Like an avid mystery reader frustrated after finding the last two pages identifying the killer ripped out of a 600-page novel, so were the fans at Braves Field on May 1, 1920. There would be no closure for a game that went nearly triple the standard nine-inning metric. The Robins-Braves contest ended with a 1-1 tie after 26 innings; Ernie Krueger scored for Brooklyn, Walton Cruise for Boston. Umpire George Magerkurth called the game because of darkness. The game broke the previous major league record of innings set in a 1906 Athletics-Red Sox bout that went 24 innings.
It was an epic worthy of a finish that never happened.
For three hours and 50 minutes, the teams competed under an overcast sky;[i] the visitors from Brooklyn ended the game with nine hits while their hosts racked up 15. On the mound, hurlers Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger combined for 12 strikeouts—eight for the former and four for the latter. Cadore gave up five walks and struck out eight. Oeschger had the game’s only wild pitch. He walked three and struck out four.
Cadore spent most of his major league career with Brooklyn, débuting in 1915, leaving partly through 1923 to spend the rest of the season with the White Sox, and finishing his career the following year with the Giants, where he pitched in two games as a reliever for a 0-0 record. In 1920, he went 15-14, starting 30 games and pitching in five more as a reliever.
Oeschger had a career that took him to the Phillies, the Braves, the Giants, and the Robins (later known permanently as the Dodgers). With almost the same 1920 record as his counterpart, Oeschger hurled in 38 games—30 starts, eight relief appearances—for a 15-13 record. His distinguishing statistics in 1920 were his league-leading 115 earned runs and 10 home runs allowed.
For pitchers with mediocre records, the May Day display was Herculean. The New York Times described, “Joe Oeschger and Leon Cadore were the real outstanding heroes among a score of heroes in the monumental affray of this afternoon. The two twirlers went the entire distance, pitching each practically the equivalent o fthree full games in this one contest, and, mirabile dictu, instead of showing any sign of weakening under the prolonged strain, each of them appeared to grow stronger. In the final six innings neither artist allowed even the shadow of a safe bingle.”[ii]
Brooklyn’s run came in the fifth inning, when Oeschger walked Krueger. A 1-3 grounder by Cadore gave Krueger the pathway to second base. Ivy Olson singled home Krueger.
Boston scored in the sixth inning. With one out, Cruise smashed the game’s only triple. Walter Holke flied out to left fielder and future Hall of Famer Zack Wheat, followed by Cruise scoring on Tony Boeckel’s single to center. Boeckel tried to score when another future Hall of Famer, Rabbit Maranville doubled. Center fielder Hood fired the ball to Cadore for the cutoff, then Cadore threw to Krueger, who protected the plate.
When Magerkurth ended the game with nightfall nudging daylight out of the way, Brooklyn and Boston each had 85 at-bats. The Robins went to the World Series in 1920, losing to the Indians in five games; the contest was a best-of-nine competition that saw, to date, the only unassisted triple play. With Pete Kilduff on second base, Indians second baseman Bill Wambsganss fielded a line drive from Clarence Mitchell, touched second base to take care of Mitchell, and tagged Otto Miller racing from first base, thinking that Kilduff’s smash was a single.
[i] Thomas S. Rice, “Superbas In 26 Inning Tie—World’s Record For English Athletes,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 2, 1920.
[ii] “Brooklyn And Boston Break Big League Record By Battling For Twenty-Six Innings,” New York Times, May 2, 1920.