September 11, 1974: Cardinals beat the Mets in 25-inning marathon game

Ironically, in a 25-inning game that lasted seven hours and four minutes and didn’t end until 3:12 a.m., Bake McBride and the St. Louis Cardinals finally captured the 4-3 victory with their speed.

The game was the longest night game in Major League Baseball history, exceeding a 24-inning, 1-0 Astros victory over the Mets in 1968. The game’s total time was only exceeded by a 1964 day game between the Mets and Giants went seven hours and 23 minutes, ending with an 8-6 San Francisco victory after 23 innings. In terms of innings, the contest ranked second only to a 26-inning battle between the Dodgers and Braves in 1920.[1]

The previous record-holder for the Cardinals’ longest game was an 8-7 win over the Cubs that lasted 20 innings in 1930.[2] In all, the Cardinals used a total of 26 players, breaking the National League record, and the Cardinals and Mets combined to use 50 players, setting a new MLB mark.[3]

“I’ve been out till 4 in the morning before, but never on a team bus going from the ballpark to the hotel,” Cardinals equipment manager Butch Yatkeman said.[4]

Both teams opened the evening with first-inning runs. Mets starter Jerry Koosman issued one-out walks to Ted Sizemore and Reggie Smith before Joe Torre made him pay with an RBI single into left field. Koosman limited the damage, however, when Ted Simmons lined into an inning-ending double play.

The Mets answered in the bottom of the inning against Bob Forsch. After a one-out error and a wild pitch, Mets first baseman John Milner doubled into right field to tie the game 1-1.

Both pitchers exchanged zeroes until the bottom of the fifth, when Mets second baseman Felix Milan – who finished with four hits and a walk in 11 plate appearances – reached with an infield single. Left fielder Cleon Jones followed with a home run over the left-field wall to give New York a 3-1 lead.

“It was a fastball where I didn’t want to put it – a big mistake,” Forsch said.[5]

Heading into the ninth inning, it looked as though that might be all the support Koosman needed for his 14th win of the season. Koosman struck out Torre to open the frame, but Ted Simmons followed with an infield single. It was just the Cardinals’ fourth hit of the game.

After Koosman struck out McBride looking, he was one out away from the complete-game victory. Cardinals third baseman Ken Reitz, however, had other plans. After Koosman fooled him with a first-pitch changeup, Reitz hit a fastball over the left-field wall to tie the game, 3-3.

“I was guessing fastball,” Reitz said. “He made me look bad on the first pitch.”[6]

From there, the bullpens took over. Al Hrabosky threw three innings of relief for the Cardinals and Harry Parker did the same for the Mets. St. Louis pitcher Claude Osteen entered the game with one out in the 14th inning and proceeded to throw 9 1/3 shutout innings, holding the Mets to just four hits while striking out five.

For the Mets, Bob Miller threw a scoreless 13th inning before Bob Apodaca threw three scoreless frames. In the 17th inning, Jerry Cram, a 26-year-old righthander with fewer than 23 major-league innings under his belt, entered the game. He proceeded to shut the Cardinals out for eight innings, scattering seven hits while striking out four.

Cram’s final inning was the 24th. Jack Heidemann led off the inning with a single to right. After Cram intentionally walked Reggie Smith with two outs, Torre singled to load the bases. Cram, however, ended the threat when he got Dick Billings to ground into an inning-ending force out.

It was almost 3 a.m. by the time the Cardinals came up in the top of the 25th inning. McBride led off the inning with an infield single off Mets righthander Hank Webb, a righthander from Copiague, New York. With Reitz at the plate, McBride took a big lead off of first. Webb made a quick throw over to first (the play was ruled a balk), but his throw sailed past Milner and the Mets’ first baseman had to run to retrieve it.

“I was leaning,” McBride said. “Leaning back on my heels, resting. When I turned second, I said to myself, ‘I’m going all the way.’”[7]

Milner threw home as McBride raced past third-base coach Vern Benson’s signal to halt at third. Milner’s throw beat McBride to the plate, but Mets catcher Ron Hodges dropped the ball and was charged with an error.

“It was a good throw by Milner and Hodges probably would have got McBride if he hadn’t taken his eyes off the ball,” Benson said. “I didn’t see any sense in sending him home with nobody out.”[8]

“Bake was running so fast that he couldn’t see the sign,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said. “When you’ve got speed like McBride’s, you make the other guys nervous. You just can’t beat that speed.”[9]

With a 4-3 lead finally in hand, Sonny Siebert returned to the mound for his second inning of relief. After 21-year-old rookie Brock Pemberton singled with two outs for his first major-league hit, Mets pitcher Tom Seaver joked that Pemberton couldn’t keep the memento because it was the last ball left.[10] He may not have been far off, as the game ended up using 15 dozen baseballs.[11]

With Pemberton representing the tying run, Siebert struck out Milner to end the game.

“It was a high fastball,” Siebert said. “It wasn’t a strike, I don’t think. … He was swinging for the fences and just swung through it.”[12]

By that point, all but a few hundred of the 13,460 fans had left. Among the die-hards who remained until the last pitch? Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn and his wife.[13]

Umpire Ed Sudol was behind the plate for all 25 innings. Incredibly, he also had been behind the plate for the 23-inning Mets-Giants game in 1964 and the 24-inning Astros-Mets game in 1968.[14]

“My legs feel like a couple of lead posts,” he said. “The players kept coming up and asking, ‘How are you standing?’ and I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t know how I was standing.”[15]

Sudol said he was hit by the ball six times in the game – once in the chest, once in the shoulder, and four times on his mask.[16]

“One time my mask was knocked off,” he said. “No wonder I had a headache. And I didn’t even go to the bathroom in the seven hours.”[17]


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[1] Hal Bock, “Mets: L-o-n-g hours for nothing,” Daily Item, September 12, 1974.

[2] Neal Russo, “Cardinals Shade Mets In 25 Innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1974.

[3] Neal Russo, “Cardinals Shade Mets In 25 Innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1974.

[4] Neal Russo, “Cardinals Shade Mets In 25 Innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1974.

[5] Neal Russo, “Cardinals Shade Mets In 25 Innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1974.

[6] Paul Ballot, “Night Has 1,000 Outs,” Newsday, September 12, 1974.

[7] Neal Russo, “Cardinals Shade Mets In 25 Innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1974.

[8] Neal Russo, “Cardinals Shade Mets In 25 Innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1974.

[9] Neal Russo, “Cardinals Shade Mets In 25 Innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1974.

[10] Jack Lang, “Baseball’s Longest Night — Mets bow in 25 innings and 7 hours, 4 minutes,” Long Island Press, September 12, 1974.

[11] Paul Ballot, “Night Has 1,000 Outs,” Newsday, September 12, 1974.

[12] Kevin Duffy and Rory Costello, “September 11, 1974: Cardinals prevail over Mets in 25 innings at Shea Stadium,” Society for American Baseball Research Games Project, https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/september-11-1974-cardinals-prevail-over-mets-in-25-innings-at-shea-stadium/.

[13] Paul Ballot, “Night Has 1,000 Outs,” Newsday, September 12, 1974.

[14] Neal Russo, “Cardinals Shade Mets In 25 Innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1974.

[15] Neal Russo, “Cardinals Shade Mets In 25 Innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1974.

[16] Neal Russo, “Sudol Hits Back At ‘Hit’ Mark,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 13, 1974.

[17] Neal Russo, “Sudol Hits Back At ‘Hit’ Mark,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 13, 1974.