The longer it went, the uglier it got. The uglier it got, the longer it went. Nine innings of baseball between the Orioles and New York lasted 4 hours and 21 minutes last night at Camden Yards, the longest nine-inning game in major-league history.
The Yankees won 13-10, but only the most patient of fans or insomniacs from the original crowd of 43,117 remained when the game finally ended at 11: 57 p.m. Those who stayed probably won't remember that it was Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez who hit a three-run homer off Orioles right-hander Keith Shepherd to break a 9-9 tie.
But they will recall all too many pitches (exactly 400), pitching changes (eight), lead changes (four), runs (23), ejections (two), mound conferences (innumerable), all those things that drag down a game. The previous record was 4 hours and 18 minutes, set on Oct. 2, 1962, in a game between the Dodgers and Giants.
Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro was asked afterward if the game felt that long. "It seemed like two days and 17 hours," said Palmeiro.
This, less than two weeks after the Orioles and Rangers played 4 hours and 15 minutes in the O's 26-7 loss, a game that fell three minutes short of the record.
"We were close in Texas," said Brady Anderson. "I knew we could do it."
Ernie Tyler, the field and umpire attendant, said that a total of 96 balls were used in the game, more than he can ever remember.
The first six innings lasted more than three hours, lowlighted by 18 runs, 22 hits, seven pitchers. Orioles 9, Yankees 9 -- lots ventured, nothing gained.
But Derek Jeter singled off Shepherd, the Orioles' fourth pitcher, to open the seventh, and advanced to second on a hard grounder by Jim Leyritz. Shepherd intentionally walked Paul O'Neill, who had hit a monster homer in the first inning.
Ruben Sierra flied to left, and Shepherd was one out from escaping the inning. Next to bat: Tino Martinez, who had already come within a baseball stitch or two of hitting a homer, when he smacked a ball off the ledge of the scoreboard in right, a long single.
This time, Martinez bypassed the scoreboard and hit a ball to the seats in right-center field, a three-run homer, and the Yankees assumed a 12-9 advantage.
For once, a lead held, although the Orioles threatened constantly. Anderson came within several feet of tying the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh. When left fielder Gerald Williams caught his drive just in front of the wall, Anderson flipped his helmet high into the air, approximate hang time 2.56 seconds. It was inevitable that whoever lost this game -- the defeat dropped the O's out of first in the AL East for the first time this season, a half-game behind the Yankees -- would be disgusted and angry.
Runs are scoring at a record pace, and all the parameters and traditions of the game of baseball are changing. Pitchers are to hitters what Ed McMahon was to Johnny Carson, the straight men providing the means for the laughter. Batting coaches can now be called offensive coordinators, pitching coaches are defensive coordinators. This is like the NBA in the late '70s: The first three quarters are irrelevant, and there's no defense. Ultimately, after the two sides trade shots, the game is decided in the late innings.
In the first inning, the Yankees immediately went to the long bomb. O'Neill hit a thigh-high fastball from Arthur Rhodes so far to right that even those positioned in the flag court didn't bother to move. The ball cleared Boog's Barbecue and bounced on Eutaw Street, a 431-foot homer, worth a couple of runs.
Meant nothing. Anderson tripled leading off the bottom of the first, the Orioles added a couple of hits and a walk and Yankees third baseman Leyritz threw a ball away at first, and the Orioles led, 3-2.
Meant nothing. Mariano Duncan started the top of the second with a single, Williams doubled, and eventually, New York added a couple of runs to take a 4-3 lead.
Meant absolutely nothing. Chris Hoiles, who earlier in the day witnessed the birth of his first child, bashed a homer to straightaway center, his sixth of the year. Jeffrey Hammonds singled, Anderson walked, Roberto Alomar nudged a bunt single toward third and on and on it went, until finally Yankees starter Andy Pettitte was relieved by Scott Kamieniecki with four runs in, two runners on base, and nobody out.
Cal Ripken lofted Kamieniecki's first pitch into the corner, two more runs crossing.
The Yankees trailed 9-4 and their starting pitcher was gone and yet, in the final outcome, all those runs would become meaningless, nothing more than a starting point.
Rhodes walked onto the mound to start the fifth with a five-run advantage. Three of the first four Yankee batters in the inning had hits, and Rhodes -- who had required 113 pitches to accumulate 13 outs -- was relieved by Jimmy Myers.