25 years ago, a most unlikely Brave smacked the shot heard 'round Atlanta

It was a little before midnight July 4, 1985, when we sneaked out of my friends' house, two 15-year-old boys with keys to a boat and warm beers in our pockets. Some three hours later we returned, quietly paddling the old Sea Ray into his dock slip -- just to be safe.

As we walked toward the house we noticed a reflection from the basement television. We were busted.

"You won't believe this game," said my friend's dad, oblivious to our curfew infraction. We had just missed Rick Camp's game-tying, two-out home run -- the most improbable hit in Atlanta Braves history.

It came at 3:30 a.m. in the 18th inning of a game that lasted six hours and 10 minutes. Camp, an amiable country boy from Trion, had never hit a homer in 164 previous at-bats and finished his nine-year career with just 13 hits -- good for a .074 batting average.

Camp would end up the losing pitcher, but he saved our hides. My friend's father, so distracted by the 16-13, 19 inning game, forgot all about us sneaking out.

There's no forgetting what transpired at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, however -- especially for those who participated. The quotes below were collected by then-Braves beat writer Gerry Fraley following the waterlogged marathon.

"I saw things, " New York first baseman Keith Hernandez said, "that I've never seen in my major league career."

Braves legend Dale Murphy said he thought the Braves were sure to win after Camp's two-strike homer.

"I couldn't believe it. I'll never forget this," Murphy said. "I can't explain this game."

One Brave saw it coming. After the first of two rain delays, reliever Gene Garber told teammates, "we'll probably play 18 innings now." But he couldn't have foreseen the 3:55 a.m. finish -- the latest time ever recorded for the completion of a major league game.

At least one umpire was determined not to see daybreak. After Mets right fielder Darryl Strawberry contested a strike in the top of the 17th, home plate umpire Terry Tata famously told him, "there aren't any bad calls at 3 a.m."

The game ended, appropriately enough, with Camp striking out in the bottom of the 19th. About 10,000 fans braved the elements and the clock and they expected to be rewarded with Independence Day fireworks, as promised. The Braves delivered, much to the chagrin of those who lived near the Launching Pad.

"To quote Mrs. Vivian Williams of Capitol Homes, it was ‘inappropriate and ill-advised' to set off fireworks at 4 a.m., " then-Atlanta Police Bureau spokesman Jamil El-Shair told the Constitution "That was a very common reaction."

Others wondered if Atlanta had been attacked by Libya. One woman, recalling her reaction to a local television reporter the next morning, figured The End had come.

"I thought it was the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse," she said -- a sight no less likely than a Rick Camp home run.

No one was much surprised that the Braves lost -- a common occurrence in the 1980s.

"If we have to rely on me to hit a home run to win a game, we're in bad shape," Camp said afterward.

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