To commemorate one of the nicest quirks of the 1988 season, here’s part of the San Jose Mercury News story for an Oakland A’s game on July 4:
Maybe the reason the A’s have the best record in the majors is that they get more practice than anybody else.
They played 16 innings again Monday and won the same way they won Sunday in Toronto, on a home run by Mark McGwire in the 16th. In a new twist, Stan Javier followed McGwire with another homer for a 4-2 final over the red-hot Cleveland Indians.
Red-hot, as in angry. Four Indians were ejected during the game, including Manager Doc Edwards, whose fit didn’t end until after he had bashed his fists into every inanimate object in the Cleveland dugout.
The Indians would have incurred a fifth ejection, if it had been anything other than the final out that provoked Cleveland’s Ron Washington to take off after A’s pitcher Dennis Eckersley. Washington wanted to fight because of Eckersley’s reaction to striking out Washington to end a 4-hour, 52-minute game.
Washington never got to Eckersley, an A’s-Indians scrum quickly developing at home plate. No punches were thrown, but some words were, particularly by Cleveland’s Joe Carter, whom Eckersley later referred to as “Captain Carter.” Washington, still unsettled after the game, said, “I don’t want to talk about it in the press. He knows what he said. If you want to know, go ask him.”
”He (Washington) was just standing there, like he wanted me or something, so I said, ‘Get out of here; get the hell off the field,’ ” Eckersley said, using a casual wave of the hand to describe the tone of his remark to Washington. “And then he snaps. It was like an open invitation to get crazy. C’mon, I don’t need that stuff.
”I understand that he was frustrated, but, hey, I was excited,” Eckersley pleaded. “What am I supposed to do?”
A celebration wasn’t out of order. By winning, the A’s (52-29) reached the midpoint of the 162-game schedule at their highest high, 23 games over .500, a level they had reached for one day in early June. They also reached the midpoint with more innings played than any other team in the majors, 50 more innings than the average A.L. team.
The Indians, losers of 18 of 24, could have won in the 12th. They had runners at first and second with one out and Julio Franco batting against Corsi. Franco was called out on a low strike and was then thrown out during a fury that saw him make physical contact with plate umpire Ted Hendry on two occasions.
As that scene was calming, Tschida started an even wilder one by ejecting Snyder from the Cleveland dugout for making a gesture that Tschida read as: “You stink.”
Edwards came running onto the field again and was ejected when he hurled his baseball cap in much the same way that Goryl had thrown his. Edwards got his money’s worth, ranting for 10 minutes on the field and then punching and kicking his way through the Cleveland dugout. Later, the back of his left hand revealed a nickel-sized scab and an ugly, purplish bruise.
He couldn’t have felt much better during the 14th inning, when the Indians failed to score with one out and the bases loaded. A’s pitcher Greg Cadaret escaped from this sudden-death jam, striking out the next two batters on three pitches each as Todd Burns had done a day earlier in Toronto.
Two innings later, McGwire, like McGwire a day earlier against Toronto left-hander John Cerutti, broke the tie with a smash over the left-field fence against Cleveland left-hander Brad Havens.
”It ran through my mind, sure,” said McGwire. “We’re all tired of extra innings. Maybe there should be a limit of nine innings and then flip a coin.” That’s OK by the A’s pitching staff, which must endure a doubleheader today. That should make 50 innings in three days, a minimum based on the shaky presumption that baseball is a nine-inning game.
And here’s the Mercury News describing the July 3 game:
Jose Canseco hit three home runs Sunday, and there was no question which homer he treasured most.
It was the one Mark McGwire hit in the 16th inning to give the A’s a 9-8 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in the longest American League game this season.
“I’m so happy Mac hit that one out,” said Canseco, whose three homers and six RBIs represented career firsts for him. “When he hit it, I thought, ‘Great, maybe we can get out of here before the 50th inning.’ ”
In the ninth inning, Carney Lansford’s third error of the season led to Dennis Eckersley’s third blown save of the season, which led to the A’s 10th extra-inning game (no team has played more), which led to Canseco’s third home run of the day (a two-run shot in the 12th for an 8-6 lead), which led to Tony Fernandez’s homer in the bottom of the 12th (a two-run shot off Greg Cadaret for an 8-8 tie), which led to Burns pitching 4 2/3 innings of relief two days before a scheduled start.
And, finally, it ended with McGwire sending one of the first pitches from John Cerutti, the Blue Jays’ fifth pitcher, over the left-field fence for his 14th homer.
As happy as Canseco was to see it, Lansford might have been happier.
”The whole time we were in extra innings, I couldn’t help thinking it was completely my fault,” said the A’s third baseman, whose two-base throwing error with two out in the ninth was immediately followed by Fernandez’s double off Eckersley. “I feel a lot better now that we won, but I still don’t feel too good, because we’re going to Cleveland with a lot of tired pitchers now.”
The S.F. Chronicle added:
Winning pitcher Todd Burns went 4 innings to win his first big-league decision. He was the sixth A’s pitcher and was going to be the man of record no matter what – they simply had nobody else.
“I don’t think many of our guys have ever pitched under those conditions,” said pitching coach Dave Duncan, “knowing they were going to get the decision, no matter what, that there was nobody left to help.”
Burns’ path was not easy. He had to rid himself of a two-on, one-out problem in the 12th and a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the 15th.
“I just blocked everything out and tried to go after them,” said Burns, who seemed unimpressed by his accomplishment. “I really didn’t have a good breaking ball, although I had some movement on my fastball.”