Night gave way to morning: Midnight came and went. So did 1 a.m. And 2 a.m.
Finally -- at 2:08 this morning -- Tony Pena decided enough was enough and put a climactic halt to the longest postseason game in baseball history.
Given the way the Cleveland Indians' magic carpet ride has gone in 1995, would you have expected anything but a last-pitch home run?
"Once that happens, you have to enjoy it because you never know when you'll have that moment again," Pena said after his homer in the bottom of the 13th inning gave Cleveland a 5-4 victory over Boston in an epic opener to the best-of-five American League division series.
"I've never had the opportunity to end a game that way."
Pena did it by spanking Zane Smith's 3-0 pitch barely over the left-field wall. It sparked a wild celebration from his teammates at home plate and bedlam among about 20,000 fans still left in the stands out of a Jacobs Field record crowd of 44,218.
The Tribe was 13-0 in extra innings this year and owned 27 last at-bat victories. They continued those amazing trends in their first playoff game since 1954. It was their first postseason victory since wrapping up the 1948 World Series by beating the Boston Braves in Game Six.
"It felt like 47 years from 8:30 to night until now," Indians manager Mike Hargrove cracked during a postgame news conference held only about 3 1/2 hours before most restaurants start serving breakfast.
The contest went 5 hours, 1 minute, breaking the record of 4:42 set in the Mets' 16-inning victory over Houston in 1986. For those scoring at home, that's more than an hour longer than it took the jury to acquit O.J. Simpson.
It was the longest night game by innings in the postseason, and two rain delays (39 minutes at the start and 23 in the eighth inning) helped make it the latest-ending playoff game by plenty. Toronto's Game Six win over Atlanta in the 1992 World Series ended at 12:50 a.m.
It was a game filled with juicy subplots that are sure to have thickened when the teams convene for Game Two tonight.
The foremost was touched off by Albert Belle's 11th-inning home run off Boston closer Rick Aguilera. It kept Cleveland alive and forged a 4-4 tie after the Sox had taken a 4-3 lead in the top of the inning on Tim Naehring's homer.
As the majors' home run leader circled the bases, Boston manager Kevin Kennedy had Belle's bat confiscated in a search for cork. Belle sat out a 10-game suspension for such an offense last year, but this time he was cleared of any tampering after the game by American League officials.
Hargrove glared at Kennedy while arguing with umpires, and Belle struck a classic pose by pointing to his flexed muscle as he yelled across the diamond at Kennedy.
"There's isn't a whole lot to say," was Kennedy's cryptic explanation. "We had some suspicions. We had some information given to us. It was our right to check it and we did."
Things further unraveled when Aguilera, bothered by continuing rain and a wet mound, left the game in the 11th with a strained groin. His status for the remainder of the series is uncertain.
Smith got Boston out of a first-and-third, no-out jam in the 12th in relief of Mike Maddux and cruised through the first two hitters in the 13th. Up came No. 9 hitter Pena, who entered the game in the 11th after regular catcher Sandy Alomar was lifted for a pinch-runner. The 37-year-old Pena had only five home runs in the regular season but it sure didn't look that way in this at-bat.
The count went to 3-0 and Pena connected while swinging for Lake Erie, sending everyone home for a short night's sleep.
"I saw (left fielder) Mike Greenwell under the fence and I thought the ball hit it," Pena said. "But when I saw everybody cheer I knew I hit it out.
"I figured at 3-0 he had to give me the fastball so I just hit it. I don't know if it was lack of concentration or what on his part, but it was right there."
"It was so exciting to see that happen for him," said third baseman Jim Thome. "He's helped myself and a lot of other people, and it's great to see good things happen to good people."
The Indians fought back twice in the game. Boston took a 2-0 lead on John Valentin's home run in the third, but Cleveland got three in the sixth, two on a booming Belle double. Luis Alicea's homer in the eighth off Julian Tavarez tied the game.
"We just tried to fight," Thome said. "You keep trying to hang in there. It was an unbelievable game, something you think you'll never forget.
"We've just had so many this year, it's hard to remember them all."Somehow, it figures this one will stand out. If for no other reason than the time everyone's heads hit their pillows.