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Mr. Ed

For old postings, check out the Table of Contents in the links section, an easy-to-read reference guide for previous stories.

A colleague of mine is a big Phillies fan and an umpire afficianado (kinder than saying groupie), so in hunting for a topic this week, I thought of something clever that might appeal to him, as the Phillies return east (as does he) and come to Shea Stadium for a three-game series this week.

"This Date in New York Mets History" tipped me off to Ed Sudol's unlikely place in Mets history, though I'm guessing most fans of the Flushing 9 aren't familiar with the man, who died last December. Sudol has the distinction of having umpired the three longest games in Mets history. In fact Sudol was behind the plate for all three occasions, a 25-inning affair with the Cardinals in 1974, a 24-inning contest with the Astros in 1968, and a 23-inning marathon with the Giants in 1964 (he missed a 19-inning Mets-Dodgers affair in 1973, leaving the city a day ahead of time...but did work a 20-inning contest elsewhere earlier that season). A few weeks after that Giants game, he had the distinction of umpiring Jim Bunning's perfect game and a little less than 10 years after that, he was behind the plate when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. He was on the job for two moments of Metsnificance. In 1962, he manned second base for the Mets first regular-season game. In 1969 he umped behind the plate for the decisive Game 3 of the National League Championship Series between the Mets and the Braves.

If Ed Sudol was in the ballpark, you could be assured of two things. one was that he would command your respect. The other is that you might not get home at the time you expect because Sudol had a penchant for long days and nights at the ballpark.

Such was the case as Sudol manned third and then second base for the evening of comedy that was the Banner Night Doubleheader between the Mets and Phillies on August 1, 1972. Those who departed for the entrance behind centerfield (from which fans would walk in to display their bedsheets) missed quite a bit of the action if they left as they were requested at the conclusion of the seventh inning.

The score was tied at one at that point, but it looked like the Mets would be victors as Cleon Jones homered to give them the lead in the last of the eighth. The Phillies were a pesky, albeit pathetic team that season and they knotted things up again when Don Money homered off Jon Matlack in the top of the ninth.

The scoreboard digits would remain locked in at two for a good while as the teams played bonus baseball. Meanwhile, some fans waiting for the banner display, according to newspaper reports, got impatient and climbed trees outside the ballpark to keep up with the action (memo to those attendees: you should have brought a radio).

The Mets defense pleased those who were in the ballpark, turning four extra-inning double plays. Tug McGraw worked 6 1/3 scoreless innings behind Matlack and Ray Sadecki followed with three shutout frames. Sadecki kept the score tied when the Phillies threatened in the 18th, inducing a groundout and lineout with the go-ahead run on third base.

That was a good thing because in the bottom of the 18th, the Mets finally broke through, after being shut down by four Phillies relievers. Tommie Agee led off with a double, advanced to third when the Phillies botched Sadecki's bunt. After Dave Schneck grounded out and Ed Kranepool walked intentionally to load the bases, Jones, who thought he had the winning hit a couple hours previous, drove in his third run of the game with a single to right-center for a 3-2 walk-off win.

The game took nearly 4 1/2 hours, so it was after 10 before the bedsheet-carriers were rewarded with a walk on the field to display their wares. Most Banner Days had a reputation for being lengthy (the one I attended in 1984 was interminable), but this one went rather quickly. The two teams were back on the field for an 11 p.m. start, ideal for West Coast folks, but not those in Flushing.

The second game was played at breakneck speed and was even at one after eight innings. Future Mets coach Bill Robinson assured those remaining that this would not go extra-extras, as he smashed a three-run double off the left field wall in the top of the ninth, giving Steve Carlton (winner of 27 of the Phillies 59 triumphs that season) his 11th straight victory and the Phillies a split of the proceedings when the final out was recorded at close to 1 a.m.

This was the second such doubleheader of length that Sudol umpired that season. A few months earlier, he had a double dip in San Diego, in which the second game went 18 frames.

We'll presume that Sudol liked his work, as he stayed in the game for 21 seasons and worked more than 3,000 games (umpires worked 150 to 160 games a season back then) There was however no truth to the rumor that when Sudol, who retired after the 1977 season, was prepping for a doubleheader, the popular phrase was "It's a beautiful day for a ball game. Let's play the equivalent of three!"

True Metpires know: Ed Sudol also was the home plate umpire for the 1964 All-Star Game at Shea Stadium, in which the National League defeated the American League, 7-4, on a walk-off three-run home run by Phillies outfielder Johnny Callison.

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