10,000 days ago, one of the wildest and most bizarre games in baseball history was played. Or, more accurately, 10,000 days ago, it began. It wouldn’t finish until nearly 4:00 AM the next morning.
It will forever be known as the Rick Camp Game.
I’ve discussed it previously here at the mighty THT, but it was one of the most incredible games ever. It lasted until 3:55 AM the next day because of a pair of rain delays—one before the game and one early on in it—pushed things back several hours. Frankly, the umpires might have called the game entirely, but it was the Fourth of July, and there was a nice crowd on hand in Atlanta. In those circumstances, the umps tend to let the game go on.
The contest was a wet mess, especially early on. One grounder up the middle to center died in the shallow outfield because of all the splashing water slowing it down. One outfielder went to catch a ball but slid on the grass, allowing runs to score.
Well, the rain was one reason the game lasted so long. The other reason was that it went into extra innings. 19 innings in all. It lasted so long that Danny Heep, who didn’t even enter the game until the bottom of the eighth, ended it with six at-bats.
But what really sets this game apparent from others isn’t the rain delays or extra innings, it’s what happened in those middle-of-the-night extra innings.
After nine innings of back-and-forth baseball, the Braves and Mets entered overtime tied, 8-8. Not much happened until the 13th, when the Mets went up 10-8 in the top half of the frame. In the bottom of the frame, down to their last out, Atlanta’s Terry Harper swatted a two-run homer off the foul pole to keep it going. That was interesting, but that just set up the really memorable stuff.
The game kept dragging on, but after 3:00 AM, the end appeared near. In the top of the 18th the Mets took another lead, when the scored a run thanks to an error by veteran Braves pitcher Camp.
In the bottom of the 18th, the first batter meekly grounded out to first, and the next batter did the exact same thing. Atlanta was down to its last out, and that was Camp. With no position players left on the bench, the career sub-.100 hitter would have to hit for himself.
First pitch: strike one. Second pitch: strike two. This is as bleak a situation as the Braves could ever be in, an 0-2 count with two outs, none on, and the pitcher at the plate down by one in the bottom of the 18th.
Naturally, Camp hit the next pitch for a bizarre, Twilight Zone-esque, game-tying home run. The game would go on.
The Mets would win, anyway, by scoring five runs in the top of 19th for a 16-11 edge. But even that wasn’t easy, as Atlanta rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 19th. In fact, with two outs, they once again got the would-be tying run to the plate. That would-be tying run? Camp, of course. Again he took a big swing with two strikes, but this time he missed. Strike three, end of the game.
Oh, and since it was the Fourth of July (or had been), there was a fireworks display once it ended. The 4:00 AM fireworks scared residents by the ballpark, who called the cops thinking they were being bombed by Libyans.
The Mets defeated Camp and the Braves, 16-13, but it will forever be known as the Rick Camp Game. And that game—at least its beginning—was 10,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim over things.
2,000 days since Johnny Damon joins the 2,000-hit club.
4,000 days since Seattle signs free agent second baseman Bret Boone. This will work out well for the M’s.
6,000 days since longtime announcer Mel Allen passes away at age 83.
6,000 days since Mark McGwire belts a career-best three doubles in one game.
7,000 days since Florida purchases Kevin Millar from the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League.
9,000 days since the Dodgers sign free agent catcher Rick Dempsey.
10,000 days since Gary Carter gets on base six times in one game by going 5-for-9 with a walk in the Rick Camp Game.
10,000 days since Keith Hernandez hits for the cycle. It’s part of the Rick Camp Game.
1921 Roy Campanella, Hall of Fame catcher, is born.
1928 The Indians purchase center fielder Earl Averill from the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals club. Averill will become a Hall of Famer.
1937 The Browns unconditionally release “Sunny” Jim Bottomley, ending his 16-year Hall of Fame career.
1938 Ted Turner, longtime Braves owner, is born.
1945 Bobby Tolan is born.
1947 Bob Boone, who at one time held the record for most games caught, is born.
1952 AL president Will Hardige says there will be bigger fines for managers using abusive language when arguing with umpires.
1953 The A’s release four-decade pitcher Bobo Newsom.
1953 The Yankees sign amateur free agent pitcher Ralph Terry.
1956 The Phillies trade Del Ennis to the Cardinals.
1957 94-year-old former pitcher Frank Foreman dies. He’s one of the last surviving players&mdah;maybe the last—from the 1884 Union Association.
1960 It’s announced that Mickey Vernon will be the first manager for the new Washington Senators franchise. That’s now the Texas Rangers franchise.
1962 The Pirates trade Dick Groat to St. Louis.
1963 Baltimore names Hank Bauer as its new manager. Under him, they’ll win the 1966 World Series.
1965 Washington releases veteran player Don Zimmer.
1976 The Milwaukee Brewers sign free agent third baseman Sal Bando.
1979 Houston signs star free agent pitcher Nolan Ryan.
1979 Ryan Howard, Phillies first baseman, is born.
1979 Rick Wise is signed by the Padres as a free agent.
1993 Colorado signs free agent infielder Howard Johnson.
1996 The White Sox sign free agent outfielder Albert Belle. He becomes the highest-paid player in ball baseball.
2000 Cleveland signs free agent outfielder Ellis Burks.
2008 The Mariners hire a new manager, Don Wakamatsu.