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Royals-Cardinals and a very brief history of 10 very long rain delays

John Mozeliak and Mike MathenyCardinals GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny took a look at the field during the delay that lasted over four and a half hours. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

The four-hour, 32 minute rain delay in the top of the ninth inning of Thursday night's Cardinals-Royals game at Busch Stadium was not only helped determine the outcome of the game, but by the time it ended at after 3 am local time Friday morning it had taken its place as one of the longest in baseball history.

You see, the Royals entered the top of the ninth trailing 2-1, but rallied for three runs to take a 4-2 lead before the rains came. Though the game was official at that point, if the umpires had decided to call the game rather than wait four and a half hours to resume it, the final score would have been the one from the end of the last full inning, making it a 2-1 Cardinals win. Thus the Royals lobbied both the Joe West-led umpiring crew, opposing manager Mike Matheny and Major League Baseball vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre (via a phone call from Royals general manager Dayton Moore) to wait out the weather.

The Royals won in both senses of the word, getting the game to resume at 3:04 am and, after three quick outs by both teams on a total of just 20 pitches, securing their 4-2 victory. In the process, the game, which was also delayed an hour prior to the first pitch due to rain, rose to fourth all-time in total time lost to rain delays.

That's based on the available data. Major League Baseball doesn't keep rain delay statistics, but in 2004, author Phil Lowry did an exhaustive study on the longest baseball games at every level and included an extensive list of the longest rain delays as an appendix. Combining his findings with some quick research of my own, I was able to put together this list of the 10 most rain delayed games in recent major league history.

7 hours, 23 minutes, Aug. 12, 1990, Chicago

Hosting the Rangers, the White Sox waited that long before finally postponing a Sunday afternoon game without a pitch being thrown.  Roughly 500 fans remained in the stands when the game was finally called off at 8:58 pm. Said White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, "The weather man kept saying it'd stop."

5 hours, 54 minutes, July 2, 1993, Philadelphia

The Padres and Phillies endured nearly six hours of rain delays in this game which was, get this, the first game of a doubleheader. The game was delayed at the start by an hour and 10 minutes, by nearly two hours after the third inning and by two hours and 48 minutes after the fifth. The game started at 4:35 pm and ended at 1:03 am. Then the two teams took a 25 minute break and started the second game at 1:28. The game had no delays, but it did go 10 innings and take more than three hours to complete, finally coming to an end on a walk-off single off Padres rookie Trevor Hoffman by Phillies closer Mitch Williams. When Pete Incaviglia crossed home plate with the winning run, it was 4:40 am in Philadelphia, making the second game the latest game in major league history.

5 hours, 45 minutes, Oct. 3, 1999, Milwaukee

Note the date. The Brewers and Reds had to get this game in because the Reds were just a game behind the Astros in the National League Central and tied with the Mets for the NL wild card and this was the final day of the regular season. So, with the benefit of this being a Sunday day game, the two teams waited five hours and 45 minutes before finally getting started at 8:50 pm. Cincinnati won, 7-1, but so did Houston and New York in their respective games. The next day, the Reds and Mets played a one-game playoff for the wild-card in Cincinnati. Al Leiter threw a two-hit shutout, and the Reds lost 5-0.

5 hours, 32 minutes, May 30, 2013, St. Louis

Even the umpires had it bad. Their next assignment is an afternoon game at Wrigley Field, scheduled to start 10 hours after the marathon in St. Louis ended.

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5 hours, 26 minutes, June 18, 2009, New York

You can blame interleague play for this one as this was the final game of the Nationals' only trip to the brand new Yankee Stadium that season. The umpires had extra time to work with given the scheduled Thursday afternoon start. So the two teams waited nearly five and a half hours to start after which the Nats won 3-0 to take the series.

5 hours, 4 minutes, Sept. 19, 2000, Baltimore

The A's and Orioles endured more than five hours of delays in this game (two hours, 43 minutes before the start, two hours, 21 minutes in the top of the eighth) and the game itself took nearly four hours to play, thanks in part to the Orioles issuing 15 walks. The two teams still had to play the back-end of the scheduled doubleheader, yet it was cancelled, upsetting the A's, who were in the midst of a playoff race.

"They can't give us a good reason why we aren't playing two tonight," said Oakland slugger Matt Stairs after the A's finally completed their 7-4 win over the O's at 10:36 pm on a Tuesday night. "We wanted to play the second one, get it over with," added manager Art Howe. "We were here. The field was supposedly playable. It doesn't help our rotation."

The teams split a doubleheader the next day and the A's went 9-2 thereafter to win the AL West. I guess it didn't hurt their rotation too much, either.

5 hours, June 9, 1980, Philadelphia

This Monday night affair between the Phillies and the Giants totaled five hours of separate rain delays, all in the bottom of the fourth inning. Talk about a tease. The game was first delayed for an hour and 28 minutes after the final out in the top of the fourth. After the players came back on the field, Bob Boone hit a leadoff home run for the first run of the game, but two batters later, the tarp went back on and the game was delayed for an additional three hours and 32 minutes. All the while, Steve Carlton had four perfect innings under his belt. So, when the top of the fifth came, around at 1:30 am, five and a quarter hours after throwing his last pitch in the top of the fourth, Carlton went back out there (his manager, perhaps not coincidentally, was notorious pitcher-abuser Dallas Green). The second hitter Carlton faced in the fifth doubled, but he pitched the sixth as well, holding the Giants scoreless all the while only to have Dickie Noles blow the save in the eighth as the Giants went on the win 3-1. The last out came at 3:11 am.

4 hours, 55 minutes, June 24, 2000, St. Louis

The Cardinals and Dodgers had a hard time getting this Saturday afternoon game going. It was delayed by an hour and six minutes at the start, by a half an hour in the bottom of the first and by a whopping three hours and 16 minutes with one out in the bottom of the second. That last delay sent starting pitchers Orel Hershiser and Darryl Kyle to the showers with the score 2-0 Cardinals thanks to a first-inning home run by Mark McGwire off Hershiser in what proved to be the penultimate appearance of the one-time Cy Young winner's career. When the game resumed with Carlos Perez and Alan Benes on the mound, it continued without further interruption to a 6-1 St. Louis win.

4 hours, 27 minutes, Sept. 28, 2006, Washington, DC

Note the date, again. With four days left in the regular season, including this one, the Phillies were just a game behind the Dodgers in the wild card race heading into this Thursday night series finale against the Nationals. So they waited until 11:32 to get started only to lose 3-1 in a game that ended at 2:07 am. It was all for naught. The Dodgers were in the process of winning their last seven games and cruised to the wild card by three games over the Phillies, who also lost in 11 innings on the final day of the season.

4 hours, 1 minute, Aug. 24, 2007, Detroit

This was a real head-scratcher. Yes, this was the Yankees' last trip to Detroit this season, and with just a month left in the season, the pennant races heating up and both the Yankees and Tigers in the thick of the wild card race, this was a game that needed to be played. On the other hand, it was also a Friday night affair and the first game of a four-game set. Yet, rather than schedule a doubleheader for the weekend, the Yankees and Tigers waited until 11:06 pm to start the game, which then went 11 innings and took 4 hours and 24 minutes to play. When Carlos Guillen ended it with a two-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the 11th to give Detroit a 9-6 win, it was 3:30 in the morning on Saturday. The Tigers then followed through with the promised post-game fireworks, though they weren't the latest fireworks in major league history. Those came after the July 4, 1985 Rick Camp game, which had just two hours and 11 minutes of rain delays, but lasted 19 innings and finished at 3:55 am, after which: fireworks!

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