The Five Longest Games in Baseball History

In the United States, professional baseball is a sport contested between two teams for nine innings. There are no time restrictions on a baseball game, meaning individual innings can last any amount of time. Similarly, a game can be played indefinitely beyond nine innings until one team manages to break a tie. In Major League Baseball (MLB), a full inning typically takes about 20.56 minutes to complete, for an average game length of just over three hours.

For years, the average game length has been an area of focus for MLB officials. Despite efforts to shorten contests, baseball games have grown longer in recent years, up from an average of two hours and 49 minutes in 2003. While officials may wish to shorten games, several MLB games have established their baseball history due to their epic lengths.

In terms of innings, the longest game of all time took place on May 1, 1920, during a meeting between the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Robins. The game lasted for 26 innings and ended in a tie after the contest was called off due to darkness. The game ended with just two total runs scored. The game only holds the distinction of the longest game by innings played; in terms of the total time elapsed from first pitch to last, the Robins and Braves game only lasted three hours and 50 minutes.

The longest game played in terms of the total time elapsed occurred during the 1984 season. The Chicago White Sox won the Milwaukee Brewers by seven to six in a game that lasted 25 innings for two days. The initial day of play ended after 17 innings, with the score tied at three runs. The Brewers appeared poised to win the game after a three-run home run in the top of the 21st inning, but the White Sox responded with three runs before ending the affair with a walk-off homer four innings later.

While the Chicago-Milwaukee game technically took two days to complete, the longest single sitting game in MLB history was played in 1974 in a contest featuring the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. The 25-inning marathon lasted for seven hours and four minutes, ending after three o’clock in the morning. The Mets held a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning, but Ken Reitz connected on a game-tying home run to send into extra innings.

Of the 13,460 fans who entered Shea Stadium Wednesday night, stadium officials estimated about 1,000 were remaining when the game ended unusually: Mets relief pitcher Hank Webb attempted to pick off the aptly named Bake “Snake ‘n Bake” McBride at first, but an errant throw allowed McBride to round the bases, bringing an end to one of the longest games in league history in favor of St. Louis, 4-3.

Other marathon MLB games include a 1-0 Houston Astros win over the Mets in 1968 that took 24 innings and more than six hours to complete, and a 1954 Detroit Tigers-Philadelphia Athletics game that went 24 innings and four hours, 48 minutes.

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