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Baseball is considered to be what is called a “low-scoring” game. However, now and then there are games, these special instances, where the offense just goes off the charts. Ever wondered about a game with the most runs scored in MLB history?
To the point, the most runs scored in Major League Baseball game play was 49 runs scored jointly by the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 25, 1922, a slugfest finally won by the Cubs by a 26-23 score.
It must have been a lollapalooza of a game to watch: at a point in the game the Phillies were down 25-6. Talk about a comeback rally! Ah, but not to be.
Any baseball fan would wonder, What happened?
Whenever both teams score runs into the double digits in a pro baseball game, the contest drags on in terms of time, and usually a number of weird things happen. Consider the highest-scoring game ever in MLB history.
- The game lasted barely 3 hours (note that, those who complain about the length of games today! Must have been a lot of first-pitch swinging; plus, there were no batting gloves to adjust outside the box).
- That seems almost impossible considering the huge number of walks and errors in the game. All the various pitchers issued 21 bases on balls. Also, 21 of the runs were unearned, with Chicago committing 5 errors, the Phillies 4.
- The Phillies ended with 26 hits ~ but only 6 for extra bases. They were a singles machine!
- The Cubs scored 10 runs in the 2nd inning, and at the end of the 3rd inning the score was 11-6.
- Marty Callaghan, Chicago’s right-fielder, faced the same pitcher 3 times in the 4th inning. The Cubs scored 14 runs that inning.
- The Phillies scored 8 runs in the 8th inning, and then 6 the last frame ~ for the all-time single-game record. Think about how many hitters had to bat to plate 14 runners in 2 innings!
The game crushed the then-record for highest scoring MLB game in history, which was 44, set in July 1890 by the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders, when they beat the Buffalo Bisons, 28-16.
Interestingly enough, it ends up that the record for the next-most runs scored in a single game in MLB history belongs to the same teams!
Since 1901, only twice have both teams scored 20 or more runs each. The Cubs and Phillies once again squared off in Chicago in 1979, in a nationally televised game finally won by the Phillies 23-22 thanks to a final, chef’s kiss home run by Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.
While the match was notable as a battle between sluggers Schmidt and Dave Kingman of the Cubs (who hit 3 home runs in the game), several other hitters took advantage of a strong wind blowing out and small field of play..
There were 11 home runs in all, including a grand slam by Bill Buckner, who ended with 7 runs batted in. Kingman had 6 RBI.
The game was actually tied after 9 innings, and it took extras to conclude. In a back-and-forth contest, the Cubs cut the lead by 12 runs to finally tie the game, only to surrender to Schmidt’s heroics.
Seeing things like this usually makes fans wonder: was the 26 runs scored by the Cubs the most a single team has ever scored in a game in MLB history?
The answer is, no. The Chicago Colts (now Cubs) scored 36 runs against the Louisville Colonels in June 1897. For “modern” baseball, or MLB games after 1900, the record is 30 runs, scored by the Texas Rangers against the Baltimore Orioles in August 2007.
The National League’s record for a single team scoring in a single game is 29 runs, scored by the Atlanta Braves against the Miami Marlins not all that long ago, in September 2020. Anyone remember the end of the pandemic-shortened season?
How do football scores occur in Major League Baseball games? Let’s take a look.
For a sport where the most common score has been 3-2 and 4-3, these double-digit affairs stick out like monsters. Well, that’s because they are. Often, tired team pitching staffs are to blame, but not always. Sometimes weird things happen in baseball ~ a reason so many people love the game.
Anything can happen in a baseball game. Any team can beat any other team on any given day. Even the A’s beat the Yankees now and then.
The most common reasons for games that “get out of hand” with nearly unlimited scoring:
- Exhaustion. Pitchers for 1 or both teams are all very tired and therefore ineffective. It’s these games where you see position players hurling the last inning or 2 ~ because there’s no one left to pitch! Also, exhausted defenders tend to make a lot of mistakes and errors. In the past, long train rides to away games took a lot of energy out of players. Plus, there’s the “extracurriculars” old-time players partook on the rides.
- Blowout early. Sometimes the starting pitcher gets shelled right away and the manager of the team suddenly way behind in the score begins to think about the following game (e.g., avoid further pitcher fatigue). So he either leaves the starter in there too long, or throws everyone, including relievers who are not too good. Even position players might get sent to the mound ~ and the other team just continues to pound them. Also, managers down by 8 or more runs might use the remaining innings as an opportunity to experiment with playing bench players, or moving players around to different positions.
- Conditions. Sometimes strong winds, altitudes, or other environmental situations make balls fly farther (See Cubs-Phillies 1979 game below for an example), or make the baseball harder to catch or throw.
- Bad luck. Sometimes certain hitters just get red hot ~ and big blowouts occur when more than a single hitter gets molten hot at the same time. Sometimes a phenomenon occurs where hitting for a team truly becomes contagious, and hitters just seem like they couldn’t make an out if they tried. (That happened to me once, in a 55-10 blowout in slowpitch softball, in a game where I went 6 for 7; the last hit was accidental).
In the history of baseball, the most runs scored in a postseason game … also involves the Phillies!
Game 4 of the 1993 World Series saw the Toronto Blue Jays top the Phils, 15-14.
A national audience watched and by the 7th inning it looked safe for the Phillies, with a 14-9 lead. However, the Blue Jays miraculously scored 6 in the 8th inning, to ultimately take the game in Philadelphia.
In the minor leagues, there is a legend where a minor league baseball game in June 1869 finished with 219 runs! It is said that the Buffalo Niagaras beat the Columbus team 209-10! Reports of the game indicate Buffalo scored 40 runs in the 1st inning alone!
Somehow the same pitcher threw the entire game for Columbus, giving up over 20 runs to every single Buffalo batter, each!
Remember that in this era, pitchers threw to batters underhanded, and by rule had to place the ball in a location requested by the batter. So … games then were way more high-scoring than today ~ or even compared with the years after they switched to pitching overhand.
You don’t see the huge double-digit scores in youth baseball games, and in most high school or college contests, due to innings caps on runs scored, or mercy rules (See bottom).
However, in some versions of baseball, like slowpitch softball, it’s routine. Slowpitch is a game designed for hitting. It is the opposite of real baseball, but hey, you get to hit a ball with a bat and run around bases.
The predominantly-female fastpitch softball is even more low-scoring than baseball, as ultra-talented underhand pitchers dominate the game.
Question: After 3-2 and 4-3, what are the most common game scores in the MLB?
Answer: 2-1. Then it’s 5-4, and 4-2. In the postseason, since 1903 the most common score also is 3-2 ~ but the next most common has been 2-1. A lot of World Series and playoff games have ended with 4-3, 3-1, and 5-4 scores.
Q.: Is there a maximum number of runs a baseball team can score in an inning?
A.: Not in professional baseball. Run caps per inning occur only in youth baseball games, usually at the younger ages when boys and girls are just learning to pitch and field. In high school and college there might be caps on runs scored per game, or on how big a lead can be ~ these are called “mercy rules.”
Q.: In Little League how many runs can be scored in an inning?
A.: In youth baseball leagues (Little League, PONY Baseball, Cal Ripken, etc.), in some divisions they cap runs per inning at 4 or 6 runs. This is to save time so both teams get an adequate number of at-bats.