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18 Innings Are A Lot, But Orioles-Mariners Game Is No Record-Breaker

Fans were few and far-between (and possibly not awake) as the Orioles-Mariners game went on and on in Seattle.
Otto Greule Jr.
Getty Images
Fans were few and far-between (and possibly not awake) as the Orioles-Mariners game went on and on in Seattle.

Hearing about the 18-inning, 5 hours and 44 minutes-long game between the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners that stretched from last night into today set us off in search of news about Major League Baseball's longest games.

Perhaps you knew, but we didn't, that the Brooklyn Robins (later known as the Dodgers) and Boston Braves played for 26 innings on May 1, 1920 — and the game finished in a 1-1 tie. It was ended because of darkness. Perhaps even more remarkably, according to Sports Illustrated, the game lasted just 3 hours, 50 minutes.

Yes, baseball games do occasionally end in a tie. It happened fairly recently to the Orioles, for instance. In September 2003 one of the team's games with the New York Yankees was called after five innings with the score 1-1 (Hurricane Isabel was pummeling Baltimore). Because the game had gone long enough to be considered official, all the statistics counted. There are provisions for adding a game to the teams' schedules in such cases, if the tie would affect the post-season standings.

BaseballReference.com says the longest game, time-wise, was the 25-inning epic played by the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox from May 8-9, 1984. The teams played for 17 innings, took a break to get some sleep, and then resumed play. By the time the White Sox' Harold Baines homered to give his team a 7-6 in, the teams had played for 8 hours, 6 minutes. The White Sox' Carlton Fisk caught for all 25 innings, a Major League record.

One other game also lasted 25 innings, BaseballReference says: a 1974 matchup of the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. the Cards won, 4-3.

Such comparisons don't mean, of course, that the Orioles and Mariners players weren't involved in something special. The game, won by the O's 4-2, lasted so long, in fact, that one of the Mariners aged a year. His birthday is today. As SeattlePI's Mariners blog writes, "when Tuesday night's game started, Mariners catcher John Jaso was 28 years old. By the time the game ended, 18 innings and 5:44 later, he had turned 29."

Correction at 9:55 a.m. ET: In our photo caption, we initially said last night's game was in Baltimore. But, it was played in Seattle. The caption is now correct.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.