Royals reflect on longest game in club history

Epic 18-inning game against the Rangers holds record

Royals reflect on longest game in club history

The Royals and Cardinals completed the May 30 game at Busch Stadium at 3:15 a.m. -- a full eight hours after it started. One would think it was the longest game in Royals history, but it wasn't even close.

What was the longest game in Kansas City Royals history? I'm glad you asked.

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Royals/Kauffman Stadium, this week marks the date of a memorable game played at the ballpark. The game was third in a series against the Texas Rangers. The Royals were going for the sweep and fans were jazzed over the pitching matchup: Nolan Ryan vs. Bret Saberhagen.

"There was so much hype about the pitching matchup," said Kevin Seitzer, Royals third baseman. "That (Royals trainer) Nick Swartz was joking this morning that there would be 35,000 people here and both pitchers would probably get knocked out in the fourth inning."

Swartz undersold the crowd by a few thousand and his outlook regarding the pitching matchup missed the mark as well.

Fans started lining up at Royals Stadium in the early morning hours for the afternoon game. An impressive 38,523 people saw Saberghagen get things going by striking out Gary Pettis. As expected, the game was a pitcher's duel. Both Saberhagen and Ryan pitched for seven innings before returning to their respective bullpens with the game tied, 2-2.

After that, things got a little crazy. It turned into a ballgame, that couldn't, or wouldn't end.

"It was like two games out there today," said Rafael Palmeiro, Rangers first baseman. "One ended when Nolan and Sabes went out. Then it switched to eternity."

The ninth inning saw both teams score, with the Royals tying the game, 3-3, on a pinch-hit leadoff home run by Carmelo Martinez against Rangers closer Jeff Russell. Martinez's blast made it a whole new ballgame. Literally. The teams played another full game before the contest was decided in the 18th inning.

There were 29 hits, the Rangers with 14 and the Royals with 15. Between the two teams there were 127 at-bats. The two clubs combined for 45 runners left on base -- the Rangers with 20 and the Royals with 25 (still a club record). Together, they stranded 28 after the ninth inning. The Royals left the bases loaded three times in extra innings. The Rangers left the bases loaded four times in the game.

Hal McRae, in just his 14th game as Royals manager, was ejected by umpire Dale Scott in the top of the 12th inning after consecutive close plays at third base. Royals catcher Brent Mayne caught all 18 innings and every one of the 354 pitches by seven Kansas City pitchers. The Rangers walked the Royals intentionally six times which remains a club record. The Rangers walked 14 Royals. Kirk Gibson had a record eight at-bats which remains a club record.

Bill Pecota was the last Royals position player on the bench. He entered the game in the 12th and played six innings. George Brett was 4-for-6 with three walks and reached base in 7 of 9 plate appearances. He didn't score a run. Palmeiro was a game worst 0-for-9. Royals starting pitcher Mike Boddicker pitched the 18th inning for Kansas City and was the winning pitcher. Boddicker had also been the Royals starting and winning pitcher in the first game of the series two days earlier.

"It was a long day," said Brett.

The game ended in unusual fashion with the winning run scoring on a throwing error charged to Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Royals shortstop Kurt Stillwell. The errant throw to third allowed Seitzer to touch home plate and mercifully end the marathon.

The final pitch of the game didn't come until the 18th inning at 8:04 p.m. By number of innings (18), the June 6, 1991 game, is tied for the longest game in Royals history with another home game against the Rangers on May 17, 1972. By length of time, the June 6 game has no peer in Royals history clocking in at six hours and 28 minutes.

"You figured it would end as ugly as it did," said Steve Buechele, Rangers third baseman.

After the game Saberhagen was asked for his thoughts about his first ever matchup against Ryan: "I don't know. I think I enjoyed it. Was that today or yesterday?"

Well, it was actually 22 years ago on June 6, 1991, at Royals Stadium, the longest game in Royals history.

Curt Nelson is the Director of the Royals Hall of Fame and has worked for the Royals since the 1999 season. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.