Ozzie Smith and Jerry Mumphrey both committed errors in the top of the 20th inning as the Houston Astros stayed tied for first with a 3-1 marathon win over the San Diego Padres at San Diego Stadium in a game that at one point had 14,177 fans in attendance.
Houston manager Bill Virdon started right-hander Gordie Pladson, who had missed his last start when his cat scratched the index finger of his pitching hand before the game. San Diego was managed by Jerry Coleman in 1980, in an ill-fated one year experiment of moving the team's broadcaster down to the field. Coleman tabbed Rick Wise as his starter.
There wasn't much action during the game. The Padres scored their only run in the second inning. First baseman Willie Montanez led off with a double and moved to third on a groundout by right fielder Dave Winfield. Catcher Craig Stimac singled to score Montanez.
Houston tied the game up in the fourth. With one out, left fielder Jose Cruz singled. Center fielder Cesar Cedeno singled and Cruz went to third. First baseman Denny Walling hit into a force play and Cruz scored to make it 1-1.
The Astros had something cooking in the seventh when Walling led off with a single and one batter later went to third on a double by shortstop Craig Reynolds. Danny Heep pinch hit for Pladson and walked to load the bases. Coleman brought in lefty Gary Lucas to face Houston's leadoff man, second baseman Joe Morgan and got him to strike out. Coleman then brought in Rollie Fingers to face third baseman Enos Cabell. On strike two, a foul tip hit Cabell in the hand and he had to leave the game for pinch hitter Dave Bergman, who finished the strike out.
In the bottom of the seventh, Joaquin Andujar came into relieve and got Winfield to ground out. Third baseman Barry Evans struck out and was ejected by home plate umpire Jerry Crawford. Stimac moved to third and Gene Tenace finished up behind the plate. Little did Tenace know that his night off was not going to turn out as he expected.
In the bottom of the eighth, Broderick Perkins battted for Fingers and singled. Luis Salazar made his major league debut and pinch ran. Left fielder Gene Richards sacrificed Salazar to second. But Smith and Mumphrey grounded out to end the inning.
The Padres got two on in the ninth on a single by Montanez and a walk by Tenace, but Stimac lined out and pinch hitter Bill Fahey fouled out.
And the game ground on. In the bottom of the 11th, against Joe Sambito, the Padres loaded the bases with two outs on a Montanez single, a Winfield walk, and an infield hit by Stimac. However, second baseman Tim Flannery struck out against Frank Lacorte, who had come in for Sambito.
And the game ground on. Lacorte pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief and eventually gave way to rookie Dave Smith, who pitched the last five innings, the longest outing of his career. Smith also struck out eight, which was another career best.
In the top of the 20th, against Eric Rasmussen, catcher Luis Pujols (who had taken over for Alan Ashby in the 11th) hit a grounder to Smith, that he couldn't handle and Pujols reached on the error. Third baseman Art Howe laid down a sacrifice attempt and the Padres tried to get the slow-footed Pujols at second, but were too late and the Astros had first and second with no outs. Morgan popped out to Montanez in foul territory. Shortstop Rafael Landestoy (who had replaced Reynolds) flied out to center and Pujols tagged and went to third. Right fielder then hit a fly ball to right center that Mumphrey and Winfield converged. Mumphrey was going to left Winfield catch it, but Winfield backed away at the last second and the ball hit off Mumphrey's glove for an error and Pujols and Howe scored.
In the bottom of the 20th, Smith set down the Padres in order including pinch hitter John Curtis, a pitcher, who was batting for Rasmussen.
The game started at 7 pm and lasted 6 hours and 17 minutes and finished at 1:17 am (more or less). The teams actually had the next day off as the San Diego Chargers were going to use the stadium for a preseason game. The teams concluded their four-game series with a doubleheader on Sunday, which the Astros swept.
The game was the longest in time for both franchises at the time. The Astros would later break the time record on on June 3, 1989 in a 5-4 win over the Dodgers that lasted 7:14 and 21 innings. The Astros longest game by innings was on April 15, 1968 when the Astros beat the Mets 1-0 in 24 innings at the Astrodome. The Padres had already played two21-inning games, but they have never surpassed 6:17 for the time of a game.
As for the rest of the season, te Astros won an incredibly dramatic NL West pennant race in a one-game playoff over the Dodgers and then lost an even more dramatic NLCS in five games to the Phillies. The Padres finished in last place at 73-89 and sent Coleman back to the broadcast booth and brought in Frank Howard to manage. Winfield left after 1980 to join the Yankees as a free agent. Smith would be traded to the Cardinals in 1982.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baseball-reference.com, Retrosheet