It’s been more than 15 years now since Dan Barry left The Providence Journal for The New York Times, but he’s never lost his love for telling stories about Rhode Island.
Since 2007, Barry has used his “This Land” column to tell readers about a graveyard in Narragansett; Buddy Cianci’s radio career; Nicky Pari’s deathbed confession; the Camp Runamuck tent city under I-195; and North Providence’s corruption scandal. He stopped by Fall River in 2009, too.
Barry’s latest Rhode Island tale in The Times recalls the legendary longest game in pro baseball history, the 1981 PawSox-Red Wings matchup immortalized on those plastic soda cups McCoy Stadium used to sell (and perhaps still does).
Here’s how Barry begins:
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Our planning went no further than to meet at the ballpark. Simple in theory but madness in practice, given the thousands of others with similar plans. My only hope was to find a white-haired man exuding boyish wonder; who looked as if he was about to see a baseball game for the 10,000th time — and for the first.
There! In the red shirt and sunglasses: Joe Morgan, the former Boston Red Sox manager, whose baseball credentials date to the 1940s, when wily pitchers in New England’s old Blackstone Valley League would snap off 12-to-6 curves to teach the college kid not to be too impressed with himself.
And just like that, our continuing baseball conversation picked up where it left off, as naturally as if we had been interrupted by a cough and not a year. No time for idle banter; just instant ruminations about the rules of the game, the historical data, the personalities come and gone.
Read the rest here.
Apparently Barry has a lot more to say about this bit of sports history, too – he has a new book about it, “The Bottom of The 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game,” coming out April 12. I bet he’ll be making his way here for a book signing at some point soon.
Update: Had my Joe Morgans mixed up earlier; thanks to Steve Kumins for very politely setting me straight.
(logo: Pawtucket Red Sox)