Updated: Oct 17, 2019
What is the longest major league baseball game, in terms of innings, in which both starting pitchers recorded complete games?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.