Ripken in the Minors

Interview with Tony Maners: November 2011

RITM: Tell me about the day of the longest game. Was it a normal day leading up to the game itself?

Tony Maners: For me it was a normal day. I was just getting used to the three-man system of umpiring. I'd only had a week or so of it. Denny moved his family all day from a 3rd story apartment to a new home.

RITM:  What position were you in charge of calling at the game?       

Tony Maners: 1st base. For the completion on June 23, 1981, we were out of rotation and wanted to come to Pawtucket ready, so I'd worked the plate two nights in a row at another series. 

RITM:  There was an electrical issue that delayed the start of the game. Was it ever considered to call the game before it started?    

Tony Maners: Three light towers were out. We met with the managers prior to the regular start time. Everyone agreed if one of them came back on, we'd have enough light to play the game, albeit dark in a couple areas. When they told us one pole came back on, we met with the managers and set the 8 pm start.

RITM: At what point do you first remember having concerns over the length of the game? 

Tony Maners: I met Jack between the 16th and 17th inning near 2nd base. I gave him my gloves and joked if we go another 16 I'll need them back. Boy, was THAT the jinx! We met again later at the end of the 21st. He asked about long games. I told him of the major league record, 26 innings, and the minor league record, 29 innings. I was told Denny and Jack, along with Stan Babich, had worked a 22 inning game the year before that set the IL record.  Another inning. He asked me about a curfew. Being the rookie, I needed to make sure what I knew from AA level was the same for AAA or what was different. I told him that our interpretation book noted, "curfew imposed by law". He mentioned there was a 12:50 a.m. stoppage the previous year and that the Red Sox management had just brought it to his attention. We went the next 1/2 inning (I believe it's around the 30th because I clicked on my tape recorder and have some very boring broadcasting done by the Rochester radio crew) into the locker room to get the book and brought it out to the dugout to compare with what they had in writing. The discrepancy was found. Jack said to continue play as this was his newest update. The Red Sox later went to call Mr. Cooper to explain the situation. This was the 1st year the umpires did NOT have a pre-season meeting at the league office to go over such items. We went directly to the opening day city.  Mr. Cooper had Jack leave the field and spoke personally to him. Denny and I joke that Jack gets the Roger Maris asterisk next to his name for missing 2 outs! LOL

RITM: How did the umpiring crew deal with the physical and emotional toll of the game as it was happening? 

Tony Maners: I had put on all my clothing in my trunk. Between innings, I ran over to the 55-gallon drum in the bullpen to warm my hands, after giving my gloves to Jack. (Each bullpen and both dugouts had drums). I laughed when a broken bat occurred as BOTH batboys sprinted to get it for their drum! Loud cracks meant broken bleacher seats would soon be in a drum and to see it burn down into it broke up the boredom. I concentrated on NOT missing a call. I didn't want to be the footnote to a historical game. Being able to run to 2nd between innings/having 2 candy bars (Denny passed on eating his) was enough to give me some energy.  My emotional thoughts went from a 1-0 game potentially over, being tied in the 9th to a 2-1 lead in the 21st being tied again, to the letdown  seeing Jack come back from that call and giving me the hand under the chin wave meaning if no one scored we would suspend the game.

Coming off the field after working 8 hours and 7 minutes with NO WINNER was a bummer!

RITM:  Were there any added delays between innings due to the length of the game such as restroom breaks for the umpires? Did you ever get off the field?            

Tony Maners: The one quote used a lot was..."32 innings WITHOUT using the bathroom"

RITM: Tell me about the impact of the wind at the game.  

Tony Maners: Five balls should have been home runs. To see two of them clear the wall and blow back into the outfielder's gloves (I saw Chico Walker's #7- on one play)  for an out was BIZARRE! The fluke play in the bottom of the 21st was when Tom Eaton (2B) was on the outfield side of the infield dirt sprinting into RF for a pop up. The wind began taking it back toward home plate. Eaton sprinted past where he started and dove on the plate side of the infield dirt and missed the ball (a double). Boggs' base hit scored the runner and it was 2-2.

RITM:  Did the players or fans get more aggressive towards the umpires as the game went late in the morning? 

Tony Maners: NO. There were 4 people who closed a bar, saw the lights, came in, and made fools of themselves. They left shortly after stating THEY were bored. Players went by occasionally stating and hoping something would happen to end the game.

RITM:  Were there any hard feelings towards the crew chief or the league at the fact that the game went so long? 

Tony Maners: Mr. Cooper originally wanted to FIRE the three of us (especially Jack, they had a 2nd call Sunday afternoon). Then with the major league strike and the focus on this historical achievement, we were treated to lunch and "My umpires did good". Teams and management were great! 

RITM:  What one aspect from the game still stands out as most amazing to you?   

Tony Maners: It actually hit me at the 25th anniversary celebration that BOTH teams and organizations respected my efforts, not just for that game, but my profession and career.

RITM:  Did you get any extra pay due to the length of the game? 

Tony Maners: No. At that time a Crew Chief’s salary was 1,000 per month, second member was 850 and rookies got 750. Basing it on 30 games in a month, let's do some math: Jack got a dollar per inning, Denny below that, my 25 dollars for 33 innings. Divide THAT by 6 outs per inning. LOL

RITM:  Where did life take you after the longest game? 

Tony Maners: 81-86 IL, 87 PCL, 88 American Association, In 1989 I freelanced in Florida doing college baseball. In 1989, 1990, and 1991 I did the NCAA Division II World Series. From 1990 through today I umpire the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Sun Conference. From 1995 to now I umpire the Atlantic Coast Conference. I have done the College World Series (Div I-Omaha) in 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2009. From 1989-2006  I was the operator of the 24 second clock for the Orlando Magic. From 2002-2006 I was Game Day Staff for Jacksonville Jaguars home games.

RITM: What is it like being part of history? 

Tony Maners: I tell people I'm "One blade of grass in a BIG field at the hall of fame". I'm NOT enshrined, but people who know me can feel a connection there. For ONE DAY, (actually 3 days-Sat, Sun,& June 23rd)  I did good.

RITM: Have you participated in any anniversary celebrations?   

Tony Maners: My wife and I were in Omaha in 2006. Thanks to the NCAA and the RED SOX, we were able to attend the 25th anniversary.

RITM: Do you think we will ever see another professional baseball game go 33 innings?

Tony Maners: There was a game Syracuse played (later that year, or the next, I think) that went a portion of 3 days and went about 25 innings. They had some rain situations come up. There was a Junior college game  that went 32 innings before our game. With so many years of having this rule of suspended games, it would either have to start in the afternoon or be the last game played between the two teams that season. It's mentioned with other questions about records (Joe D's 56 hit/ Ripken's consecutive streak, etc.) NEVER say never, but it sure has been a fun ride for all these years!

*To learn more about "The Longest Game" in professional baseball history, please visit our page at http://www.ripkenintheminors.com/thelongestgame.htm

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