Ojeda, LaFrancois, and baseball lore

The Brooklyn Paper
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Bobby Ojeda, Cyclones’ pitching coach in their first two seasons, is well known as a key pitcher on the 1986 World Champion New York Mets.

Roger LaFrancois, current Cyclones batting coach, is not so well known, but he played in the majors with the Boston Red Sox.

These two Cyclones coaches play a part in baseball lore — they both participated in the longest game in professional baseball history.

The game began on April 18, 1981, at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium between the visiting Rochester Redwings and the home Pawtucket Red Sox. It was suspended eight hours and seven minutes later with the score tied at 2 after 32 innings.

When the game was resumed on June 23, the world had taken note, and the sellout crowd was augmented with media from all over the world.

“There was the big major league baseball strike at the time,” said Ojeda. “So when the game resumed, we were the baseball story. All the media was there. The game took on a life of its own.

“There were probably more media than at the first-ever Cyclones home game,” Ojeda continued. “They built a whole section just for the media.”

Fortunately, Bobby O was spared most of the first eight hours, as he was scheduled to pitch the next day, and left after nine innings to get some rest. The same could not be said for LaFrancois.

“They had a pinch hitter for Rich Gedman, and then a pinch runner, and then I went into the game to catch for Gedman for a ‘few innings,’” said LaFrancois. “I ended up catching 20-something .”

In fact, LaFrancois caught for 24 innings.

Both teams didn’t score through the 15th inning and then in the 16th, Rochester scored a run. But in the bottom of the inning, the PawSox tied it up.

“After a while, it kind of got humorous,” LaFrancois recalled. “But then we thought, ‘we’d played all these innings, we might as well win.’”

So the team turned to Ojeda when the game continued, because he was still eligible to pitch.

“I kind of embraced this, like the first time I saw New York,” Ojeda said. “I said, ‘I love this, the excitement, the buzz.’

“I held them scoreless on 13 pitches. Then in the bottom of the 33rd inning we scored the winning run on a Dave Koza hit. It was like we won the whole thing, like it was the World Series.”

Being that the game lasted so long, some other records were set.

“Russ Larribee went 0 for 15 with seven or eight strikeouts,” LaFrancois said. “And the umpires’ biggest claim to fame was that they went the whole game without having to use the bathroom.”

And while having played in the longest game ever might be a great story to tell your grandkids, it might not sit so well with some other, closer relatives.

“Luis Aponte was one of the players in the game ,and when he got home around 5:30 in the morning, his wife refused to let him in the house, not believing his explanation that the game lasted until 4:30 am and figuring that he had been out gallivanting around,” LaFrancois said. “So he had to go back to the ballpark and sleep in the clubhouse.”

Book Fair at Keyspan

On Saturday, July 26, from 3pm to 7 pm, the Cyclones will present the Baseball Book Fair at the Brooklyn Baseball Gallery at Keyspan Park.

Joe Dorinson will be there to sign copies of his book Jackie Robinson: Sports, Race and the American Dream. Mike Getz will be there with copies of The Brooklyn Dodgers and Their Rivals. Of course, I, Ed Shakespeare, author of When Baseball Returned to Brooklyn, will also be a participant.

Admission to the book fair is $1.

July 28, 2003 issue  

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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