So far in this series, we've touched on games that were interesting, but not necessarily noteworthy. That all changes today, as we're sitting on the 43rd anniversary of the longest game in franchise history. That's right, on April 15, 1968 the Houston Astros beat the New York Mets 1-0 in 24 innings.
In this 6 hour, 6 minute shutout marathon, the Astros set the franchise record for most at-bats and most batters faced in a game. They also struck out the second-most batters in team history with 20 and tied for third-most intentional walks in a game.
More surprising? That the Astros only used five pitchers in the entire game! Every one of those five went mutliple innings, as starter Don Wilson threw a complete nine, relievers John Buzhardt and Danny Coombs threw two apiece before a 23-year old named Jim Ray came out of the bullpen to throw seven shutout innings in relief.
Ray struck out 11, allowing just two hits and one walk. His 11 punchouts was over twice as many as starter Don Wilson had in nine innings. What's more, this was just his sixth major league appearance. He had a 10.38 career ERA and just eight career strikeouts. After this game? He went on to strike out 177 in 184 innings over the next two seasons coming out of the Astros bullpen, earning him the nickname "Ray Gun."*
*We like to think that nicknames were more creative in the old days. This was not one of those cases.
It was also host to a murderer's row of big names. On the Mets side, a big chunk of the MIracle Mets were there, including Tommy Agee, Ron Swoboda, Art Shamsky, Cleon Jones, Ed Kranepool and Don Cardwell. Agee and Swoboda combined to go 0 for 20 with nine strikeouts. If you add in Ken Boswell, the trio went 1 for 30 with 12 strikeouts. That's the 2-3-4 hitters in the Mets order for this game, too.
At least the Mets were saved by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver tossing 10 shutout innings, allowing just two hits and no walks while striking out three. The Mets then turned it over to seven relievers, who combined to strike out 12 in 14 innings.
As you might expect, there weren't a ton of scoring opportunities in this one. Each side had a double and those were the only extra-base hits in the entire game. Catcher Hal King went 1 for 9, but his only hit was a double for Houston with one out in the bottom of the second. He even got to third on a wild pitch, but Bob Aspromonte hit a grounder to Boswell at second and he gunned King down at the plate for the second out.
Ed Charles doubled for the Mets to lead off the 17th inning. He advanced to third when Jerry Grote bunted him over to third. Ray got pinch-hitter Bud Harralson to strike out on a foul bunt attempt and got a groundout to short by Al Weis to end the threat.
The final inning of this game was pretty gripping. Norm Miller led off with a single, before Mets pitcher Les Rohr intentionally walked Jimmy Wynn after a balk put Miller on second. Rusty Staub grounded out to second, but Boswell's only play was at first, moving both runners up. That's when Rohr intentionally walked the second batter of the inning (John Bateman) to load the bases for Aspromonte.
Of course, a 24 inning came can't end neatly, so Aspromonte drove in the winning run when he reached on an error by shortstop Al Weis. That let MIller score from third, ending this monster of a game. Aspromonte was 0 for 9 on the long night, but did pick up the only RBI in the game. Shortstop Hector Torres was the offensive star for Houston, going 3 for 8 with a walk.
Wade Blasingame picked up the victory for Houston, pitching four shutout innings while allowing one hit and one walk, striking out one. It was the 24-year old's only victory that season and one of just 17 victories he accumulated in six seasons with the Astros.
You have to feel for Weis, who was filling in at shortstop for Harralson, who sat the game with a sore arm. According to this extensive writeup over at Astros Daily, Weis' post-game comments were short and sweet: "I plain blew it," Weis said.