Author: Dan Barry
Title: Bottom of the 33rd
Narrator: Dan Barry
Publication Info: [New York] : Harper Audio, 2011.
I’ve long been aware that Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium hosted the longest professional baseball game in history, a 33-inning affair between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings in 1981. I knew that the game featured two future Hall of Famers, Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken. Barry’s book fills me on a lot that I didn’t know. For example, the game was played well into Easter morning and the weather was so miserably cold that the players burned broken bats in barrels to keep warm. The game was allowed to play so long due to a misprint in the International League rule book that left out the paragraph about curfews. Thus a rather stubborn umpire continued the game until receiving word from the league president at 4:09 am. I also didn’t know that when the game was completed in June of that year, it received international attention boosted by the fact that Major League baseball players were on strike at that time.
Barry tells a compelling story of the game, building tension in the relentless procession of pitches, hits, and outs. He draws on recordings of the Red Wings’ radio broadcast and interviews with players, managers, coaches, media, players’ wives, umpires, spectators, and even the bat boy who were present for the game. If the book were about only the game it would fall apart quickly, but Barry weaves in the lives and careers of many of the participants before and after that game. It makes for a lively bit of sportswriting at it’s best.
Recommended books: The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W. P. Kinsella, Wild and Outside: How a Renegade Minor League Revived the Spirit of Baseball in America’s Heartland by Stefan Fatsis, and Stolen Season: A Journey Through America and Baseball’s Minor Leagues by David Lamb.