In Motion: The Longest Game in Major League History

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(Click to enlarge)

On May 8, 1984, the Chicago White Sox and Milwuakee Brewers played the longest game in the history of major league baseball. The game lasted 25 innings (second most innings ever) and took over 8 hours and 6 minutes to complete. In fact, the game was suspended after the 17th inning and completed the next day.

The game featured 14 combined pitchers for both teams, four of whom through six or more innings. Those 14 pitchers threw a total of 753 pitches. Both teams scored a total of 13 runs on an incredible 43 hits. The Brewers stranded 13 runners while the White Sox stranded an astounding 24 themselves.

The game would be won with one out in the bottom of the 25th inning on a walk-off home run by Harold Baines.

The picture above is a screen shot of the motion graph. The x-axis depicts each of the 209 base-out states of the 25-inning marathon. The y-axis represents each team's win probability (or win expectancy) after each play.

Winning 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the Brewers failed to put away the White Sox. The Sox entered the bottom of the inninng with only a 10% change of winning. Lead-off hitter Tom Paciorek reached on error, but remained stranded at second as Vance Law and Jerry Hairston made outs, dropping the White Sox changes to 5%. But then Julio Cruz double to left, scoring Paciorek and cutting the lead to 3-2 (and increasing the White Sox chances of victory to 15%). Rudy Law would follow with a single, scoring Cruz and tying the game at 3-3. That one hit shifted the odds of victory 46% in the White Sox favor.

Both teams would remain scoreless until the 21st inning. The Brewers would rally for three runs on a 3-run home run by Ben Oglivie. That home run swung the odds of winning by 48% for Milwaukee. The Brewers had a win probability of 90% heading into the bottom of the 21st.

But the Brewers couldn't capitalize on their new advantage. (In fact, the Brewers had a win probability over 90% eight different times and failed to win the game. Between both teams, there were 18 >80% win probability states--and none of them led to a win.) The two teams would battle back and forth for another four innings. After the 21st inning, the Brewers would never again hold a >50% chance of winning.

When Harold Baines stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 25th inning with one out, the White Sox held a 59% to 42% win probability advantage. With one swing, Baines would end the longest game in major history by blasting a home run, and adding a whopping 42% to his team's win probability.

For your viewing pleasure, here's a video of the game in motion:

The data and viz can be found here.

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