19 innings of zeroes...the longest scoreless tie in MLB history
September 11 marks the anniversary of one of the strangest games in the history of the major leagues. Late in the 1946 season, the Cincinnati Reds visited Ebbets Field for a series with the Dodgers. At the time, Brooklyn was locked in a tight pennant race with the St. Louis Cardinals; a race that would eventually end in a dead heat at season's end, necessitating a three-game playoff series. The Reds, however, were struggling through another mediocre season which would see them lose 39 of their final 59 games to finish 30 games back in sixth place in the National League. On this particular day, however, the 15,000+ fans who turned out would be treated to an affair marked by superb pitching and defense and very little else.
Toeing the slab that day for Cincinnati was veteran hurler Johnny Vander Meer, who had returned to the majors after two years of military service. Brooklyn sent righty Hal Gregg to the mound. Gregg had won 18 games for the Dodgers in 1945 despite leading the National League in walks. Over the game's first 15 innings, Vander Meer limited Brooklyn to a total of just seven hits, striking out 14 and walking only two. In fact, Vander Meer was so overpowering that only four Dodgers managed to reach as far as second base during the first 15 frames. But Gregg was also masterful, blanking the Reds on just three hits over the first 10 innings before being replaced by reliever Hugh Casey in the 11th inning.
The game's only two real scoring chances both belonged to the Reds. And it was only due to a couple of superb defensive plays by the Dodgers outfield that the game remained scoreless. With one out in the top of the fifth, Reds outfielder Eddie Lukon launched a high fly ball off the right centerfield wall that caromed away wildly from both Brooklyn right fielder Carl Furillo and centerfielder Dixie Walker, giving Lukon the chance for an inside-the-park home run. Only the heads-up play of Dodgers left fielder Pete Reiser saved the day as he ran down the errant ball and fired it to shortstop Pee Wee Reese, whose perfect relay to catcher Bruce Edwards nailed Lukon at the plate.
With the late afternoon darkness approaching in the top of the 19th inning, the Reds got baserunner Dain Clay to second base with just one out. When the next hitter, first baseman Bert Haas, lined a sharp single to right, Clay rounded third and headed for the plate. But a strong throw by Dodgers outfielder Dixie Walker was expertly fielded by catcher Bruce Edwards, who blocked the runner off the plate, while applying the tag to preserve the scoreless tie. And thus, when Reds reliever Harry Gumbert, who had replaced Vander Meer back in the 16th inning, set the Dodgers down in order for the third time in his four innings of work, the umpires finally called the game(due to darkness) a 0-0 tie and ordered the game replayed at a future date(Note: it was eventually replayed on Sept. 20 resulting in a 5-3 win for Brooklyn). Thus ended the longest scoreless tie in major league history.
It should be noted that although the Reds and Dodgers notched 19 scoreless innings, this is not the longest scoreless streak in major league history, only the longest scoreless game to end in a tie. For on August 1, 1918 the Pittsburgh Pirates travelled to Boston to face the Braves. That game remained scoreless for 20 innings before the Pirates tallied two runs in the top of the 21st inning for a 2-0 victory.