Night baseball was not yet created. A bullpen was a place to keep your cattle. And Prohibition -- the banning of alcohol in America -- had just begun. Yet if ever two men deserved relief -- be it in the form of a drink or a fresh arm -- it was former Gonzaga University pitcher Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger on May 1, 1920. That was the day when the two pitched all 26 innings of the longest major league game in history.
That's right -- 26 innings. Almost three regulation games. Cadore (KUH-door) and Oeschger (OHHSCH-krr) pitching their guts out all afternoon and into the night... and for nothing. The game ended due to darkness with the score tied at 1-1.
"There was glory enough in it for both," The Boston Globe reported, "and after the 24th inning, it really would have been a pity to see either one to have been declared the loser."
Twenty-six innings, and the Brooklyn Dodgers solved Oeschger for just nine hits (all singles) and four walks. The Boston Braves pieced together 15 hits (including two doubles and a triple) off Cadore.
There was no scoring after Boston produced its run in the sixth inning, one inning after Brooklyn managed its lone run. Neither pitcher gave up a hit over the final six innings. Both men struck out seven.
"After the game had passed the 18th inning," The Globe reported, "each pitcher was impartially cheered when leaving the [pitcher's mound] or coming to bat."
Incredibly, the game lasted just three hours, 50 minutes. Both teams made only two substitutions. Just three baseballs were used on a dark, gusty, often drizzly day at cavernous Braves Field.
"It was one of the greatest games ever played," The Globe reported, "but on account of the weather, only about 4,000 of the faithful turned out to see the game."
Sportswriters of the time were prone to purple prose, and The New York Times was not to be outdone in its duel with The Globe, reporting that fans that night were treated to "a prolonged, heart-breaking struggle... the oldest living man can remember nothing like it, nor can he find anything in his granddad's diary worthy of comparison."
Cadore and Oeschger later agreed that the darkness hindered batters (the game ended at 6:30 pm). Still, fans booed and players on both sides pleaded for at least one more inning when umpire Barry McCormick called the game.
"McCormick remembered that he had an appointment pretty soon with a succulent beefsteak," The Times reported. "He wondered if it wasn't getting dark.
"He held out one hand as a test and decided that in the gloaming it resembled a Virginia ham. He knew it wasn't a Virginia ham and became convinced that it was too dark to play ball.
"Thereupon he called the game, to the satisfaction of himself and Mr. Hart [the other umpire] and the chagrin of everyone else concerned."
Cadore, a curveball specialist, and the hard-throwing Oeschger always insisted they could have kept pitching. However, Oeschger later told Cadore, "I was waiting for you to make some kind of move to call it quits, but I had to go on as long as you did."
"I was a bit tired," Cadore admitted. "Naturally, my arm stiffened, and I couldn't raise it to comb my hair for three days."
"You can stick a knife in my arm and I can't even feel it," Oeschger told Cadore a few days after the marathon contest. "I can't tie my laces or unbutton my clothes."
Oeschger concluded, "We've ruined ourselves."
Later, however, both men insisted the game did no long-term damage to their arms. Oeschger shut out the New York Giants four days later, finished the year 15-13 and won a career-high 20 games in 1921.
Cadore won a career-high 15 games in 1920, then won 13 more in '21. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-hander posted a 68-72 record and 3.14 earned run average in 10 major league seasons, ending in 1924. Oeschger, nearly identical to Cadore in size, wrapped up his 12-year major league career in 1925 with career marks of 83-116 and 3.81.
Cadore, an orphan who spent part of his childhood in Hope, Idaho, worked as a stockbroker and liquor salesman after leaving baseball. He settled in Spokane after leaving baseball and died of cancer in Spokane in 1958 at age 66. His 12 assists in that historic game remains a record for a major league pitcher.
Oeschger, a longtime junior high school physical education teacher in San Francisco, was 95 when he died in 1986. Interestingly, Cadore and Oeschger were both born in Chicago. No one has ever topped the 21-and-two-thirds consecutive shutout innings in one game that Oeschger recorded on that memorable day in 1920.
Cadore and Oeschger were never overly impressed by their feat. As Oeschger once said, "A 1-1 contest that goes 26 innings must have been dull to watch."