off a pair of singles. (One single was by Colavito—his sixth hit in the game). But nothing came of it.
By the 22nd inning, Detroit was forced to call on its sixth reliever of the day, Phil Regan. This was an act of desperation, as Regan had pitched yesterday, allowing eight runs in three innings. (In fact, Regan was the starting pitcher, so Detroit’s bullpen was taxed even before this marathon began).
Regan proved to be one reliever too many. With one out he walked Roger Maris only to allow a two-run homer to Jack Reed. The Yankees now led, 9-7.
In the bottom of the frame, Bouton—now in his seventh inning of work—put down the Tigers with little difficulty. The only man to reach against him was Colavito, whose single was his seventh hit of the day.
The teams played 22 innings in exactly seven hours, but it was over. New York triumphed, 9-7, and would go on to win the pennant. Detroit had much to be proud of with its bullpen’s terrific performance and Colavito’s seven hits, but ultimately lost the longest game in the history of Tiger Stadium.
Aside from that, plenty of other events today celebrate either their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.
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