Not So Trivial Pursuits

Updated: Oct 17, 2019

What is the longest major league baseball game, in terms of innings, in which both starting pitchers recorded complete games?

For fifteen innings, Hall of Famers Juan Marichal, "The Dominican Dandy," and Warren Spahn, "The Hook," traded scoreless frames in what is arguably the greatest pitching duel in the history of baseball.

On a fog shrouded Tuesday evening at Candlestick Park, on July 2, 1963, Hall of Famers Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants and Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves traded scoreless frames for fifteen innings until shortly after midnight, another Hall of Famer, Willie Mays, sent everybody home with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the sixteenth.

Although he pitched fifteen scoreless innings, Spahn and the Braves found themselves on the wrong side of a 1-0 score after sixteen innings. Despite coming up just short in one of the greatest pitching duels of all time, Warren Spahn is the winningest left handed pitcher of all time and the winningest pitcher who played his entire career post 1930's.

The account of the game reads like a Who’s Who of big league baseball. Hall of Famer Joe Torre caught Spahn for all 15 ⅓ innings, and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, known for his reserved demeanor, became apoplectic in the bottom of the ninth when the line drive he smoked down the right field line and over the fence was called foul despite the insistence of the Giants’ players and all their fans that it was at least three feet inside the foul pole.

Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, despite being one of the most feared hitters of his day, had a reputation as a gentle giant with an especially easy going demeanor. However, in the bottom of the ninth, when a ball that he smoked down the right field line and into the stands was called foul, he became uncharacteristically agitated. McCovey, his teammates, and all the Giants' fans insisted that the ball had passed over the fence at least three feet inside the right field pole.

A far cry from load management, both pitchers threw over 200 pitches with Marichal accruing 227. Although he came up on the wrong side of a 1-0 score, in his 15 ⅓ innings, Spahn gave up nine hits, struck out two, and most amazingly, only walked one, an intentional walk to Willie Mays after the renowned shortstop and second baseman, and future manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, Harvey Kuenn doubled to lead off the bottom of the fourteenth.

With an 0-6 performance, Hall of Famer "Hammerin" Hank Aaron was not alone as he struggled at the plate that night against the "Dominican Dandy." One of the greatest hitters and all-around players ever in baseball, Aaron would go on to break Babe Ruth's home run record in 1974, a record he would hold for 33 years until Barry Bonds surpassed him.

Marichal allowed 8 hits, struck out 10, and walked just 4. In the last 10 innings, he gave up just two hits at one point retiring 17 in a row. Of the 8 hits against him, all were singles except for one, a double by Spahn himself who had a reputation as a good hitting pitcher. Just in case someone might have wondered weather Marichal was facing a bunch of scrubs in the Braves’ lineup, that night the “Dominican Dandy” no-hit another Hall of Famer and the future home run king, the great Hank Aaron, who suffered through an 0-6 evening at the plate.

Giants' Manager Alvin Dark failed to remove Marichal from the game despite repeated attempts. An accomplished big league shortstop, Dark is a member of two distinguished groups: managers who have won pennants in both the American and National Leagues, and big leaguers who have won the World Series both as a player and as a manager.

That year, at the age of 25, Marichal would lead the league with 25 wins. However, Spahn at the age of 42 would also eclipse the 20 game mark that season with 23 victories of his own. Spahn’s age was not lost on Marichal who, when informed by Giants’ manager Alvin Dark that the fourteenth inning would be his last, the young ace responded, “Mr. Dark, do you see that man on the mound?” pointing to Spahn. “He’s 42 years old. I'm only 25. As long as he stays on that mound, nobody is going to take me out of this game.”

Marichal and Mays celebrate in the locker room after the 16 inning marathon. After Marichal set down the Braves in the top of the sixteenth, he feared Giants Manager Alvin Dark would take the ball from him so the Giants' ace asked "The Say Hey Kid" for some help. Shortly after midnight, in the bottom of the sixteenth, Mays delivered.

After the fifteenth inning, Dark once again told Marichal that he was done for the night. However, when the Giants took the field for the sixteenth inning, the young Dominican ace could not bear the thought of leaving the game so despite his manager’s orders to the contrary, he ran onto the mound ahead of the Giants relief pitcher. After Marichal shut down the Braves in the top of the sixteenth, he waited by first base for Mays to come in from center field. He told Mays that he was not supposed to have pitched the sixteenth inning, and that there was no way Dark would let him continue. Mays was due up in the bottom of the sixteenth, and Marichal asked him for help. Willie simply responded, “Don’t worry Chico,” his nickname for Marichal. “I’m going to win this game for you.” Shortly thereafter, Mays delivered.

Above is a link to a video in which Bob Costas interviews Juan Marichal for the MLB Network's Studio 42. Marichal shares his memories of his 16 inning duel with Warren Spahn at minute 21:25.