Watching last night’s record setting 18 inning marathon between the Giants and the Nationals, which lasted 6 hours & 23 minutes, with 17 pitchers throwing 475 pitches, 119 hitters coming to bat, and delivering 17 hits, I couldn’t help but remember another 18 inning game, one that I was involved in. Hard to believe, but it was 30 years ago, in 1984. Our lasted 5 hours and 49 minutes. I remember because the Vista Press wrote up the story on the game and said it was a San Diego area record.
It was the ASA “A” Qualifying tournament, in an era when only one team from the So Cal tournament got to go to the National tournament. The ASA “A” National routinely gathered 48 or so teams. The So Cal qualifying tournament was often as tough as the Nationals (as the Ontario Canada qualifier used to be for ISC II teams), with So Cal teams winding up in the National championship game. 1984 was no different.
I was pitching for the Vista Bombers, the second iteration of the team, which played in 1983-1985, put together by Cory Davis, son of the late Slick Davis, whose Bombers played in the 1970’s, against the Long Beach Nitehawks and in the ISC World Tournament.
The 1984 Vista Bomber team combined some veterans from the Slick Davis teams, like outfielder Dave Magdaleno and Donnie Johnson, Frank Chambliss, Steve Miner, and Cory Davis, along with younger players like Ronnie Wood Jr., Tom Tatum and others. Magdaleno had earned MVP honors earlier in the year, at the Slick Davis Memorial tournament, with the team knocking off the 1983 ISC World Champion Lancaster Chameleons, and Long Beach Nitehawks. Chambliss and Johnson both had brothers playing in MLB that year, both, ironically, for the Atlanta Braves.
We hosted the qualifier that year, in Vista, in an extremely competitive field of teams that year that included two teams coming all the way down from Bakersfield, Lowder Electric and Hudson Supply. Lowder’s pitchers that year were Simon Brewer, in his finest year, and Kiwi Ross Vincent. Hudson had ISC veteran Dennis Parks, and one of the most explosive bats of that decade, Kenny Day.
It was a random draw and we pulled the straw for Lowder Electric in our first game of the tournament. We had gotten through the season with just one pitcher (me), as veteran Johnny O’Dell had taken a line drive off the index finger on his pitching hand on opening day and missed the season. Our skipper/DH Cory Davis filled in pitching when needed, but we were hoping to qualify and then add a pitcher for Nationals.
It was not to be. Our first game with Lowder Electric went 18 innings. Lowder used 3 pitchers in the game, we used the only pitcher we had. We lost 4-3, and Lowder went on to win the tournament, and earned the berth to the Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota.
Lowder Electric decided to add a pitcher to their roster for Nationals, that year, the Vista pitcher on the other side of that 18 inning game.
Hudson Supply of Bakersfield earned a berth later in the year, playing in a regional tournament.
As fate would have it, in a field of 48 teams at the 1984 ASA “A” National, the two teams from Bakersfield would make it all the way to championship game, with Hudson Supply prevailing.
Marathon games like ours in 1984 or last night’s Giant-Nats game can often send teams in different directions. For Lowder Electric that day, it propelled them to the championship game of the national tournament. For the 1984 Vista Bombers, it was a different result. We didn’t make it to the National tournament, having to compete locally against two teams that turned out to be the two best in the country. I like to think we were the best team in the country that wasn’t at the National that year. The 18 inning game left us with a tough loss and thoughts of what might-have-been. I suspect that the Nationals woke up with similar thoughts this morning.