The Braves trailed the Mets 16-13 with two on and two out in the bottom of the 19th, six hours and 51 minutes after the game's rain-delayed start. Rick Camp, the pitcher who had hit his first career home run in the 18th on a two-out, 0-2 pitch to tie the game, came to the plate. The 7,000 or so fans left from a July 4 Fireworks Night crowd of 44,947 in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium started to chant: "We want Camp!" Camp was not amused. "If this team needs me to hit a home run to win a game, it's in trouble," he said. He was right. At 3:55 a.m., E.D.T., Friday, July 5, Ron Darling, pitching in relief for the first time since he was a freshman at Yale, struck out Camp. It was the longest game of the season both in hours and innings, and, as far as anyone knows, it was the latest a major league game has ever ended. "The strangest game I've ever seen," said the Mets' Keith Hernandez, who hit for the cycle.
The game was to have begun at 7:40, but heavy rains delayed the start until 9:04. Another shower in the third inning forced a 41-minute delay, stretching the ordeal to eight hours and 15 minutes from scheduled start to actual finish. Here are some of the highlights after play was resumed:
•Eighth inning: Dale Murphy's two-out, three-run double gives Atlanta an 8-7 lead.
•Ninth: The Mets, who have played 18 games of 17 innings or longer since their inception in 1962, send the game into extra innings with a run off Bruce Sutter.
•12th: Hernandez singles to complete his cycle but goes 0-3 the rest of the way and finishes 4-10.
•13th: Howard Johnson hits a two-run homer off Terry Forster to give the Mets a 10-8 lead. Then, with two outs, Terry Harper nails Tom Gorman's 0-2 pitch for a two-run homer off the leftfield foul screen to make it 10-10.
•17th: Hernandez goes to the clubhouse and phones his brother in San Francisco, where it's midnight. "I told him, 'I wanted you to know it's 3 a.m. and I'm playing baseball. If I have to be up, so do you.' " Meanwhile, Darryl Strawberry and Mets manager Davey Johnson are ejected for arguing a called third strike with home-plate ump Terry Tata. Says Tata: "There aren't any bad calls at 3 a.m."
•18th: The Mets make it 11-10 on Len Dykstra's sac fly, but Camp, a career .062 hitter with five RBIs in 162 at bats before '85, launches a hanging Gorman forkball over the fence in left. It's 11-11. Why is Camp batting? Atlanta has run out of position players.
•Top of the 19th: The Mets explode for five runs off Camp, the gamer a double by Ray Knight, who stranded nine in his first four at bats.
•Bottom of the 19th: The Braves score twice, setting up Camp as the winning run. "When Camp got to the plate," says Johnson, "I jumped in the shower. There's no way I could watch anymore."
"Do you know what it's like to be playing baseball at 3:30 in the morning?" says Dykstra after it's over. "Strange, man. Real strange."
•Epilogue: The fireworks begin, as advertised, right after the game, even though it's 4:01 a.m.
The errorless streak by Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly ended at 159 games Sunday when he fumbled a routine grounder.... The rule book says a player can't be sent to the minors without his assent once he has five years in the pension plan. Toronto righty Luis Leal was sent down last Friday when he was one day short of five years. Why? How about a 4-12 record and a 5.85 ERA since last Aug. 1.... The Yankees were going for a three-game sweep in Toronto last Wednesday but Rickey Henderson, who took a lot of flak from teammates in Oakland last year for missing games, didn't play against Blue Jay ace Dave Stieb as the Yankees lost 3-2. Henderson, the hottest hitter in the league, explained he was resting sore knees. "Yeah, sure," snorted Stieb. "I think he's got a sore me."...Detroit's Kirk Gibson may be headed for a 20-20-20 year: 20 homers. 20 steals and 20 errors. Gibson, who tied for the league lead among outfielders with 12 errors last year, has 17 homers. 11 steals and nine errors so far.
In 1981, when he was a talented but troubled young shortstop in St. Louis, Garry Templeton had a cavalier attitude about the All-Star Game: "If I ain't startin', I ain't departin'." But this year Templeton, now a Padre, hopes he can go to Minnesota for the classic, even though Ozzie Smith, his successor in St. Louis, is leading all shortstops in the voting. "I would like to represent the Padres, even if I don't start," says Templeton, who has matured into a team leader in his three-plus years in San Diego.
Knee problems have slowed him some, but he's having his best season since 1980. Batting eighth, a difficult spot in the National League because pitchers bat ninth, he's hitting .302 with 33 RBIs, only two fewer than he had in all of '84. In the field, he has committed only nine errors. "Tempy is the best shortstop in our league," insists Dick Williams, his manager. "If I was going to name a captain, he'd be it."
Pete Rose certainly isn't backing into first place on the alltime hit parade. He is hitting .280, is third in the NL in on-base percentage and even has five steals.... The Cubs have to be concerned about Ron Cey, their 37-year-old third baseman. He has 12 homers, but he's batting only .212 with 67 strikeouts in 257 at bats. Even more ominous: only seven doubles from a player who had 27 and 33 the last two years.... No sooner did the Mets and Braves finish their marathon, than the Expos beat the Astros 6-3 in 19 innings on Sunday.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
GEORGE BRETT: The Royals' third baseman batted .538 with three doubles, two home runs, a triple, four walks, nine runs scored and 11 RBIs. On July 2 he went 3 for 3 with two three-run homers.
"I got a letter from a guy who said I remind him of Catfish Hunter and Mel Stottlemyre," said Bret Saberhagen, the Royals' 21-year-old righthander. "I've never seen those guys before. I don't know who Mel Stottlemyre is."