This Date in Mets History: May 31 — A long day's journey into night into day and then into another night

Al Bello / Getty Images

What began as an MLB cup of coffee for Ed Kranepool on this date in 1964 turned into a night requiring java by the gallon.

A little after 1:00 a.m. on May 31, 1964, Ed Kranepool, then a slugging first baseman for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, walked into the clubhouse at War Memorial Stadium having just played both halves of a doubleheader and 19 innings of baseball in total. There, he learned his workday wasn't over quite yet. Per a request from the big club, Ed was to hop on the first available flight out of New York's Queen City so he could suit up for a doubleheader between the Mets and Giants at Shea in twelve hours time.

Whatever toll sleep depravation may have taken on Kranepool wasn't evident during game one of the twinbill. The 19-year old started at first, went one-for-four with a single off of future Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, and eventually came around to score one of the three runs the Mets would tally in a 5-3 loss. He was even sharper for game two. Riding a second (or possibly third or fourth) wind, Kranepool helped spark a sixth inning rally with a line drive RBI triple over the head of center fielder Willie Mays. Two batters later, Charley Smith brought the teenaged Met home with a with a single to make the score 6-3.

At this point, Kranepool had been on the field for 34 innings of play in the last 24-plus hours. A game-tying homer off the bat of teammate Joe Christopher in the seventh went unanswered by the Giants, pushing the game into extras and Ed's inning total to 38 and counting. From here on, the game started to take on a dream-like logic for all involved.

In the tenth, Giants manager Alvin Dark began to shuffle players around to preserve what was left of his rapidly depleting bench. Dark's strangest move was a chain reaction initiated by his decision to remove third baseman Jim Ray Hart for pinch hitter Matty Alou. As a result, shortstop Jim Davenport shifted to the hot corner, Alou stayed in the game at center, and that pushed Willie Mays to short, a position he hadn't played with any regularity since his Negro League days 14 years earlier. The Say Hey Kid acquitted himself well to the infield and even turned a turned a double play, though Mets shortstop Roy McMillan did him one better. With two on and nobody out in the top of the 14th, the three-time Gold Glove winner snagged a hotly-hit Orlando Cepeda line drive near the second base bag, which he promptly touched to double off the runner (coincidentally, it happened to be Mays). He then fired the ball to Kranepool at first before Jesus Alou could scamper back, thus completing the second-ever triple play in Mets history.

The Giants loaded the bases one inning after the 6-6-3 triple-killing, but failed to plate a run. Neither team mounted another serious scoring threat until the 23rd, a full eight frames later. That's when Mets pitcher Galen Cisco, one out away from completing his ninth (ninth!) inning of scoreless relief work, finally faltered by allowing back-to-back RBI hits. Giants reliever Bob Hendley took over for Gaylord Perry (who mustered TEN shutout innings) in the bottom half of the 23rd and dispatched the home team with ease. At 11:25 p.m., nine hours and 23 minutes after the first pitch of game one, Mets second baseman Amado Samuel ended the longest doubleheader in MLB history with a fly out to left. Said Ed Kranepool, his day finally over after having played 51 innings of baseball in the last 48 hours:

I wanted it to go a little longer. That way I could say I played in a game that started in May and ended in June.

Birthdays

  • Dwight Bernard, wild-armed reliever for the 1977-78 Mets, is 61. Bernard walked more batters than he struck out during his two seasons in Flushing, though that hasn't stopped the Brewers or the Mariners from relying on him to tutor their pitching prospects. He's worked consistently as a coach in both organizations since 1998.
  • Joe Orsulak turns 51. A nearly average outfielder for three seasons in the '90s, Orsulak's biggest claim to Mets fame came in May 1994 when he hit the team's first pinch-hit grand slam in nearly ten years. The blast turned a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead, but John Franco couldn't close the door on the visiting Giants and the game went in the books as a 6-5 defeat.

Transactions
Tim Teufel shuffled off to San Diego via trade on this date in 1991. In return, the Padres put shortstop Garry Templeton on a New York-bound flight. The performance of both players improved with the change of scenery, though that was almost inevitable given how badly they were doing for their long-term franchises. The Pads definitely got the better deal, however. Teufel played three more years and was an above-average bench option in two of them. Templeton, meanwhile, retired at season's end after posting a meager 57 OPS+ (up from 38 as a Friar!) in 80 games.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Walt Whitman, perhaps the greatest poet this country has ever produced, was born 194 years ago today in West Hills, New York. One of the National Pastime's first famous fans, Whitman said of the sport: "[B]ase-ball is our game: the American game: I connect it with our national character." He also wrote in Song of Myself, "I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake." That's a feeling Mets fans can relate to, especially when tuning into SNY just moments before first pitch.

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