For the baseball-starved, a look back on a legendary PawSox game


Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports, the Pawtucket Red Sox were about to celebrate their 50th – and final – season at McCoy Stadium.

Among the events that had been planned for 2020 was the induction of “The Longest Game in Professional Baseball History” into the Pawtucket Red Sox Hall of Fame.

But with the season now canceled, the team has been counting down its top-10 greatest games, including the longest game, in a weekly audio documentary series presented by Cox Communications and WEEI 103.7 FM.

The series, called “Solid Gold: Stories of the Best Games in PawSox History,” is available as a podcast on most major platforms and is streaming at and

The longest game is also featured in the first of a four-part video documentary series, “COX Legendary PawSox Stories,” which can be viewed at

PawSox fans no doubt have already heard about the longest game – which forever transformed the fortunes of the franchise – but with all professional baseball currently shut down by the virus, the 1981 regular-season game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings is worth another look.  

The game was remarkable for many reasons, but none more so than that it took two months to complete. That’s right: The game began on Saturday, April 18, was suspended after 4 a.m. on Sunday, April 19, and was finally finished after 18 minutes of baseball on Tuesday, June 23.

But that’s only part of what makes the longest game so intriguing. In 2018, I interviewed Mike Tamburro, the former president of the team and now the vice chairman and a co-owner. He offered the following insights and observations about the storied game:

  • It was a cold April night, with 40-mph winds blowing straight in from right field.
  • The game was delayed at the start for a half-hour because one of the light towers wasn’t working.
  • The game lasted 33 innings, but all of the scoring took place in just four innings: the Red Wings opened up the scoring with a run in the top of the seventh to take a 1-0 lead; the PawSox tied it in the ninth to make it 1-1 and push the game into extra innings; Rochester went ahead 2-1 in the top of the 21st inning, but the PawSox kept the marathon going by knotting it at 2-2 in the bottom of the inning; the PawSox went ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the 33rd inning, on June 23, for the win.
  • The reason the game dragged on all night long is linked to a vastly different era in communications, before texting and cellphones. The delay in halting the game was due to a faulty mimeograph machine, which, for younger readers, is best described as a bulky copying machine. What happened was that the International League’s rules governing the league’s 12:50 a.m. curfew – which mandated that no inning start after that time – was inadvertently missing from the umpires’ copy of the rules, and the umpires refused to halt the game without direct authorization from the league.

As the game went on into the wee hours, Tamburro spent several hours calling International League President Harold Cooper on what we now call a landline, but didn’t reach him until after 4 a.m. Cooper immediately suspended the game. By then, 32 innings had been played.

  • The teams had a regular game scheduled for Sunday, April 19, which was Easter, but since the players, and especially the pitchers, were exhausted, the decision was made to finish the suspended game on June 23 – the next time the rivals would meet in Pawtucket. That decision proved especially prudent as Sunday’s game was tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth – and would have gone into extra innings had not PawSox player Sam Bowen hit a walk-off home run.

The longest game is likely to remain the longest in the minor leagues forever because the International League, starting in 2018, revised the way extra-inning games are handled. Now, from the 10th inning on, both teams start their respective extra innings with a man on second base, making an extended extra-innings game unlikely.

Test your knowledge of the longest game in the quiz that accompanies this column on the next page. One of the best books to learn more about the game is “The Longest Game,” by Steven Krasner; it’s suitable for all ages.

LARRY KESSLER ( is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro.