April 2011: Interview with Mike Tamburro
April 2011 will mark the 30th anniversary of the longest game in professional baseball history. On April 18, 1981, the Rochester Red Wings and Pawtucket Red Sox would play over 8 hours without a winner decided. The game would resume on June 23 and end in 18 minutes. Mike Tamburro, President of the Pawtucket Red Sox, was General Manager for Pawtucket during the 1981 season. RITM thanks Mike for his willingness to share his recollections.
RITM: What was your position with the PawSox in 1981?
MT: General Manager
RITM: You are credited with creating the nickname “PawSox” in 1977. What is the story behind the name PawSox?
MT: The Boston Red Sox gave two sets of uniforms for our first season back in 1977, we took over a bankrupt franchise with 8 week to go before opening day. We simply replaced the R-E-D with P-A-W.
RITM: Was there a delay before the longest game began? If so, what was the delay?
MT: The light tower in right center field short circuited and it took the city electrician about 30 minutes to restore it to working order
RITM: The game was not called until 4:07 a.m. As the game continued did you ever get concerned? If so, at what point in the night were you concerned with how late it was getting?
MT: We were concerned as soon as we past the 12:50 AM league curfew.
RITM: The umpires were obviously unfamiliar with the curfew rule. Did anyone there know the rule and try to convince the umpires to call the game before feeling the need to make calls to other officials?
MT: Yes we knew the rule. We showed the league constitution to the Umpire Crew Chief but because it was not in the manual to league umpires he didn’t believe the rule still was in place.
RITM: Who was it that attempted to call Harold Cooper? Was he the only official attempts were made to contact? At what point did the calls begin?
MT: We began calling Harold right after we passed curfew but he was not at home and this was pre-cell phone.
RITM: When Harold was reached, what were his comments? Can you tell me the timeline from the point Harold answered the phone to the game being called?
MT: We reached Harold after 3:30 AM and he instructed the umpire to complete the 32nd inning and suspend the game if it remained tied.
RITM: Was it a cold night?
MT: A terribly cold night with the wind blowing directly in from right field.
RITM: How many fans endured all 32 innings? Was anything special done for those that stayed?
MT: 17 remained and they all got season tickets
RITM: I am not sure about the state of sports memorabilia in 1981. Once the game was suspended did the PawSox receive requests from memorabilia collectors? What were collectors looking to get?
MT: Many calls from fans looking for ticket stubs
RITM: The game was resumed during the 50 day player strike. Taking that into consideration, just how large had the longest game become once it was time for the game to be resumed?
MT: It was THE sporting event in the World on that day. News members from the BBC and the Manichi Daily News from Tokyo covered the event along with every major daily in the US.
RITM: Can you describe the atmosphere the day the game was resumed?
MT: It was a media event tremendous sense of excitement and anticipation and the State of Rhode Island totally engrossed in the event.
RITM: It only took one inning to complete the game. Although the Sox won was there a sense of disappointment among the crowd?
MT: The place was euphoric when the PAWSOX won.
RITM: Was the completion of the game before another scheduled game or was the one inning the only baseball played that day?
MT: There was a scheduled game after the completion of the Longest Game
RITM: Do you remember the attendance for the completion? Did it sell out?
MT: The game was completely sold out
RITM: Knowing the significance of the game, what items were sent to the Hall of Fame once it was completed?
MT: Dave Koza’s bat and uniform.
RITM: How have the PawSox honored the fact that the longest game was played at McCoy Stadium?
MT: The Longest Game is commemorated in all that we do at McCoy. We had many players back for the 20th anniversary and had gala celebration for the 25th anniversary where over 40 members of the two teams came back for a weekend celebration. We had a gala luncheon at the convention center where Wade Boggs, Marty Barrett and Joe Morgan shared their memoriesof the game.
RITM: Do you think we will ever see a pro baseball game match or exceed 33 innings?
MT: I don’t believe in today’s game umpire would allow the game to go over 8 hours.