Home British baseballProject COBB 5:45 to Folkestone: Longest games and World War I ball

5:45 to Folkestone: Longest games and World War I ball

by Joe Gray

Cobb (128x128)It’s less than a week since the launch of Project Cobb, and already the lists of collaborators and their research projects have begun to grow. This growth has resulted from investigation of several existing leads, as well as an email in the Baseball on Five mailbox that was kindly passed on by Jonny and Josh. Here’s a look at some projects being carried out by the four new collaborators. The Project Cobb webpage has details of how you can help, should you have information.
Andrew Taylor

Baseball in Kent during World War I

While working for Kent Libraries in a research capacity, baseball fan Andrew Taylor was passed a letter from a Canadian man who was trying to piece together his grandfather’s military career in World War I. Folkestone, in Kent, was a major embarkation point in World War I and many Canadian regiments were resident at the local barracks throughout the war.

The research that followed led Andrew to uncover a match report and photos from a baseball game played in 1915 at Folkestone Cricket Ground between the 6th Field Co Div Engineers and the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion.

Match report from the game at Folkestone Cricket Club in 1915

     Match report from the game at Folkestone Cricket Club in 1915


A player from the 6th Field Co Div Engineers at the plate

     A player from the 6th Field Co Div Engineers at the plate


A player from the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Batallion at the plate

     A player from the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion at the plate

There is also a photo of a Canadian Corps Division team from a game in July 1918, played at nearby Shorncliffe, in which they beat an American forces team.

With his interest sparked by the initial discoveries, Andrew is currently compiling a history of baseball in the Folkestone area during World War I. He has already discovered that some games were reported to draw local crowds of a few thousand.

Baseball in Wartime

Baseball on British soil relating to World War II

Baseball in Wartime is a website run by Gary Bedingfield, who played in the 1980s and 1990s for the Enfield Spartans, in north London, as well as representing the Great Britain team. Gary, an Englishman, now lives in Glasgow, having moved there from north London several years ago. So how did he develop an interest in baseball during World War II? The answer is on his site:

“As my playing days came to an end, I developed an appetite for the history of the game, searching for links between baseball and my own country. I have always been interested in WWII history and it was in the mid-90s I was thinking about American servicemen in Britain during the war and wondering what their affiliation with baseball could have been. Were there any minor league players here? Maybe even a major league player or two might have passed through Britain. 

A little research showed that many ball players had indeed served and also played baseball in this country during the war.” 

For Gary, the website is the beginning of a long project:

“My  intention is to include ALL information on baseball relating to World War II. It’s a pretty tall order and I doubt I’ll see it completed in my lifetime but I’ll certainly give it a go!”

British Baseball Data

British baseball in the 1950s

Mark Tobin has been steadily gathering information on league standings from the past few decades for his website British Baseball Data, but he has now widened his focus by delving into the 1950s. Mark summarizes the 1950s on his site:

“This was almost like the ‘forgotten era’ in English baseball’s history. The game was going through a strong period of growth, yet the regions were at loggerheads with each other, and because of this, there were no National finals contested for seven years during the decade.

In the 1950s there were two leagues operating in the South of England – the Western League and the bigger South Eastern League. The two leagues were not hostile towards each other. [I]n fact they met in an annual all-star game called the Coronation Cup.”

To kick things off, Mark has catalogued some of the “great team names” from that time to prevent them “fading into history.”

Phil Lowry

Longest games in Britain

Phil Lowry has been researching long baseball games since 1963 and must be the world expert on the subject. The origin of this particular interest is explained in an article Phil wrote for SABR’s Baseball Research Journal in 2004.

“[M]y father and I attended a 26-inning twi-night doubleheader at Forbes Field Aug 9, 1963. After a long rain delay, the first game took 15 innings. Roberto Clemente’s RBI single ended the second game in the bottom of the 11th at 2:30 AM. The next day, we discovered that nobody at KDKA Radio or any Pittsburgh newspaper, indeed nobody in the entire world, could answer the question, ‘Is that the longest-ever night of baseball?'”

Phil is not just interested in North American baseball, though, with the longest game he has found yet being a 45-inning affair that took place at the Ibaraki-Mito Prefectural Stadium in Mito, Japan, on 20 September 1983. It was the title game of the 38th annual Emperor’s Cup Nan-shiki Tournament and was between Light Manufacturing (Raito Kogyo) of Tokyo and Tanaka Hospital (Byouin) of Miyazaki. The first scoring of the game did not come until the 35th inning, but both teams pushed across a run in the frame. The game was won in the 45th; Light Manufacturing scored to make it 2-1 in the top half of the inning. 

Of course, this is not necessarily the longest game ever played, as Phil notes in the 2004 article:

“Could I have spent 41 years searching for the longest game by innings, and missed one lasting more than 45 innings? I think the answer is yes. It took me 40 years and 11 months of searching before Jul 23, 2004, which is when, thanks to Mr. Masaru “Massy” Ikei of Yokohama, Japan, I found the 45-inning game in Mito. Who is to say a game longer than 45 innings may not be found in some dusty archive next month?”

Phil defines a “marathon game” as one lasting at least 5 hours or 20 innings or more. He has already found details of four games played on British soil fitting this category, but has nothing yet for Wales or Northern Ireland. He would really like information on any long games played in those two countries, even if they were not technically “marathons”. The four British marathons are:

Length 5:45 – August 1995 – Edinburgh Reivers 12 Glasgow Comets 11 in 12 innings.

Length 5:02 – April 2003 – Croydon Pirates 14 Menwith Hill Patriots 13 in 13 innings.

Length 5:00 – June 1995 – Guildford Mavericks 28 Bracknell Blazers 27.

Length 5:00 – 2000 – Milton Keynes Rebels at Hertfordshire Falcons.

Steve Bartley, who wrote a couple of very amusing articles for BaseballGB back in May, posted this gem of a game report on the Pirates website for the 5:02 game mentioned above:

“Epics that take this long usually involve Charlton Heston stabbing Romans. In five hours two minutes the Pirates went 13 innings in their season opener, beating the Menwith Hill Patriots 14-13.

The Pirates will know that it shouldn’t have been so close. The Pirates dominated the early innings, leading 10-4 going into the fifth. But the Patriots, whose starter Shanks would throw a deadball-era-type 213 pitches in 11 innings of work, scrambled back with a strong inning in the sixth and three runs in the seventh to go ahead 13-12.

As the weather grew colder and the ump put his coat on thoughts wandered to whether this would mean a bigger strike zone. Apparently not. The first seven innings had taken nearly three hours and had notched up 19 walks.

And this was no mean strike zone – 27 struck out in all, home plate umpire James Norman signalling strikes with his right arm as if grabbing the scruff of the neck of a man twice his size and growling his authority.

Stalemate followed until the bottom of the ninth. Needing a run to tie it, Alec Gatrell struck out on a slider and Billy Richardson popped out to the second baseman. Then Jason Raffantigot aboard with a single to left.

With Raffanti on first and Scott Carson at the plate Shanks was distracted long enough to balk on a pick-off throw. He stole third as Carson worked the count to 2-and-2 before he slapped a bouncing ground ball through the diving bodies up the middle to level the score.

Three innings of scoreless baseball followed and the five-hour mark loomed. But as the wind died down the sun came out the two sides kept heads raised for another inning.

Extra innings sometimes makes hitters go for the fences, but after Menwith Hill went scoreless in the top of the 13th, Gatrell managed a lead off walk.

Despite Hamannbeing fresh on the mound he let slip two wild pitches with two outs and Carson at the plate. Gatrelltook third on one and scrambled home on the other taking to the air like he was pouncing on a chicken in a courtyard and dived home with the winning run.

Pirates hitters combined for a .260 average, Pete Garthwaite standing out going 4-for-7 with two runs and three RBI’s. But Pirates reliever Rob George ultimately contributed a significant seven and one third innings, giving up just three earned runs on five hits and striking out nine, ending the game having pitches six straight shut out innings.

The Patriots, who are in their first season in the RNL played some good fundamental baseball behind some impressive pitching from Shanks.

Despite suffering the brunt of the Pirates offence Shanks, who had a fluid delivery and had the appearance of sciatic pain as he paused to check the runners, maintained enough stuff to keep his side in the game well into extra innings.

The Pirates, who followed the next day with a friendly win 9-7 over the Richmond Flames will look to tighten up the weaknesses exposed in their opener, primarily giving up walks and errors which allowed Menwith Hill three vital runs in all. Pirates pitchers walked six lead off hitters, and five of their 13 walks resulted in runs scored. The side looks strong and will play better when these gaps are closed.

One walk in particular stood out, earned after a ding-dong on Patriots second baseman Brown who fouled off a first pitch bunt and proved that the jockstrap isn’t always enough. He fell to the ground and tried to bury his head in the home plate sand.

After minutes of lying still he got to his feet and bravely dug in at the plate, albeit a little sheepishly. He tried to work a walk, and who could blame him? He got it, dancing a slow shuffle down to first base. As one observer noted, a base on balls never had such a literal meaning.”


Are you currently researching a part of British baseball history? Do you have any materials or memories that you could share? If so, please leave a comment.

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Matt Smith October 25, 2008 - 10:11 am

Fascinating reading Joe. It’s great to see Project Cobb starting on such a positive note and I’m sure it will continue. These research projects, and the registry bringing them all together, will prove invaluable to anyone interested in the history of baseball within Britain.

Joaquin October 25, 2008 - 7:37 pm

Hi! There are news about the European League!


I´m not sure if it is going to work. If I have understood well, the European League will have only 8 teams and last 2 months. That´s very little time and very few teams!

Matt Smith October 25, 2008 - 8:18 pm

Hi Joaquin. I saw this news a little earlier today and thought about your previous interest in the topic. I’ll try to put a post together about my thoughts on it tomorrow.

Tim October 28, 2008 - 12:55 pm

This is not strictly about ‘our’ British baseball – rather the ‘other’ version of British baseball – but this article from the British Baseball website includes an interesting piece of research on a cross-breed of baseball and rounders called ‘British Baseball’ or ‘Welsh Baseball’.

Although it’s a great article, the only problem with references to this version of ‘British baseball’ in the SABR article is that it might lead some less-savvy readers to think that the more traditional ‘U.S.’ baseball is dying in the UK, because it can be a bit confusing knowing which British baseball is being referred to. The confusion may be compounded by the British Baseball Federation (of the ‘U.S.’ version!) attempting to rebrand its baseball community as British Baseball in recent seasons (as opposed to the more stuffy-sounding ‘Federation’).


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