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Leaders of the Midnight Baseball League

Nine innings? Three hours and twenty-three minutes? What a gyp! What kind of Mets game is that in the middle of the night? Surely it was only the opener of a twidawn doubleheader. Surely they had to replay the sixth to the thirteenth from the night before in deference to Bruce Bochy attempting to make an illegal pitching change. Surely there had to be more nocturnal shenanigans than a relatively simple, only moderately schleppy Mets victory.

Apparently we’ll have to settle for a 10-6 win whose inevitable tie was decisively broken in the eighth inning, thus leaving us shy of more records [1] and more weirdness [2] if not more grogginess (West Coast’s still the West Coast). Dillon Gee bulling his way through 108 pitches, Marlon Byrd hatching four runs on one swing, Anthony Recker bucking up at and just in front of the plate, Omar Quintanilla, Andrew Brown and Daniel Murphy all doing what had to be done…sorry, that’s all we got Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Just a hard-fought victory [3] that was closer than the final score would indicate yet plenty resounding just the same.

The Mets have won 15 of their last 24 games. If they hadn’t lost 39 of their first 63, that would be really exciting. If they weren’t ruggedly outlasting opponents who have been mostly playing like they were for the bulk of April, May and early June, that would be incredibly encouraging. If their manager would leave the litany of bizarre circumstances [4] to interested observers instead of frightfully reciting the circumstances that have failed to daunt his recently indefatigable team, I wouldn’t be left with the nagging feeling that there’s a built-in excuse brewing here for the Mets’ traditional second-half descent. (To be fair, time-lapse exhaustion figures to make for a more valid alibi than, “There was no way we could ever recover after being deprived of Shaun Marcum’s services [5].”)

Yet all that stated, these are some unexpectedly good times in Metsopotamia. And if anybody understands that good times can emerge at literally any time, it ought to be Mets fans, because we have a team that’s played literally at most every hour of the day or night.

Good luck with that, Mets fans. [6]

Good luck with that, Mets fans.

You’re familiar, I trust, with games from San Francisco that end at 3:42 AM in New York [7]. Damn thing about Monday night’s/Tuesday morning’s seagull-infested festivities was those sixteen innings didn’t come close to setting the predawn TV and radio standard for endurance. For that, you have to go back 40 years, to May 24, 1973, when the Mets and Dodgers kept New Yorkers up for nineteen innings that didn’t conclude until 4:47 AM Eastern [8], or 52 minutes later than the only other nineteen-inning game in the Metropolitan annals. Historical recognition of the Mets’ 7-3 triumph from L.A. has been obscured by its more famous nineteen-inning successor [9] that hatched all manner of wildness and wackiness in Atlanta, but May 24-25, 1973, was the moral equivalent of July 4-5, 1985, even if it lacked precipitation, explosives and homering relievers, among other outsize memorable elements.

OK, so we know the Mets have provided baseball entertainment for their hometown viewers until thirteen minutes before five o’clock ante meridiem. That means there’s no more than a Rosemary Woods-style eighteen-minute gap [10] on our perpetual tape near sunrise because we also know that in the year 2000, on March 29 and 30, the Mets played the Cubs in Tokyo in games that started locally at 7:05 PM but were beamed to New York at 5:05 AM. The second of those contests — the good one — climaxed on Benny Agbayani’s eleventh-inning grand slam and ended at precisely 9 AM in favor of the Mets, 5-1. Thus, we also know the Mets have played pretty close to around the clock.

Pretty close? Try closer than you realize. On July 4, 1969, the Pirates hosted the Mets for an Independence Day doubleheader. And y’know what time they started holiday twinbills at Forbes Field? Why, at 10:35 AM. The opener of that affair, won 11-6 by the eventual world champions, took a not-so-crisp (for the era) 2:57 to complete. By the time it was over, the Mets and Bucs were headed for a “normal” afternoon start time for the nightcap. Common experience tells us anything from 12:05 PM on constitutes the norm when it comes to a first pitch.

To review, the Mets have never played ball between 4:47 AM and 5:05 AM Eastern Time. And they’ve never played ball between 9 AM and 10:35 AM Eastern Time. And that’s it. Otherwise, you might say, the Mets have always played ball…or been capable of playing ball always for the folks back home. All day and all of the night, just about. There are 1,440 minutes in a given day. The Mets, at some point in their life, have plied their craft during approximately 1,357 of them. What we’ve witnessed lately may represent aberrant behavior but it’s not completely without precedent. The travel, the delays, the concentration of games that almost routinely wend their way into a sixth hour…all of that certainly adds a layer of novelty and sleepiness to the proceedings [11], but by playing until literally all hours, the Mets are just doing what the Mets always do.

But unlike last week, they’re winning while doing it, so that’s refreshingly different.