Monday, June 27, 2011

History that never will be repeated

Every once in a while, a historical nugget catches my eye. Just such a thing happened Monday, when I saw a little blurb in the paper noting that it was the 62nd anniversary of a 23-inning game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves.

The most unique thing wasn't the length of the game, which was suspended due to darkness with the score tied at 2. It was this stat line for Dodgers starter Whit Wyatt:

16 IP, 15 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K

That's right: Rookie manager Leo Durocher let Wyatt pitch the first 16 innings for the Dodgers.

Sixteen innings!

These days, managers are routinely criticized for letting guys pitch half that many innings in games for fear of injury.

Wyatt took the mound again five days later and lasted only 1 2/3 innings, but pitched a complete game victory five days after that. He did end up missing the last two months with an injury that season but rebounded to win 56 games from 1940-42.

In 1941, his best season, he went 22-10 with 23 complete games and 7 shutouts. He capped his season by throwing 2 complete games against the Yankees in the World Series, winning Game 2 and losing Game 5. (That Series was best known for Mickey Owen's famed dropped third strike, which cost the Dodgers a win in Game 4.)

Wyatt pitched through 1945 before retiring at 38. He probably would have lasted a couple more seasons but his arm must've still been tired from that 16-inning stint six years earlier.

If a manager today let a pitcher throw 16 innings on June 27, he'd be fired before June 28.

Durocher wasn't fired. He went on to manage in four more decades, win 2,009 games and get inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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