Remembering the Nuttiest July 4th Baseball Game Ever
Baseball and July 4th sum up Americana at its finest more than any combination of the country’s pastimes.
Decades ago, teams scheduled doubleheaders on the holiday. Middle-class families from farms and small towns across the fruited plain would flock to their nearest city to mingle with urbanites, with whom they would cheer against a common opponent. Although the players union did away with the scheduled doubleheader in the sixties, many a thriller—some seemingly by divine intervention—has still taken place on the Fourth.
Nolan Ryan reached his 3,000th strikeout on July 4, 1980. Albert Pujols hit his 300th home run on July 4, 2008, and many other players have reached great milestones on the nation’s birthday.
No Fourth of July game, however, trumps the Mets-Braves game in 1985, known colloquially as the “Rick Camp Game.”
Played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, rain delayed the opening pitch. As the game dragged on, sporadic showers delayed the game even further.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Mets led 7-4. The Braves, however, scored four to take the lead. Unable to close it, they gave up a run in the ninth and went to extra innings, tied 8-8.
By that time, it was after midnight, and the downpour had turned the outfield into a complete swamp.
For three innings, the defenses held. In the top of the 13th, the Mets’ Howard Johnson hit a two-run homer but was answered by the Braves’ Terry Harper with a two-run homer of his own. As if the game was somehow predestined to continue, Harper’s shot ricocheted off the foul pole before falling fair over the wall.
Four more scoreless innings followed into the early morning hours. Despite the time, most of the Atlanta faithful remained in their seats.
In the top of the 17th, the Braves brought in Camp. Meanwhile, umpire Terry Tata ejected both Mets manager Davey Johnson and right fielder Darryl Strawberry for arguing balls and strikes.
“There aren’t any bad calls at 3 a.m.,” quipped Tata after the game.
Camp gave up a run in the top of the 18th because of his own error on a bunt.
In the bottom of the inning, Mets reliever Tom Gorman went 0-2 on his first two hitters.
With the Braves out of position players, Camp had to hit for himself. He had a .060 batting average and had gone 0-for-5 the entire season. With two away and no one on base, the Mets’ catcher, future Hall-of-Famer Gary Carter, waived his outfield in, as most assumed Gorman would put Camp away for the end of a miserable, soggy game.
After Camp fouled off the first pitch, announcer John Sterling mused that if Camp were to hit a home run to tie the game, it would “be certified as absolutely the nuttiest in the history of baseball.”
Tata called the second pitch a strike.
As fans left their seats to head home, Camp cranked the third pitch over the left-field wall for a solo home run to tie the game. The crowd went wild for two minutes straight, and so did Sterling.
“Remember, I just said that if he hits a home run, that certifies this game as the wackiest, the wildest, the most improbable game in history,” he reminded his co-host Ernie Johnson.
Camp did not capitalize on his improbable success on the mound, though, and gave up four runs in the 19th inning. His Braves scored two in the bottom of the 19th, and he came up to bat again with a runner on. He then struck out to end the game that had lasted eight hours, 15 minutes.
Despite its being after 4 a.m., on July 5, the Braves organization still put on its promised fireworks show. The police received multiple calls that morning from worried citizens who thought the city was being attacked. With the Cold War still raging, this was not as remote from Atlantans’ minds in 1985 as it would be today.
In addition to Camp’s heroic blast, the Mets’ Keith Hernandez hit for the cycle and contributed to their win.
Camp never got another hit again. His solo home run in the longest recorded game in baseball history on that July 4 would be his first and last. He passed away in 2013, but his memory will always live on in the minds of baseball fans for reminding us that the improbable is always possible.
Author: Jacob Grandstaff
Jacob Grandstaff is a co-founder of YourWorld Media. He graduated in 2015 from the University of North Alabama with a B.A. in history. He taught high school before attending the National Journalism Center in 2017 where he wrote for Capital Research Center. He lives in the Washington, DC area and enjoys writing about history, sports, and current events.