The Giants left for San Francisco in 1958. Because of their move, along with the Dodgers jump to LA, New York was awarded an expansion franchise in 1962. Thus, the Mets were born. Fun fact about the Mets, their uniform colors being orange and blue is a nod to the Giants and Dodgers who left town. That’s what I’ve always known and apparently it’s true.
There were still Giants fans left in the city of New York. My father was one of them, and he’s the reason I want to write about a Sunday doubleheader at Shea Stadium in 1964. He was there, and this is one of the stories I grew up listening to that made me a Giants fan today. Who knows if the account I was given was totally true, but who cares? It’s Giants lore, and I ate it up. Let’s dig in to the day.
In 1964, the Mets were in their 3rd year of existence. They finished last in the NL in each of their first two seasons and this one was not shaping up any different. They came in to the Sunday doubleheader against the Giants with a 14-30 record, 12.5 games behind first place Philadelphia. The Giants were sitting in 2nd place in the National League, 1 game back of the Phils.
This was a 4-game weekend series with the last 2 games a scheduled doubleheader on Sunday afternoon. The first game was a relative breeze, clocking in just under 2 and a half hours as the Giants beat the Mets 5-3. Future Hall of Famers led the way as Orlando Cepeda had 3 hits, 2 runs, drove in another run, AND STOLE HOME for the lead run, behind Juan Marichal’s complete game.
It’s a safe bet, no one was expecting to have to be at the ballpark for another 8 hours to see the conclusion of the second game. But I obviously wouldn’t be writing about this if it were a normal day, so that’s what happened as the Giants and Mets played a 23 inning marathon as day turned into night. Vendors at the park ran out of food and had to hit local stores to try and feed people who had been at Shea Stadium all day long.
It didn’t have to be that way. Giants starter Bobby Bolin entered the bottom of the 7th inning with a 6-3 lead. He got the first 2 Mets hitters on a strikeout and pop-up before allowing a base hit to center field followed by another to left. With 2 on and 2 out, Mets right fielder Joe Christopher hit a 3-run home run to left center field to tie the game at 6.
And then, nothing happened. For the next 15 innings, nobody crossed home plate with a run. Well, things happened. For one, Willie Mays played shortstop for the first 3 extra innings. I mean, imagine being such a good athlete and fielder the manager trusts you to switch to a position you barely play? Amazing.
Willie didn’t have such a good day at the plate going 1-for-10, so those few innings at shortstop were the highlight of the story I heard growing up.
The Giants were loaded with future Hall of Famers in 1964 and another stepped up to pitch the Giants to victory. Gaylord Perry entered in the bottom of the 13th inning and proceeded to pitch 10 innings of shutout baseball. He scattered 7 hits, only walked one, and struck out 9 Mets hitters. It was the most K’s in a game for Perry in a season in which he had 19 starts and 5 complete games.
In the top of 23rd inning, almost 11 hours after the first pitch of game 1, the Giants broke through with 2 runs against tiring Mets pitcher Galen Cisco. He ran out of gas in his 9th inning of work as the Giants scored 2 runs with 2 outs to take an 8-6 lead. Del Crandall delivered a go ahead double to drive in Jim Davenport who had tripled to get the 2-out rally started. Jesus Alou followed with a single to drive in another run just for good measure.
Fresh from the bullpen, Bob Hendley shut the door with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 23rd inning. He struck out the first 2 batters and then got Amado Samuel to pop out to Alou in right field to finally end one of the longest days in Giants history. According to Baseball Reference and the boxscore of this game, the attendance was over 57,00 that day. I can only imagine how few were still there after 32 innings of baseball.
The Giants had 5 total Hall of Famers play in that May 1964 game in New York. In addition to the aforementioned Mays, Perry, and Cepeda, there was also Willie McCovey and a late career Duke Snider on the bench. Both of the latter two went 0-for-1 as pinch-hitters before the game even went to extra innings.
The Giants eventually finished the 1964 season with a 90-72 record, but it was only good for 4th place behind eventual World Series Champion St. Louis. The Cards won the NL by a single game over the Phillies and Reds before beating the Yankees in a 7-game World Series. The Mets finished last, per usual.
Here’s the boxscores to both games of the doubleheader if you missed them above
If you missed any of the previous installments in this series, you can click the links below to check them out.