The photo in the Medicine Hat News on the Monday following the Blue Jays’ 24-23 win over Great Falls. (Courtesy: Medicine Hat News)
By JOE McFARLAND
When you score 23 runs in a baseball game, you should probably win that game. Yet, the Medicine Hat Blue Jays had other plans for the Great Falls Dodgers when the two clubs met on Aug. 26, 1984.
“It was the most exciting and frustrating game I’ve ever been involved in,” Blue Jays manager Rocket Wheeler told the Medicine Hat News after the game. “Whoever made up this game must have known what they were doing when they decided on three outs per side per inning. It worked for both teams.”
In fact, the inning-by-inning scores more closely resembled what the scores of a baseball game should look like. 2-2, 2-1, 3-2, 3-2, 9-3, 7-0, 3-0 and 6-2. There was one scoreless inning. And when the dust settled, the Blue Jays came away with a 24-23 victory. That run total still stands as the Rookie League Baseball record for most combined runs scored by two teams in a game. It also continues to serve as the longest nine-inning game in MiLB history, clocking in at four hours and 25 minutes, giving the 905 fans in the stands at Athletic Park a whole lot to talk about for years to come.
“I remember June Munford’s quote in the paper,” outfielder Rob Ducey told Alberta Dugout Stories. “His quote was ‘my dad always told me never to be the last out in the game’ or something to that effect.”
“And I do remember him hitting that home run.”
After trading jabs throughout the game, the Blue Jays were down 23-18 going into their half of the ninth inning. Willie “June” Munford wasn’t due up to bat for a while so all he could do was hope that his club could chip away at a lead that wasn’t insurmountable, given what had happened in the eight-plus innings prior.
But the Jays gave their clean-up hitter a chance to do some damage, rolling through the order, then loading the bases for the 6-foot-2, 185-pound righty. And he wasted no time with his at-bat, drilling the first pitch he saw over the rightfield fence for a walk-off grand slam.
“I was going to go for it on the first pitch,” Munford told the Medicine Hat News after the game. “I got my pitch.”
A fitting and dramatic end to a record-breaking game, where no lead was safe.
“We were young and we weren’t all that successful, but being a part of a game like that, you don’t really realize the magnitude of it breaking any records whatsoever or being part of a record-setting game,” recalled Ducey, who went 2-for-5 with a couple of walks, three runs scored and three runs batted in.
Dingers for Days
It wouldn’t be the last time Ducey would be a part of a record-breaking game. And he will never forget Sept. 14, 1987.
“The night I hit my first Major League home run we broke the Major League single-game home-run record,” Ducey recalled. As a pinch hitter for Lloyd Moseby, he hit his three-run bomb off of Baltimore Orioles southpaw Mike Kinnunen in an 18-3 victory. The Jays hit a total of 10 dingers in that contest, courtesy of three from Ernie Whitt, two each from Rance Mulliniks and George Bell, and one from Ducey, Moseby and Fred McGriff.
“It was the same night that Cal Ripken, Junior, stopped his Major League innings streak,” Ducey remembered. Ripken, Jr. was replaced by Ron Washington in that game, ending the consecutive-inning streak at over 8,200.
Ducey would go on to play 13 seasons in the majors with Toronto, California, Texas, Seattle, Philadelphia and Montreal. He was also inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. But his roots still ring clear in his mind.
A Phone Call Home
“I remember looking around the room my first week in Medicine Hat and I called my dad collect on Sunday night and I said ‘I don’t know how long I’m going to be here,'” said Ducey, who hit third on the night of the 24-23 marathon. “I probably broke eight bats in the first four days of the mini-camp.”
“And I’m looking at the other outfielders that are with me,” he continued. “Brian Morrison, a two-sport All-American from Oakland, California with massive legs and a serious athlete. Darryl Landrum, his knuckles dragged on the ground, he could hit balls in the lights. Eric Yelding, he ran a 6.2-second 60 and could absolutely fly. I couldn’t do any of those things, I didn’t look like any of those guys.”
“I told my dad ‘I don’t belong here. These guys are way too good.’ I’ll play until they tell me to go home,” the Toronto, Ontario native concluded.
“They told me to go home a few years later.”
Ducey is still involved in baseball as the batting coach for the Clearwater Threshers of the Florida State League. He takes some of the lessons learned in Medicine Hat to his players in Clearwater.
“Baseball has been, obviously, a huge part of my life and I’m glad I’m still able to be involved at the professional level and try to help some of these younger kids along the path and hopefully make an impact on somebody,” Ducey told Alberta Dugout Stories by phone on his way to the field.
“Not only in baseball but in life.”