On the night of July 4, 1985, the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves played just another ordinary regular season game. Fans entered the stadium or turned on the broadcast at home expecting to see just another ball game. Boy, they could not have been farther from the truth of what was about to happen.
When the game headed into extra innings tied at eight a piece, fans were expecting quick end for either side, mainly since Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta was known as the “Launch Pad”. The tenth inning was underway, but nothing was happening.
Finally, three innings later, the Mets took a 10-8 lead with a Howard Johnson two-run blast. In the bottom of the 13th, Mets reliever Tom Gorman would allow a leadoff single, then retire the next two batters. The Braves were down to their final out, but tied the game at 10-10 with a Terry Harper two-run homer that knocked off the foul pole.
The game then went four more scoreless innings, and lead up to an epic 17th inning.
It was now July 5th.
Because Major League Baseball did not have a curfew at the time, this was now the latest played game on record. And so the Mets went on to take an 11-10 lead, on an error by Braves relief pitcher Rick Camp. But that was not before Darryl Strawberry and manager Davey Johnson were ejected by umpire Terry Tata for arguing balls and strikes. It was then when Tata uttered the now famous line, “At three o’clock in the morning, there are no bad calls.”
So now the game went to the bottom of the 17th, and with two outs for the Braves, all hope was lost. It was now 3:30 am and with no pinch hitters left, the Braves sent their relief pitcher Rick Camp up to the plate. Camp, who had not batted since the previous year, was a 1 for 41 lifetime hitter.
The Mets were about to win the game. There was no way this hapless relief pitcher could even get on base. Tom Gorman, who was now pitching in his sixth inning of work, had the same mindset. He got up on Camp two strikes to none, and reared back to throw the final pitch of the ballgame. It was here that Camp would get his name sealed in the annals of baseball lore.
Camp swung as hard as he could, made contact, and the ball flew out of the park as if it was a slugger who had belted it.
As the ball flew over the wall and Camp rounded the bases, the Mets outfielder who watched the ball leave the yard dropped the glove out of his hands, fell to his knees, and put his head in his hands out of pure disbelief.
This would be the most glorious moment in this relief pitcher’s career, but it would lead to his downfall as he could not get his head back in a pitching mind frame for the 18th inning. He would allow five runs and the Mets took a 16-11 lead.
Now the game was over. It could be put in the books and the players could go on with their lives. Well, sort of.
The Braves would rally yet again, albeit not enough to tie, but give the Mets another scare. The Braves got a man on base via a fielding error and then with two outs, tacked on two walks to load the bases, followed by two singles. It was now 16-13.
Lo and behold, it would all come down to Rick Camp again, the hero of the previous inning. The scenario was the same; down to his final strike. However, the humor of the baseball Gods would not be with him this time, and he would strike out swinging to end the game.
The game that started at 7:05 pm on July 4th ended at 3:55 am on July 5th.
Because of the preplanned fireworks celebration for Independence Day, the stadium went on with it, and at roughly 4:05 am, began to shoot off the rockets, sending downtown Atlanta residents into a panic. The police station operators were swamped with phone calls of people thinking the city was being bombed.
Although the Mets-Cardinals game lacked the flair, intensity and excitement as the Mets-Braves game from twenty-five years earlier, one could not help but think of this wild and wacky game when the Cardinals tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the 19th off a Yadier Molina RBI single.
This was an extremely boring game, and I only started to watch on and off since the 10th inning, but it is something that will be special in baseball for at least this season, because it is not every day we get to have an epic game on our hands.
The fact that it stayed 0-0 for 18 innings only makes it more mind-boggling.
I hope everyone enjoyed it, and caught themselves a nice piece of MLB history in the making.