When I was young, and first attending baseball games, the best thing I could ever hope for was extra innings (well, actually a doubleheader was better as we were guaranteed 18 innings). That is because the longer the game lasted, the longer would my joy at simply being at the yard be extended.
However, times have changed, and though I love that I get to work at the yard a good 40-50 games a year, the last thing anyone in the press box wants is those same extra innings.
Now, that might sound like sour grapes, but, for most of the folks working the game, it is indeed their "8-5" and for the most part, most people don't like staying after work any longer than they have to, irrespective of the profession.
The other reason is that extra innings just throws everything in our universe off.
For, an extra innning game generally means funky plays and weird calls. It means writing and re-writing the leads for articles and running up and down between the clubhouse and booth as players come in and out of the game.
For the Official Scorer, my mates Jerrin, Jeff, or Mike--who score for STATS, and me, it means another inning of tracking every pitch and the disposition thereof.
And, that is a lot harder, and takes a lot more focus than you might imagine, for if each half-inning averages 18 pitches--or 36 per inning--that simply affords that many more chances to make a mistake as the game wears on, for we do indeed get tired after awhile, as anyone would at work.
Well, as it happened, I have had two extra inning games this year that tested my endurance.
The first was the Athletics' 19-inning game against the Angels last April 30, a game that lasted six hours and thirty-two minutes. The second was last Monday, when the Mets beat the Giants 4-3 on an unearned run over 16 innings after five hours and twenty-six minutes.
Both games did have weirdness, which is one of the things that makes baseball fascinating.
For instance, there were three triples, and also three swinging third strikes that necessitated a throw to first (thus a K23 putout). There were three terrific defensive plays by Brandon Crawford, all web gem quality. And yet, the game ended as a result of the same Crawford botching a fairly simple play.
The Giants stranded 18 baserunners during the 16 innings, while the Mets just seven, as San Francisco fanned 19 New York hitters.
But, perhaps the oddest stat was over those 16 innings and 48 outs recorded, there were no putouts to center fielder Gregor Blanco over the entire game.
That is really strange. Strange enough for the media team for the Giants to note it while the OS and I happened to be discussing the same thing after the game as we were squaring out box scores.
But, there was also the tactical blunder made by Bruce Bochy in the 14th inning.
With George Kontos pitching, and Eric Young on first, pitching coach Dave Righetti went to the hill to talk with Kontos as David Murphy stepped into the box. On the second pitch to the Mets second sacker, Young took off and stole second, so Bochy went out--mid at-bat--to put in Javier Lopez, a southpaw to finish off Murphy (also a lefty).
The problem is a manager cannot go to the hill twice during a single at-bat, per the rules. If he does so, the pitcher must complete the current at-bat--meaning Murphy--and after the conclusion, that pitch must come out. Meaning Kontos had to finish pitching to Murphy, and then he had to be removed.
This was a rule enforcement over half of us in the booth had never seen enforced, so once again it was one of those "never saw that before" baseball moments. In the end it was inconsequential, but at the time, it was scorebook chaos.
All this does mean I did have to log 12 hours working two games, which is usually about three-and-a-half games worth of work. And, while I didn't get to sleep until two in the morning last Monday--and, 3:30 A.M. back when the Athletics triumphed after a Brandon Moss walk-off in the 19th--and it meant all that extra stress and pitches (638 for Oakland game and 517 for the Giants game), I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
A few years back, I worked an Oakland night game on a Friday, then had to go in to work the next day's game which was a day game. Meaning I left the yard around 11 P.M. and then had to be back by 11 A.M. the next morning.
I got into the elevator with Marcel Lachman, and he looked and asked if I had worked last night and I nodded. "It is kind of like having a hangover without being drunk" I said, and Lach nodded, sort of smiling.
"But," I finished, "it is still a lot like that bumper sticker about the worst day fishing is still better than the best day at work or in an office."
However long our games last, it is still a pretty good deal.