Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Prolonged Heartbreaking Struggle

"A prolonged heartbreaking struggle" is how the New York Times described the twenty six inning battle between the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Robins on May 1, 1920. This pitchers' duel ended with a 1-1 tie when the game was called due to darkness. The pitchers, Joe Oeschger for Boston and Leon Cadore for Brooklyn, each pitched the entire game and only gave up 24 hits between them. What does a team do for an encore after a twenty-six inning game? Well if you're the 1920 Brooklyn Robins you follow it up with two more extra-inning games for a total of 58 innings in three days. Unfortunately for the team, all 58 innings were a "prolonged heartbreaking struggle" but that didn't keep the Robins (who were also called the Dodgers at this point) from going to the World Series that year.

The twenty-six inning marathon still holds the record for the most innings in a Major League game and it would have gone longer had the umpires not decided it was too dark to continue playing, much to the dismay of the players and fans. The New York Times questioned one umpire's motives for ending his long work day:
"McCormick remembered he had an appointment pretty soon with a succulent beafsteak. He wondered if it wasn't getting dark. He held out one hand as a test and in the gleaming deciding it resembled a Virginia ham. He knew it wasn't a Virginia ham and became convinced it was too dark to play ball."
The following day the Braves had a day off to recover while the Robins piled into train cars and headed to Brooklyn to face the Philadelphia Phillies. They fell to Philly in what must have felt like a short 13 inning game with just 88 total at bats versus the 171 between the two teams the day before. Following the loss to Philly, the team piled back on a train and headed to Boston to face the Braves again. Despite their inevitable exhaustion, the New York Times reported "neither team showed the effects of overwork once they got into action." This time it took 19 innings for the Robins to fall. In three games Brooklyn had played 58 innings, come up to bat 193 times, scored 4 runs and won 0 games.

The New York Times quipped that the team was going to start demanding time and a half because they had played the equivalent to six full games with "four more innings thrown in for good measure" all in the span of three days. Of course the players did not demand overtime, they kept showing up and playing their best until the work was done. They persisted through the "prolonged heartbreaking struggle" and went on to win the National League pennant that year.

This team's persistence reminds me that although I've been working long hours lately and haven't felt like I've been having success every step of the way, I must continue on. I can't let the fact that I'm feeling tired, stressed out, overworked or frustrated affect the work that I'm doing. I must show up everyday to play and in the long run it will pay off.

Thanks Bryan Rutt for suggesting I write about this topic during the 20 inning Cardinals/Mets game in April, this turned out to be a lesson I need to learn right now!

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