The 200,000th regular-season game in Major League Baseball history was recognized Saturday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, where the milestone was announced after the Rockies-Astros game became official.
At about 8:45 p.m. ET, Colorado and Houston were tied at 2 after five innings. MLB officials then checked with Elias Sports Bureau for a final authentication, and then notified the Rockies and Astros that they were in the history books. The teams made the most of the honor, playing 13 innings as Colorado finally won, 4-2.
"I threw my hands up when I found that out in the fifth inning," said Jason Hammel, who made his final start of the season for the Rockies. "I was like, 'Hey, that's pretty cool. I'm part of history.' ... It's a cool bit of information I can share with [3-week-old son] Beckett someday."
"I didn't know anything about it until about the eighth inning, I think; the umpire came over and told us that it was," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "I don't know exactly what the significance of that was, but it's a lot of games."
Indeed, 200,000 games represented a collection of more than 260,000 home runs, more than 1.8 million runs, more than 3.5 million hits and more than 10 million outs, dating back to Game 1 in 1876. Anticipating this milestone, there were eight ballparks hosting games that started in the 7 p.m. ET hour, and there were 199,998 games played entering that window. It created some bonus drama in the closing days as the fifth inning neared.
At U.S. Cellular Field going into the fifth inning, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsforf was "very interested" in the simultracking, and Chicago thought the honor was headed its way. Alas, the White Sox were beating the Royals, 5-0, so their game became official in the middle of the fifth.
That meant Royals at White Sox was No. 199,999 ... and in a bit of baseball irony, the White Sox actually were penalized for winning in this case. The Astros had to bat in the bottom of the fifth because they were tied with the Rockies, 2-2, after the third out in the top of the fifth inning.
Jeff Bagwell played in 2,150 of those Major League games, all with the Astros, and he was part of the club's TV broadcast crew that alerted its viewers to the milestone during the seventh inning, after it was announced over the P.A. system there and shown on the big screen.
"They had to wait till it got to the fifth inning to be an official game," Bagwell said on-air. "Two-hundred thou."
MLB has dated its beginnings to the first contest of the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, between Boston and Philadelphia, on April 22, 1876. In that game, Hall of Famer Jim O'Rourke registered the first base hit and his Boston Red Stockings won, 6-5, behind pitcher Joe Borden. An earlier league, the National Association (NA) of 1871-75, played 1,086 games over its five-year tenure, but those games are not counted in the current MLB games tabulation.
"The unparalleled tradition of baseball spans much of American history, and now, our timeless game belongs to the world," Commissioner Bud Selig said in advance of Saturday's games. "I am very pleased that we will recognize the 200,000th game in the history of Major League Baseball. This occasion will be a fine way to mark the conclusion of the regular season before we experience the most exciting month of the year."
MLB.com invited fans this past week to join in the celebration by entering the 200K Challenge fantasy game and predict Saturday's 200th strikeout, specifying pitcher and batter. No one correctly guessed that strikeout, which happened when Phillies rookie right-hander Justin De Fratus got David Wright looking in the bottom of the eighth inning of their doubleheader nightcap at Citi Field. It was one of 241 strikeouts on the day.
Considering the heavy volume of entrants, one probably can attribute the lack of a correct pick to the expanded rosters and wealth of young, lesser-known players in the final days of a regular season. Someone's going to win anyway, though. A random drawing of all entrants was held, and one fan will receive a pair of $200 gift cards to the MLB.com Shop; $200 of MLB tickets to be used in 2012; two full-season subscriptions to MLB.TV Premium in 2012 and 2013; and two customized authentic jerseys.
The most common strikeout prediction was Justin Verlander vs. Mark Reynolds, which actually happened twice. Alas, they both happened too early to be candidates for No. 200. Here is some other interesting trivia from the 200K Challenge:
Two fans chose No. 195: Kyle Farnsworth vs. Colby Rasmus at 9:40 p.m. ET.
No one selected Nos. 196-203.
Four fans selected No. 204: Ian Kennedy vs. Justin Christian at 9:45.
Eight fans picked No. 240, the second-to-last strikeout: Jordan Walden vs. Brandon Allen at 11:47.
"Major League Baseball's 200,000th game is an amazing milestone in world sports," MLB official historian John Thorn said. "No other sports league has mirrored the spirit of a nation for so long."
The regular season is scheduled to end Wednesday night, and the postseason will begin with both American League Division Series openers on Friday. The Rockies won't be part of that, but Chris Nelson added some final-week excitement by pushing in the go-ahead run in the 13th with a walk.
"I had the walk for the winning RBI in the 200,000th game," he said. "At least I'm in there [baseball history] for something. And it was a 13-inning thriller."
"Overall, it's kind of funny because we think 162 games is a lot of games. Then you really put that into perspective when you consider 200,000 games played in Major League Baseball," said Rays pitcher James Shields, whose team was in the mix, but not fast-paced enough to get the nod. "I mean, that's phenomenal. That's about 100 years worth of baseball right there. I'm just glad to be part of the game."