Photo Credit: Philadelphia Inquirer

By Zane Miller

On Saturday, October 2nd, 1965, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets went a full 18 innings in a game which would end in a 0-0 draw at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York, as the Phillies stayed at an 83-76 record while the Mets remained with an abysmal 50-110 showing. Although the late-season game did not matter much in terms of postseason qualification, it would still be historically significant as, quite possibly, the last MLB game to ever end in a scoreless tie.

The Phillies were coming off of a heartbreaking 1964 season, as although they finished with a strong 92-70 record, they came up just one game short of tying the St. Louis Cardinals for a World Series berth (remember that the MLB playoffs as we know them today did not yet exist), made even more devastating by the fact that Philadelphia held the National League lead for most of the season until hitting a 10-game losing streak in late September. Despite the Phillies posting another winning record in 1965, they were nowhere near World Series contention by the time of their matchup against the Mets.

Speaking of which, the Mets continued to flounder after joining the league as an expansion team in 1962, which saw them put up the most losses for a single season in MLB history at 40-120, a record which still stands today. The Mets failed to do much better in the next two years, finishing at 51-111 in 1963 and 53-109 in 1964, and were on pace to fail to surpass the 50-win mark yet again in 1965.

Philadelphia brought starting pitcher Chris Short to the mound, an excellent choice as he was in the midst of a fantastic season with 18 wins, 219 strikeouts and a 2.96 ERA in 282.1 innings pitched coming into what would be his final start of the season. Meanwhile, New York sent up rookie Rob Gardner, who had made his major league debut just a month prior and was also looking for his first career win after being called up from the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.

Also worth mentioning is that this game was the second game of a doubleheader, due to the Phillies-Mets game scheduled the previous day being rained out. As a result, the contest did not get underway until 8:30 pm local time, with the first game, which ended up being won by the Phillies 6-0, finishing up around 30 minutes earlier. With that said, it was time to play ball.

The Phillies had probably their best scoring opportunity of the game in the first inning, as they put runners on second and third with one out thanks to a sacrifice fly from star third baseman Dick Allen. However, Gardner would get a crucial strikeout followed by inducing a flyout to get out of the inning unscathed. With that, the Philadelphia offense would largely go ice cold for the next 17 innings. Just like their counterparts, the Mets also posed a major scoring threat in their half of the first inning, with two outs and runners on the corners for rookie left fielder Ron Swoboda, though he too went down with a strikeout.

Both Short and Gardner dominated the lineup in the second inning, as both teams went down in order with both pitchers picking up a strikeout as well. The third inning for Short would be a bit more intense, as New York loaded the bases despite striking out twice in the inning. With backup outfielder Danny Napoleon entering the game for the Mets as Swoboda was ejected following his inning-ending strikeout, he would meet the same fate as he too struck out to leave the runners stranded.

The middle innings would be much like the second inning, as nobody was able to reach base in either the fourth or fifth. While a runner would reach base for each team in the sixth, they would both be harmless as Short and Gardner pitched their way out of the threat. The two carried on with their regularly scheduled dominance in the seventh and eighth innings as neither side added a baserunner, including a bottom of the seventh which saw Short claim three consecutive strikeouts to boost his total to 12. Short and the Phillies would not be so fortunate in the bottom of the ninth, as Mets rookies Greg Goosen and Cleon Jones were both able to reach base with two outs. As veteran shortstop Roy McMillan entered the game to pinch hit in what would be his final full-time season, he would go down harmlessly with a swinging strikeout to send the game into extra innings.

Despite going into extras, both starting pitchers forged on with no signs of slowing down, as they both were able to get through the first five extra innings relatively cleanly. Incredibly, neither pitcher allowed a single baserunner in the 12th inning, with none reaching scoring position with the exception of a stolen base by the Mets’ Jim Hickman in the 11th.

After another sparkling runner-free performance in the 14th inning by the duo, the Phillies threatened to get on the board in the 15th inning thanks to a one-out double by right fielder Tony Gonzalez. After a Bobby Wine sacrifice fly moved Gonzalez over to third however, Gardner finished off his outing with a bang by forcing catcher Pat Corrales to pop out in foul territory. Like Gardner, Short would be out of the game after the 15th as he also allowed a runner to reach second base, though he would get himself out of the inning as well.

With the fate of the game now in the hands of the bullpen, rookie pitcher Gary Wagner entered the game for the Phillies along with fellow rookie Darrell Sutherland for the Mets. Despite the combined lack of experience, both Wagner and Sutherland went two full innings without allowing a runner past first base, with both offenses being firmly stuck in a rut at this point.

Both relievers were pulled for the 18th inning, as Jack Baldschun took over for Philadelphia and Dennis Ribant came in for New York. Ribant cruised through the inning in spite of the Mets lifting all three batters for pinch hitters in desperation to find any offensive spark, while Baldschun got through even easier, allowing no baserunners while getting back-to-back strikeouts to finish out the inning. However, remember when I said that the game started at 8:30 local time? Well, at this point it was nearly 1:00 am on October 3rd, as even without modern commercial breaks the contest was still well past the four-hour mark. This was a major problem as National League rules at the time stated that a game could not continue past 1:00 am, with no exception given for doubleheaders. Therefore, the game was called after the 18th inning as a 0-0 tie, though this is not where the story ends.

While the results of this game counted for statistical purposes, thus why it is considered an official game, MLB rules at the time stated that games which ended in a draw for any reason would need to be played again from the beginning. Since this was incredibly late in the regular season, the only day that it could be made up was the very same day, meaning there would be a second doubleheader held just 12 hours after both teams essentially played 27 consecutive innings. Both the Phillies and Mets lodged protests to the NL president’s office, though they refused to budge. With that, the Phillies capped off an exhausting weekend with a sweep of the final doubleheader, winning both games by a score of 3-1 to tie a knot on the regular season with an 85-76 record as the Mets fell to 50-112 to finish dead last in the MLB standings for the fourth straight year.

Short’s final stat line in the scoreless tie featured 18 strikeouts while allowing nine hits and three walks in 15 innings pitched, while Gardner’s was a significantly smaller seven strikeouts with just five hits and two walks allowing in 15 innings as well. Short’s ERA for the season dropped from 2.96 to 2.82 with his herculean effort, as Gardner was able to cut his ERA by over half, going from 6.92 down to just 3.21, though it’s worth a reminder that this was done with Gardner only having pitched a total of 28 innings on the year. Short continued his MLB career until the 1973 season, picking up 135 career wins, most of which with the Phillies. Tragically, Short passed away in 1991 after spending three years in a coma following a brain aneurysm, and was posthumously inducted to the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame in 1992. Gardner also last played in the MLB in the 1973 campaign, ending up with 14 career wins after bouncing around several organizations.

With a staggering 58 innings of baseball played over the span of just two days (the final game of the second doubleheader went 13 innings because why not), it’s fair to say that this could be the craziest ending to a regular season in MLB history involving teams no longer in postseason contention. It’s also very likely, considering the “ghost runner” rule instituted in 2020 for extra inning games, that this will be the MLB’s final regular season scoreless draw.

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