The Joel Youngblood Doubleheader

Brandon Magee brings us minor league updates from time to time, reminds us of the deep emotional bonds we can forge through our fandom and brings us up to speed when players are promoted. Here he takes us along as he reminisces about a long day on the road when he mimicked the Joel Youngblood doubleheader.

Joel Youngblood had a fourteen year career as a major league utility man. Despite its length, his tenure would normally place him in the deep recesses of history where Rance Mulliniks and Willy Aybar reside. Unlike them, however, Joel Youngblood had his day, and that day was August 4, 1982. Youngblood started the day as the New York Mets’ centerfielder in an afternoon tilt against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. He knocked in two runs in the third with a single, played the bottom of the inning in the field… and then was pulled from the game for Mookie Wilson. Joel Youngblood was no longer a Met, he was now a Montreal Expo, having been traded in the middle of the game for a player to be named later. Montreal was playing that night in Philadelphia against the first-place Phillies. Youngblood flew from Chicago to Philadelphia, arrived at Veterans Stadium and displaced Jerry White from right field in the bottom of the sixth inning. Youngblood was the third batter up in the top of the seventh and promptly hit an infield single. History was made! Youngblood was not only the first player to have a hit for two different teams playing in two different cities on the same day, he is still the ONLY player to do so.

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May 3, 2011 – My girlfriend, Dawn, and I had secured tickets to see the Boston Red Sox play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a night game at Fenway. As we perused the schedules of our local minor league affiliates, we discovered that Pawtucket was playing at home against the Toledo Mud Hens on that same day. The Pawtucket game was scheduled to start at noon. A plan was hatched.

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True doubleheaders have become almost a footnote to the history of baseball. A necessity in the early years of baseball, changes in the structure of the game and of the world itself have rendered them impractical. Plane travel replaced train travel, making a night game in Los Angeles after a night game in Boston possible. The 162-game schedule no longer needs the large number of off-days to simply account for traveling from one city to the next. A true doubleheader is a monetary loss for the team, being able to sell only a single ticket to watch both games. From 2004 through 2010, there were no scheduled doubleheaders. Although there have been four scheduled doubleheaders played in the past four seasons, none are on the MLB docket for 2015.

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Norwich, Connecticut is approximately 55 miles from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, with a significant portion of the driving on back roads. The trip takes about 75 minutes. We loaded up the Chevrolet Malibu with provisions for the long day and left our house at 10 in the morning. It was a brilliantly sunny day and our spirits were bright.

We arrived at McCoy Stadium early enough to see some of the rituals of preparation: watering the field and re-chalking the line, long tosses by the entire team, the signing of autographs on baseballs delivered by milk jug. Games played this early in the afternoon at this time of year are usually populated by kids on field trips from school. This game was no different, with the blocks of distinctive colors helping to distinguish one school from another.

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Doubleheader IMG 1

In the 2012 MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement, a new rule governing roster size was implemented to help teams during “day-night” doubleheaders. Teams are allowed to expand the roster from 25 to 26 players to help alleviate the wear and tear on the players, in particular, the pitchers. Oddly, the Elias Sports Bureau and the official MLB playing rules do not recognize these games as doubleheaders. They are simply distinct single games that happen to be played on the same day at the same stadium.

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Doubleheader IMG 2

The Pawtucket Red Sox started highly touted lefty Felix Doubront. The Mud Hens had a ringer in their lineup. Victor Martinez was rehabbing from injury. A Josh Reddick single followed by a Hector Luna double placed the Pawsox on top 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Doubront walked the first batter he faced in the second inning and then gave up a home run to Cale Iorg, putting Toledo on top 2-1. Doubront, who had started the year in the Boston bullpen, only lasted 3 ⅓ innings as he was transitioning back to a starting role. Luna homered in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game up at two a side.

Doubleheader IMG 3

Jason Rice, who replaced Doubront in the fourth, started the fifth inning poorly for the Pawsox. A walk to Argenis Diaz and a single to right field by Timo Perez set the stage for V-Mart. Martinez singled through the right side, scoring Diaz and putting the Mud Hens up to stay, 3-2. They would score two more in the inning and another two in the eighth to win 7-2. Martinez went 2-for-4 in his second rehab appearance and returned to start for the Detroit Tigers the next day.

The game lasted an impractically long three hours and twenty-seven minutes. It was four o’clock as we left Pawtucket for Newton, Massachusetts to catch the train to Fenway. Forty miles up I-95, forty-five minutes in the car if traffic cooperated.

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There has only been one scheduled home and home doubleheader in MLB history. On Labor Day of 1903, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Superbas (later becoming the Dodgers) started the day playing in Washington Park in Brooklyn before moving to Manhattan to play at the Polo Grounds. The distance between the two parks was fourteen miles. Despite the relatively small distance between the parks, the experiment ended with this single event.

With the advent of interleague play, the event of a home-and-home series has again become a possibility. Rainouts can wash away a game, and scheduling a game later in the season is usually a goodwill gesture from the team to their fans. The Yankees and Mets have played three home-and-home doubleheaders in the interleague era, in 2000, 2003 and 2008. Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium are fewer than ten miles apart.

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Dawn and I arrived in Boston in time to enter Fenway Park when the gates opened. The ability to get into one’s seats early is an underrated part of the ballpark experience. To watch the pregame rituals ‒ the batting practice, the movement of the protective screens from the infield back to their home beneath the stands, the sprints the players take to warm up ‒ allows one to immerse themselves in the totality of the day of baseball. The game may only take a few hours, but the preparations before and after render a baseball game a whole day event.

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Doubleheader IMG 4

There have been two instances in Major League Baseball where a team has played two games against different teams on the same day. On September 13, 1951, The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Giants 6-4. Later in the day, they lost to the Boston Braves 2-0. On September 25, 2000, the Cleveland Indians also played two against two. In the first game, rescheduled due to a rainout two weeks prior, the Indians defeated the Chicago White Sox 9-2. In the regularly scheduled game, Cleveland lost to the Minnesota Twins 4-3.

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The Red Sox-Angels tilt featured an excellent pitching matchup. Jon Lester was on the mound for the Sox, Dan Haren for the Angels. Both pitchers had begun the season strong out of the gate, and they both started off well on this day. A Mark Trumbo second inning solo home run put the Angels on the board first, but otherwise both offenses were stalled. Lester would only give up the one run in his seven innings of work, striking out eleven Halos. Haren kept the Sox scoreless through the first five innings, allowing only a pair of singles.

The Sox finally broke through in the sixth as Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to right field with one out. After a Dustin Pedroia strikeout, consecutive singles by David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and Jed Lowrie plated the first two Red Sox runs, putting Boston ahead to stay.

The Red Sox would score another run in the seventh before breaking out the power bats in the eighth. Gonzalez homered to start the inning, ending the night for Haren. David Ortiz greeted reliever Hisanori Takahashi rudely as he homered to right field. A Jed Lowrie single followed before J.D. Drew struck out for the first out. Marco Scutaro then crushed a pitch to left center. It was called a home run on the field, but the Angels challenged and lost. The Sox now led 7-2.

Doubleheader IMG 5

Jonathan Papelbon, warming up prior to the eighth inning fireworks, came in to close out the game. He gave up three consecutive hits and then a sacrifice fly, bringing the score to 7-3. A strikeout and a ground out ended the game with the Red Sox on top.

In comparison to the slow proceedings at McCoy, this game took only 2 hours and 41 minutes, which enabled us to start the journey back to Connecticut before 10 pm.

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The shortest doubleheader in MLB history took a combined 2 hours and 7 minutes to play a pair of games. That took place on September 26, 1926 as the St. Louis Browns swept the New York Yankees. The second game finished in 55 minutes, an American League record that is likely never to be approached.

The question of who played the longest doubleheader in MLB history is more difficult to answer. On August 18th of 2006, the Red Sox and Yankees (of course) played two nine-inning contests, scoring a combined 41 runs in 8 hours and 40 minutes. If you include extra innings, the record resides with the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets on May 31st, 1964. The first game was over in a breezy 2 hours and 29 minutes. The second went 23 innings and lasted 7 hours and 23 minutes. Combined, the games lasted 9 hours and 52 minutes.

There is a third answer to the question. Official time of play does not include delays and the time between the two games. On July 2nd, 1993, the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies suffered through 3 lengthy rain delays at Veterans Stadium. The first game officially lasted only 2 hours and 34 minutes. However, the game was delayed before starting for an hour and ten minutes, further delayed in the fourth for an hour and 56 minutes, and delayed even further in the sixth inning, this time for longer than the game itself, 2 hours and 56 minutes. The intermission between games lasted 25 minutes before the sides played their extra inning contest (10 innings) in 3 hours and 12 minutes. For any fans that endured both games, they spent twelve hours and five minutes inside Veterans Stadium.

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The distance from Newton, Massachusetts to Norwich, Connecticut is ninety miles. Unlike the trip to Pawtucket, the travel can all be completely done via the interstate. On a good day, the trip can take as little as 80 minutes.

Dawn and I arrived home at approximately 1:00 a.m. on May 4th. It was a fifteen-hour day of baseball and travel; long day, but ultimately a satisfying one. We did decide one thing on the car ride back home… we would not pull a Joel Youngblood again. This would be the first and last time we would take in two games in two different states on the same day.

Brandon Magee keeps us up to date on the goings on of the Boston Red Sox farm system and reminds us just how far our shared love of a team can go.

Follow us on twitter at @SOSHBaseball.

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