The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Joe Oeschger: They Don't Make Them Like Him Anymore

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were traveling in northern California and came across a marker at a baseball field in Ferndale that called attention to Joe Oeschger. They sent me some photos and asked if I was familiar with him and his historic game in 1920, one in which he pitched all 26 innings of the longest game in major-league history.

I was aware of Oeschger, but only long-time baseball historians would readily know his name. His contemporaries on the hill were more familiar pitchers such as Hall of Famers Burleigh Grimes, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Jesse Haines, and Eppa Rixey. But since they all pitched in the majors over 100 years ago, many people wouldn’t know them either. Okay, well how about Babe Ruth?

Aside from his historic game on May 1, 1920, Oeschger didn’t have much to brag about during his 12-year career from 1914 to 1925. His individual records weren’t the type he would write home about. He led the National League in losses with 18 in 1918; earned runs allowed and home runs given up in 1920; and walks allowed and batters hit by pitch in 1921. By all accounts, he was a below average pitcher during his career (measured today by an 88 ERA+, when 100 is average).

However, on this day pitching for the Boston Braves, Oeschger was as good as they come—then and now. He faced 90 batters in the 26-inning contest that ended in a 1-1 tie, because of darkness. He yielded only nine hits and four walks to Brooklyn (then known as the Robins), while pitching 21 straight scoreless innings. His pitch count was not recorded, but if he averaged 10 pitches per inning (which is pretty efficient in today’s terms), that’s a whopping total of 260 pitches. It’s likely that he actually exceeded that. His feat would be unheard of today, as most big-league managers would be frowned upon if they allowed a pitcher to throw over 120 innings in a game.

Think about this. Oeschger’s 26 innings in one ballgame would constitute four or five starts for most pitchers in today’s game. But that’s just how the game has evolved. The term “workhorse” is hardly ever used anymore to describe pitchers, since they rarely grind out even a couple of nine-inning games a season.

Boston manager George Stallings did acknowledge Oeschger’ tireless performance. The skipper gave him 11 days rest before his next outing, when three or four days rest was the norm.

But the story of this historic game doesn’t end with Oeschger’s untiring performance. Brooklyn’s pitcher that day was Leon Cadore. Guess what he did? He matched Oeschger’s 26 innings pitched. Makes you wonder if the opposing managers had a bet on whose pitcher could last the longest.

Thanks, Brad and Suzanne, for jogging my memory of Oeschger and his noteworthy game.

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