Gene's Blog: Cretin-DH baseball guys go long

Gene's Blog: Cretin-DH baseball guys go long

There must be something about Cretin-Derham Hall alums that make them susceptible to long baseball games. 

Tommie alum Jake Mauer now has a summer 2017 story to top one his brother Joe recently experienced with the Minnesota Twins. 

And Jake's former Tommie baseball coach, Dennis Denning, has an extra-inning memory from his playing days that's even more interesting.

 

Say it Ain't So, Joe

Joe Mauer was part of the Twins' strange 8-6 home loss in 15 innings to Tampa Bay back on May 28. At six hours and 26 minutes, it was the longest game in Target Field history on the watch and the Twins' second-longest contest in their existence. The teams combined to leave 35 runners on base.

Joe Mauer reached base seven times – he went 4-for-5 with three walks. That's the first time in 45 seasons that a Twins player reached seven times in a game (Rod Carew, 1972).

 

21 Innings!

Last weekend, Jake Mauer, the manager of the Twins' Class AA Chattanooga Lookouts, was involved in a marathon game that presented a lot of dugout decisions. His first-place Lookouts' needed 21 innings to edge the Birmingham Barons, 2-1.

The Saturday game started at 7:16 p.m. and ended at 12:45 a.m. – a 5:45 span on the clock. It was two innings shy of the Southern League record.

Among the other game highlights:

  • An announced crowd of 5,500 dwindled to about 500 by game's end;
  • Birmingham scored once in the first inning then went scoreless in 20 consecutive at-bats; 
  • The Barons had a leadoff double in the 10th but that runner was later tagged out at home trying to score on a single;
  • Chattanooga tied the game with a run in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings; 
  • Each team struck out 21 times in 21 innings, and in all 29 runners were left on base
  • After two outs in the bottom of the 21st, four consecutive walks, all issued by a Barons' position player, plated the winning run; 
  • Felix Jorge, who had a recent major-league stint with the Twins, allowed one run over nine innings for a no decision (eight strikeouts, no walks). 
  • Mauer used 17 players -- including two position players to pitch. The winner was outfielder Max Murphy – a Robbinsdale Cooper High grad. He went 3-for-8 at the plate and pitched a hitless frame in the top of the 21st inning with one walk. 

Under Mauer, Chattanooga won the first-half championship – the first crown in the franchise's 30-year history. The Lookouts' 70 wins (70-38) coming into Wednesday are third most in minor-league baseball.

 

April Fool?

Jake Mauer played the equivalent of three games (21 innings) as a St. Thomas junior in 2000 in a home doubleheader against St. Olaf – no foolin' – on April Fools Day.

The Tommies needed 14 innings to edge the Oles, 1-0. St. Olaf won the other seven-inning game, 4-0.

St. Olaf (18-2) went on to edge the Tommies (17-3) for the 2000 MIAC regular-season championship. But the Toms got revenge with a 2-1 win over the Oles in the first MIAC baseball playoff championship game, then topped St. Olaf 1-0 in the regional title game en route to an NCAA runner-up finish.

That season was also the winter and spring of Tommie Baseball's exhibition trip to Havana, Cuba in January, plus a return trip in May for a Metrodome game against a Cuban team.

 

Summer of 29

After his St. Thomas playing days, Denning signed with the Baltimore Orioles. While playing as a minor-league rookie in 1965 with the Fox Cities Foxes, he was involved in a 20-inning game.

Denning eventually played with the O's Florida State League club, the Miami Marlins. Legendary pitcher Satchel Paige, at age 59, was a teammate of Denning's for one game late that season.

In June of 1966, Denning's Miami Marlins, ventured to St. Petersburg, Fla., for a series against the St. Pete Cardinals. The final contest lasted 29 innings – in what's still the longest continuous professional baseball game -- with the Marlins winning 4-3. The game lasted six hours and 59 minutes, ending at 2:29 a.m.

(A 1981 Class AA matchup between Pawtucket and Rochester – which included rising young stars Cal Ripken, Jr., and Wade Boggs -- went 33 innings to become the longest game on the scoresheet, but was halted by curfew and resumed the next day).

Denning, the Miami leadoff hitter, played every inning and had 13 at bats, going 2-for-11 with two walks. The losing manager was Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson. Denning cracked a long fly ball in the top of the 22nd inning that looked like a home run, but it was caught near the top of the fence by the Cards' Bob Taylor.

After they showered, the Marlins got back on the bus for the five-hour ride home to Miami… as a doubleheader awaited the next night.

Denning won six state titles and 83 percent of his games in 17 years as head coach at Cretin-Derham Hall. He then took the same job across town at St. Thomas, and in 15 seasons here won two NCAA championships, took second two other times, and claimed 18 of a possible 25 MIAC regular-season and playoff crowns over that span. He retired in December 2009, seven months after his Tommies won an NCAA title.

Denning recalled the wild Marlins game in this 2008 story published here on Tommiesports.com 

Taylor, the Cards, outfielder, wrote this story about the game in 2014 with more anecdotes

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Gene's Blog is a sports column penned by UST sports information director Gene McGivern. Gene is starting his 24th season at St. Thomas and 30th overall in the MIAC. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and Division III sports.

If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at ejmcgivern@stthomas.edu