Wade Boggs may have pounded out 3,010 hits in an 18-year Major League Baseball career, but one of his four-hit nights while working his way to the top was nothing for him to brag about.
The performance in question came in one of the most surreal baseball games ever and while on the field against another future Hall of Fame infielder.
Few MLB hitters could match Wade Boggs
Wade Boggs was a bit slow and not much more than adequate as a third baseman until the back half of his career, but he could hit from the left side of the plate better than just about anyone in the last half of the 20th century. The 12-time All-Star finished his career with a .328 batting average in 2,432 games.
Boggs’ best years at the plate for the Boston Red Sox, where he played his first 11 seasons, included averages of .368, .357, .363, and .366 in four consecutive seasons beginning in 1985. Those accounted for four of his five American League batting titles. He also averaged nearly 108 walks per season in that span.
Boggs retired after the 1999 season with a .415 on-base percentage, which helped him score at least 100 runs in seven straight seasons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Wade Boggs had one strange night in Pawtucket
Wade Boggs made his Boston Red Sox debut in 1982. One game in his final season in the minors must have made him feel like he’d never reach the major leagues because the contest simply would not end. Boggs played in the longest game in professional baseball history, a 33-inning affair between teams in the Triple-A International League.
The game between the Rochester Red Wings and the host Pawtucket Red Sox began on the night of April 18, 1981, extended far into the early morning hours of April 19, and was concluded on June 23. It dragged on for 8 hours, 25 minutes of time on the field and ended with Pawtucket plating a run in the bottom of the 33rd inning for a 3-2 victory.
The game was tied 1-1 through nine innings, and neither team mounted much offense until Rochester took the lead in the top of the 21st inning. However, Boggs kept the affair alive in the bottom half of the inning well after midnight on Easter morning.
“When I doubled in the tying run in the 21st inning, I didn’t know if the guys wanted to hug me or slug me,” Boggs said. “But, being competitors, we did want to win the game.”
With the umpires unable to find any rule dictating that the game should be suspended, scoreless inning after scoreless inning ensued. Finally, someone was able to reach International League president Harold Cooper, who ordered the contest stopped at the completion of the next inning. That came at 4:09 a.m.
A merciful conclusion to the marathon
Wade Boggs went home and went to bed after the game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings was suspended early on Easter morning.
“I remember calling my father the next day and telling him I got four hits,” Boggs said. “He said, ‘That’s great.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but I was up 12 times. We went 32 (innings) last night.'”
Still, he had a better night than another future Hall of Famer. Rochester shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. went 2-for-13 at the plate.
Pawtucket and Rochester were scheduled to play an afternoon game on Sunday. With both benches and pitching staffs depleted, the managers and the league office decided that the suspended game would be resumed during the Red Wings’ next trip to Pawtucket.
That decision proved to be inspired. A strike by players had shut down Major League Baseball and made the June 23 resumption a major national event. A sellout crowd and 140 media members showed up for what proved to be one inning and 18 minutes of work.
Bob Ojeda retired the Red Wings in the top of the 33rd inning. Pawtucket’s Marty Barrett was hit by a pitch, went to third on a single and scored when Dave Koza laced a single off Cliff Speck to end the longest game in pro baseball history.