It took 102 years for the Dodgers and Red Sox to reunite in the World Series but when they finally got around to it, they produced a dandy of a game to punctuate the Fall Classic.
Eighteen innings, seven hours, 20 minutes. Game 3, the only one won by LA in the Series, was historic, a tribute to that line from baseball’s national anthem: “I don’t care if I never get back.’’
Somebody pointed out that all four games of the Yankees’ 1939 Series sweep of the Cincinnati Reds took less cumulative time (7 hours, 5 minutes) than the Game 3 marathon between the Dodgers and Red Sox. It was, however, compelling baseball, a reminder that the world’s greatest sport is not governed by a clock like basketball, football and hockey.
And it has always been that way. It is no different today than in 1916, the last time these two franchises played for the championship. Same teams. Same rules.
Oh, there are some differences, including that abomination designated hitter. Brooklyn’s team of that era was called the Robins or the Suburbas. The Dodgers nickname arrived years later and, of course, they now play 3,000 miles away from their original home. The Red Sox turned their backs on historic Fenway Park in the 1916 Series, choosing to play their home games in Braves Field which offered more seats and thus, more revenue.
Money was an issue that year. With the end of the Federal League, players no longer had a wedge to argue for more money. When he refused to accept a salary cut, the Red Sox dumped star center fielder Tris Speaker and replaced him with journeyman Tilly Walker, who contributed a triple to Boston’s Game 1 victory.
The 1916 Series also had its own marathon when Game2 stretched 14 innings before Boston prevailed. It should be noted that the long game was completed in 2 hours, 32 minutes, almost five hours less than this year’s 18-inning affair. The Red Sox and Dodgers each used nine pitchers in their 18-inning game. The 14-inning game in 1916 required just two pitchers. Brooklyn’s Sherry Smith threw a complete game and so did Boston’s starter, a left-hander named Babe Ruth.
Ruth allowed a first-inning inside-the-park home run to Hi Myers and then nothing more. It was the start of a record 29 2/3 scoreless World Series innings streak, that lasted until Whitey Ford topped it in 1961.
The Red Sox won the 1916 Series in five games with Ruth’s lone appearance that Game 2 complete game. It remains the longest postseason complete game victory ever pitched.
The leading hitter in the Series sat out Game 2 against Ruth which helped Casey Stengel accumulate a .364 batting average to top all batters.
In his pre-slugger days, Ruth was a great pitcher. He had 23 wins, nine of them shutouts, and a 1.75 earned run average that season. As good as they are, Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale can’t match those numbers.
Ruth returned to the World Series mound two years later and won two games against the Chicago Cubs. He finished his postseason pitching career with a 0.87 ERA.
And then, he went about hitting the rest of his 714 home runs, making him the best hitting pitcher in history.