I SURVIVED THE AMAZING FOURTH OF JULY GAME (1985)
I did get to go back up to New York for the second half of that ’85 season. They were in a little bit of a pennant drive up there, contending against the Cardinals, so it was a pretty exciting time to get to go up. I remember I was one of the two oldest guys on the Tidewater team at the time I got the call -- me and Ed Glynn, the Flushing Flash. Ed was thirty-two, I was thirty-one. Ed had been with four different organizations and kicked around a lot, so he could understand what this meant to me. He was just ecstatic when he heard I was going up. I think he got just about as excited as I did. Maybe it represented a kind of symbolic victory for us old guys, in his mind.
For an old guy I didn’t pitch half badly in the big leagues once I got back up. Davey Johnson said he liked having me around, and I think I did prove myself useful. "The insurance policy," Davey would call me. They could count on me when any kind of trouble came up. Davey ended up using me every which way that season. I worked middle relief, long relief -- early relief, I preferred to call it -- but I also came on late a time or two and picked myself up a save, and even stepped in four times as a rescue starter. I came up June 21 and got into twenty-two big league games, threw fifty-six innings, went 3-4 with a real good e.r.a., a couple of points down under three.
I wasn’t back up in New York long before I found myself thrown into some real wild games, right in the thick of the pennant race. The craziest might have been a game in Atlanta against the Braves on the fourth of July. The Braves were going nowhere that year under my old friend, Eddie Haas, but they battled us in that holiday game like there was no tomorrow. In fact there almost was no tomorrow, because that game ran on so long it nearly swallowed up July fifth as well.
I’ve still got a button that says I SURVIVED THE 4TH OF JULY GAME. I pitched in the game. For that matter, I was in line to get the win during that game, if it had come to a nice quiet ending like it was supposed to. I came in early and went about three innings. By the time I left we had a three or four run lead. I was just cruising along fine, but Davey yanked me out of there because he wanted to get Jesse Orosco some work. Jesse hadn’t pitched in three or four days. When Davey came out, I handed him the baseball and said, "Okay, that’s fine with me. I’m sticking with my W." I went inside to the clubhouse, took a shower, had a little cerveza. Once you’re out of the game, you can clean up and sit in there and have a beer. Brent Gaff was in there too. So we’re sipping our beers, killing time, and now Jesse starts running into trouble. He was not having a good night at all. All of a sudden the Braves had tied it up.
That game ended up going nineteen innings. Felt more like sixteen weeks, it took so much waiting around to get that thing over. We had people falling down drunk back up there in the clubhouse. Gaffer, he’d been drinking since about the sixth inning. We had two long rain delays. By the middle of the second one he’d passed out. Meanwhile, all this time the caterers kept bringing the post-game food in and then taking it back out. Every time we got what looked like a safe lead, they’d come in and lay out the spread. All of a sudden the game gets tight again, they cover it all up and take it back out. They must have done that four or five times during the course of the night.
The game went on until four o’clock in the morning. We figured at last we had it won when we scored in the top of the seventeenth. But then, dang if in their half the Braves didn’t come up off the floor and make another run at us. Now Tom Gorman’s in there pitching -- Goose Gorefax we used to call him, a mixture of Goose Gossage and Sandy Koufax. The Braves had completely run out of pinch hitters now, and it was the pitcher’s turn to bat.
Rick Camp came up there. Rick Camp had a lifetime B.A. of about zero-fifty, no home runs. What were the odds he’d do anything other than strike out against Tom Gorman? Obviously Rick Camp had no chance. He was just swinging hard in case one of Goose’s fastballs hit his bat. Well, one did. Boom, home run.
Finally it was four o’clock in the morning, maybe about 7,000 people still left in the park. Everybody still hanging there, that game was so weird they just couldn’t go home. In the nineteenth inning we took the lead again, 16-13. Then in the Braves’ half we had our last available pitcher out there, Ron Darling. Rick Camp came up, couple of guys on base -- would you believe Camp hit another long fly? This time the ball went foul. Ron struck him out and saved us from the Twilight Zone. The Atlanta people actually went ahead and shot off the fourth of July fireworks -- the whole shebang, even though by now it was almost getting light on the fifth.
What a game that was. You can bet our pitchers gave a little grief to those guys who couldn’t hold the lead for us. They were coming back at us, saying, "Well, I’ve never pitched at four o’clock in the morning before." And our answer came right back, "Well, those guys haven’t ever been hitting at four o’clock in the morning before, either." I guess with everything that happened in that game, it finally came down to where all the weirdness just kind of equaled out.
|» NEXT: The ring I almost got|
Copyright © 2000 by Terry Leach and Tom Clark. Excerpted with permission.
Book cover designed by Carolina de Bartolo.