Top 5 Longest Sporting Events
Posted on Sep 26, 2011

5. Baseball: Rochester Red Wings vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

Total Time: 33 innings (nearly 9 hours)

The longest recorded professional baseball game took place in 1981 between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, two Triple-A clubs. The game started around 8 p.m. on April 18 and continued on into the early morning of Easter Sunday with the score deadlocked at 2-2. Despite the fact that both a young Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken, Jr. were among the players on the field, hits were extremely hard to come by, and the game was finally suspended by the league president just after 4 a.m. on Sunday morning. Of the 2,000-plus fans that had started the night, only 19 remained, and each one was given season tickets by Pawtucket’s team owner.  Amazingly, the game was not resumed for another 65 days—the next time the Red Wings were in town—and when it was finally restarted it had become front page news around the country. Over 5,000 fans packed the stadium to see the end of the longest game of all time. Unfortunately, the game ended rather anticlimactically. After just one inning and 18 minutes of play, Pawtucket player Dave Coza hit a weak single to left field, sending teammate Marty Barrett home to score the winning run in the bottom of the 33rd inning. The game has since gone down in baseball lore as one of the most famous professional contests of all time. It is featured in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and in 2006 the Pawtucket Red Sox held a celebration to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their legendary win.

4. Hockey: Detroit Red Wings vs. Montreal Maroons

Total Time: 176 minutes, 30 seconds

Hockey games usually avoid turning into marathon competitions, because depending on the league, games either resort to a shootout after an overtime period or just end in a draw. This is the case in the NHL, save for one key exception: the Stanley Cup Playoffs. During the postseason, games will continue to go into 20-minute overtime periods until a goal is scored in open play. This has made for some epic contests over the years, the most famous of which took place in a 1936 semifinal game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons. After three 20-minute periods of regulation play, neither team had managed to find a goal, so the game went into overtime. The defensive struggle continued, and the players managed to go scoreless for five full 20-minute periods of overtime. Both teams were nearly dead on their feet when Detroit’s Mud Bruneteau, a rookie who’d only been playing professionally for two weeks, scored a miracle goal 16 minutes into the sixth overtime. When all was said and done, the total game time was 176 minutes, 116 of it overtime—that’s nearly the equivalent of three back-to-back-to-back games.

3. Basketball: Rochester Royals vs. Indianapolis Olympians, Syracuse vs. UConn

Total Time: Six overtimes, 3 hrs, 46 min

It might be surprising to hear that the longest NBA game on record ended with a score of 75-73, but that’s exactly what happened in 1951 when the Indianapolis Olympians bested the Rochester Royals after six overtimes. Perhaps not surprisingly, the contest wasn’t the most exciting game ever witnessed. Supposedly, there were only 26 shots over the course of the entire six overtimes, and most of the fans had left by the time the game finally ended.

A more modern marathon basketball game went down just last year, when Syracuse and UConn played out a six overtime contest during the Big East tournament. The game lasted nearly 4 hours, and it wasn’t until 1:30 in the morning that Syracuse finally managed to win the game 127-117. The stats from the game were incredible. Not only did the teams score a combined 244 points, but over 100 of them came in overtime. Six players managed to get double-doubles, and even more than that fouled out over the course of the six overtimes. Amazingly, Syracuse vs. UConn isn’t even the longest game in college history. That distinction goes to a game between Cincinnati and Bradley from 1981, which managed to go to seven overtimes. That game was before college basketball used a shot clock, so even though it was longer, the Syracuse/UConn was definitely a more significant (and physically grueling—one player claimed that by the end of the game he couldn’t even feel his legs) accomplishment. (Image: 1950-51 Rochester Royals.)

2. Tennis: Isner vs. Mahut

Total Time: 11 hours, 5 minutes

It might only be a few days old, but this clash between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in the first round at Wimbledon has already entered the record books as one of the most famous tennis matches of all time. The American Isner and the Frenchman Mahut began their match in the early evening of June 22nd. Both players started strong, and the match was tied at two sets each when it had to be suspended due to darkness. Day two of the contest started with the fifth set, but after 12 games the players remained tied at 6-6. Any other set would have been settled by a tiebreak, but the rules state that in the fifth set, play must continue until a player wins by two games. Incredibly, neither man could manage to break the other’s serve, and after over 118 games of extra play, the match remained deadlocked. Play was again suspended for darkness shortly after the nine-hour mark, only to resume the next morning. After a further 20 games, Isner finally managed to break Mahut’s serve, and went on to win the match with two expertly placed passing shots. The Isner-Mahut match broke a number of tennis records. Not only did it smash the record for the longest match in history at 11hrs, 15 minutes (the previous record was only a little more than half that), but Isner also broke the record for most aces in a match with 113. Both men were visibly exhausted by the time the marathon match finally ended, and a doctor has since predicted that both men might suffer from tendonitis and other physical ailments as a result of their ordeal. With this in mind, it’s probably not surprising that Isner went on to lose to his next opponent in straight sets.

1. Boxing: Andy Bowen vs. Jack Burke

Total Time: 7 hours, 19 minutes

11 hours of tennis is certainly grueling, but it’s got nothing on 7-plus hours of the pure physical punishment that is boxing. The longest boxing match on record took place in New Orleans on April 6, 1893. Andy Bowen and Jack Burke stepped into the ring in the hopes of claiming the lightweight title, which had been left open thanks to the retirement of the previous champ, Jack McAuliffe. At the time, boxing was still enough of an underground sport that there was no such thing as a judge’s decision—one fighter had to be knocked out or “throw in the towel” before the contest could be considered over. This rule set the stage for the most brutal boxing match of all time. Burke and Bowen clashed, and in what was considered to be a fairly even fight, proceeded to beat up on one another for 110 three-minute rounds. By the time the bell sounded for the 111th, over 7 hours had passed and both men were so punch drunk that they couldn’t even step out of their corners. Seeing that things were getting out of hand, the referee finally declared the bout a no contest. By that point, the epic match had already taken a severe toll on the two fighters. Burke had broken every bone in both of his hands, and proceeded to go into semiretirement. Bowen, meanwhile, was killed in the ring in his very next fight.

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