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I (finally) started a new job last Monday after 14 tortuous months. But while I am grateful for the new opportunity, it means that I won't be able to head down to join the family next week for the Independence Day holiday.

But sometimes disappointment can be a blessing in disguise, as I received an opportunity this weekend to represent the Atlanta USO and help carry the large American Flag onto the Braves field at SunTrust Park on the 4th of July for the pre-game festivities. I have done this once before, last year in May for Military Appreciation Day, and it was a lot of fun (but also a lot of work).

Thinking of Dad and the 4th of July, I can't help but go back to the Braves vs. Mets game on July 4th, 1985. In past years, we had gathered on a hill a few miles away from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, listed to the game on the radio, then watched the fireworks from the distance. But this year, my dad surprised us with tickets he had scalped to the game.

Five delays covering the field with 2hrs 5m of rain later, the field was a mess, both dugouts were a mess, the fans were a mess, and the stadium venders were desperate for us to go home so they could clean up. At 12:30am, the PA announced that MARTA (rapid transit) would continue running until 1am. At 1:05am, the PA announced that MARTA would continue running until the game was over. At 2am, the ballpark staff came out and sat at the top of the sections because they couldn't clean up until we left.

At 3am, in the bottom of the 18th, with 2 outs and down by a run, Rick Camp with a lifetime batting average of .057 stepped up to the plate. The Mets moved in from the outfield to catch what they thought would be a game-ending weak blooper. Instead, Camp hit is first and only career home run. The home fans booed as he rounded, because it meant there could be a 19th inning.

Mets manager Davey Johnson played the game under protest because the umpires wouldn't let him change his lineup when starter Dwight Gooden had to be taken out after the second rain delay. In the top of the 17th, both Darryl Strawberry and Davey Johnson were ejected over arguing balls and strikes.

"Davey," said Umpire Terry Tata, "at three o'clock in the morning, anything's a strike."

Mets pinch hitter Rusty Staub was walked in the top of the 19th inning, eventually coming around to score on a Danny Heep single. George Foster went 0 for 2 and walked three times. Staub was 41. Dwight Gooden was 20. Keith Hernandez hit for the cycle.

Future HoF catcher Gary Carter caught all 19 innings and 305 pitches from 7 different pitchers, and was 5 for 9, the first of two 5-hit games in his career. Before Camp hit his home run, Carter waived the outfielders in to field what he expected would be a weak blooper.

Braves announcer John Sterling predicted Camp's homer. He was joking of course - they had long run out of anything to say.

"Earnie," Sterling said to broadcaster Ernie Johnson Sr., if he hits a home run to tie this game, this game will be certified as absolutely the nuttiest in the history of baseball."

Left fielder Danny Heep put his hands over his head as Camp's ball cleared the fence. Third baseman Ray Knight screamed, "NOOOO!" Shortstop Howard Johnson dropped to his knees. Center fielder Lenny Dykstra squatted in disbelief and exhaustion. Second baseman Wally Backman grinned and said something to Camp as he ran by. What was said has never been revealed.

The game was supposed to have been over after Braves 1985 NL Home Run leader Dale Murphy (Murph to his fans) hit a 2-out 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th to give the Braves an 8-7 lead. But future Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter blew the save in the top of the 9th with three straight 1-out singles. Outfielder Terry Harper went 5 for 10, including a game typing home run in the 13th.

Combined, the Braves and Mets had 46 hits, well shy of the MLB record of 58 hits over 18 innings in July, 1932 between the Indians and Athletics. 11 players had at least 3 hits (7 for the Mets and 4 for the Braves). Each infield position for the Mets earned 3 hits. The teams left 37 runners on base between them, 17 for the Braves and 20 for the Mets. The Braves scored 10 of their 13 runs with 2 outs, compared to 4 for the Mets. Fourteen players recorded at least one RBI. Every Mets position except position drove in one of their 16 runs. Terry Harper's 4 RBI night led both teams.

Future Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell ate 7 cheeseburgers during the game, before throwing 2/3 of an inning. The only position player to not get into the game was Carter's backup catcher Ronn Reynolds, who left the Mets at the end of the season.

The total clock time for the Braves eventual loss to the Mets was 8 hours, 15 minutes, ending at 3:55am, which set a record for the latest ending game in baseball history until 1993, when the second in a Phillies/Padres double header ended at 4:40am.

I mention all this because my dad, who had uncharacteristically scalped tickets for that game (remember how this story started?) decided for what he paid, he was not leaving until the game was over.

After the game on July 5th, the Braves went ahead and launched the Independence Day fireworks. Locals called the Atlanta City Police to ask if they were under attack. A couple decades later, I listed to the game again on an ESPN Classics radio broadcast. Even the rain delays edited out, the game still took 6hrs 10m. And the results didn't change.

As some of you may know, Dad passed away last May. His birthday is today. He now rests up the street. I think I'll go see him and ask him if he remembers the day he made us watch the Braves lose just so we could see the fireworks.

Fuskie
Who will be thinking of his father as he stands out there on the field come Thursday, hoping for a quick game because he has an 8:30am conference call Friday morning...

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