PHILADELPHIA -- Normally, it's no big deal when a baseball game begins at 1:30.
Unless, of course, it's 1:30 a.m.
Until real early yesterday morning, you see, no major-league team in anyone's memory had started a baseball game at that late (early) hour.
But then along came those history-making 1993 Phillies.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, when the Phillies and Padres started the second game of their long night's doubleheader journey into dawn at 1:28 a.m. yesterday, they almost certainly set a record for the latest a major-league game had started.
And when they ended that game at 4:40 a.m. -- 12 hours, 5 minutes after the start of Game 1, they set the record for the latest a major-league game had ended. To add to the strangeness, reliever Mitch Williams won the game with an RBI single -- in his first at-bat of the year.
"You know," Elias' Seymour Siwoff said yesterday, "I've been thinking for years: 'One day, I'm going to wake up in the morning, turn on the TV and find out a game was still going on.' Well, with this game, I almost did it."
Siwoff awoke yesterday at 5:30 a.m. and called his office, as he always does, to make sure there had been no problems the night before. What he heard caused him to spring into overdrive.
By noon he had ascertained that the teams had wiped out the record for the latest finish by any game in history. The old record was 3:55 a.m., set by the Braves and the Mets on July 4 and 5, 1985.
That was a single game that went 19 innings. The Mets won it, 16-13. There was 2:05 worth of rain delays heaped on top of 6:10 of baseball. And at the end, the Braves shot off fireworks, causing neighbors to call the police to report that they were under attack.
"At the time of that game, we wrote it down: 'Latest finish in major-league history,' " Siwoff said. "So we know the Phillies set the record."
The record for latest starting time, on the other hand, isn't actually known for sure. But Siwoff was virtually certain no game had ever started at 1:28 a.m. before "because, until the last 20, 25 years, you couldn't do that. We had laws. You couldn't begin an inning after 1 o'clock in the morning, let alone a game. So we have to think this is probably an all-time record."
One record the Phillies and the Padres definitely did not break, however, is for the longest rain delay. Although there are no official files, it is known that the White Sox and the Rangers waited out a 7 1/2 -hour rain delay on Aug. 12, 1990, in Chicago. That blows away the 5:54 the Phillies and Padres sat around Friday night.
"It's still hard for me to believe they could start a game at 1:30 in the morning," Siwoff said. "But it's great. It just adds to the romance of baseball."
Of course, that was easy for him to say. He got a good night's sleep.