Wednesday, February 12, 2020

17 Innings, Angels-Indians, Oh What a Relief It Is

TRIVIA QUESTION:  Which aging slugger led the Angels in home runs in 1966?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Mickey Mantle's career began in the 1951 season and while he would go onto smack 536 home runs over the course of his playing days, his rookie season saw his lowest HR total. His 13 dingers in 1951 was his all time career low. 

In today's major league world starting pitchers rarely go past six innings. Relievers struggle to go more than one inning. On May 31, 1966 the Angels and the Indians saw something rarely ever seen in baseball before or since. Reliever Steve Hargan worked 10 innings for the Tribe, reliever and usual short man Bob Lee went seven for California. The game was a 17 inning marathon which started as a night game in Anaheim.
The Indians would get used to playing extra inning affairs in 1966. They played in 17 of them with two going 15 innings. None however matched the game on the last day of May. Sonny Siebert started for Cleveland and Marcelino Lopez took the mound for the home club. Lopez barely survived the third inning, giving up four runs on four hits, capped by a three run blast by Chico Salmon. Howie Reed came on the fourth.

The Angels finally got to Siebert in the 7th. Trailing 4-2, a two-out pinch double by Frank Malzone preceded a two run homer by Jose Cardenal. A wild pitch was mixed in between the two events. Manager Birdie Tebbitts had seen enough. He brought in reliable swing man Steve Hargan who gave up a single to Jim Fregosi and a wild pitch with Rick Reichardt standing at the plate, before Reichardt went down on a third strike.

Bob Lee took over for aging Lew Burdette who had come on in relief of Reed. Hargan however was the man of the hour. He stayed in to pitch and for 10 innings held the Angels at bay.  He would give up only six singles over the next nine-plus innings heading into the 17th.
Lee matched him pitch for pitch. He gave up but a pair of singles and at one point put down 18 batters in a row. It was about all Lee, usually a hard throwing short reliever, had in the tank. Manager Bill Rigney called upon his ace starter Dean Chance to help out in the 15th. Chance was up to the task until the roof caved in early the next morning in the 17th.

With one out, Vic Davalillo and Chuck Hinton singled. Leon Wagner came up to pinch hit for Tony Martinez and drew an intentional walk. With the bases jammed, Pedro Gonzales singled to drive in a run. Hargan stepped to the plate. Why after 10 innings of relief pitching would Tebbitts send Wagner to pinch hit for Martinez and not Hargan is a question which remains controversial. Whatever the reasoning it worked.

Chance wild pitched across another run, and ending up walking Hargan to load the bases again. The Indians now led 6-4. When Chance walked Jim Landis to score the 7th run, Rigney had seen enough. Jim McGlothlin was called into the record the final out. 

To start the bottom of the 17th Hargan got both Fregosi and Reichardt but gave up a single to Willie Smith. When Tom Satriano singled and Smith scored all the way from first base to make it 7-5, Tebbitts finally pulled Hargan in favor of starter Luis Tiant who got the final out.
Four hours and 58 minutes after the game started, it was over. The Indians and Steve Hargan (1-2) were victorious. Hargan went 10 innings, gave up nine hits, a walk and struck out nine Angels. Chance took the loss (3-6) despite the performance of Bob Lee who pitched seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits.

Not many of the 14,255 fans stuck around for the finale on Wednesday morning but traffic was probably pretty light when they left the Big A. Every non-pitcher who started for both teams had at least one hit except for Reichardt, who drew the collar, going 0-8 on the night. He was batting .296 at the time. He would end up at .288.

The next night the Angels lost to the Orioles 9-7, while the Indians flew back to Kansas City and played that same night, losing 8-3 to the A's in a short game. The plane ride was likely a quiet one with most players unable to keep their eyes open. 

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