Marathon Man Joe Oeschger Pitches His First 20 Inning Game

On April 30, 1919, Joe Oeschger (pronounced Esh-ker) of the Phillies faced off against legendary spitballer Burleigh Grimes of the Brooklyn Robins (aka the Dodgers) in front of 1,300 fans at the Baker Bowl. Neither pitcher started well, and after 3 innings, the Robins held a 5-4 lead. But the two pitchers settled down, and after 9 innings, the score was 6-6. Suddenly the bats of both teams went quiet, and Grimes and Oeschger starting mowing down the opposition. They essentially pitched a shutout, with neither team scoring in the next 9 innings.

Finally, in the top of 19th, the Robins got to Oeschger and scored 3 runs. But baseball is a funny game, and the Phils answered this volley with three runs of their own, with our old friend Gavvy Cravath knocking in two runs as a pinch hitter, replacing Hick Cady, who had gone 1-8 thus far in the game. Finally, after 20 innings, the umpires had to call the game of darkness with the score tied 9-9. Oeschger hadn’t exactly done his finest work…he gave up 24 hits. (The only Phillies player to hit a home run in the game was the wonderfully named Possum Whitted, while the only Robin to Homer was Hi Myers.) Here is the box score from that game.

Incredibly, exactly one year and a day later, Oeschger pitched an even longer game. He had been traded to the Boston Braves, and on May 1, 1920, they took on those same Brooklyn Robins. Oeschger faced off against Leon Cadore, and both men worked wonders for their ERAs. After 26 innings, the umpires called the game off for darkness, with the score tied at 1-1. Oeschger had not only pitched 26 innings of one run ball, but he pitched a no-hitter over the final 9 innings of the game. It is still the longest game in MLB history (here is the rather amusing box score from that one. Check out Brave 2nd baseman Charlie Pick, who went 0-11, dropping his BA from .324 to .250!). Furthermore, Oeschger is the only pitcher in MLB history to pitch two 20 inning games. Cliff Lee is a workhorse and all, but I think Joe’s record is pretty safe. Everything you could ever want to know about Joe Oeschger can be found at Baseball Biography Project.

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