Ted Williams (Trading Card Database)

May 3, 1949: Red Sox, Tigers wage highest-scoring tie game in American League history

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Ted Williams (Trading Card Database)The 1949 season was the year both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees were tied at 96 wins, 57 losses, and 1 tie after 154 games through the next to last day of the regular-season schedule, October 1. Each had played one tie game. The Red Sox played theirs, against the Detroit Tigers, in early May. In the second game of an August 7 doubleheader, the St. Louis Browns and Yankees were tied 2-2 after 10 innings. New York took the pennant by winning on the final day of the regular season, 5-3, at Yankee Stadium, a game that was still 1-0 after 8½ innings before a flurry of late run-scoring by both teams.1

When Boston had its tie game in 1949, the season was still quite young, with the Tigers 7-5 and the Red Sox 6-6. Detroit manager Red Rolfe chose Fred Hutchinson as his starting pitcher. Joe McCarthy, in his second season as Red Sox skipper, started Ellis Kinder.

Boston jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, with three runs in the first inning on Johnny Pesky’s one-out single, an RBI double by Ted Williams, and a home run to left field by Vern Stephens, the Red Sox shortstop’s sixth homer of the season. The Red Sox added their fourth run in the second when catcher Matt Batts singled, took second on Kinder’s sacrifice, moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on a fly ball to right by Pesky.

The Tigers began to rally on Kinder’s first pitch of the second, which rookie center fielder Johnny Groth hit into the lower deck in left field for his fifth homer of the season. It was merely a preview of Detroit’s third, when nine more runs followed. Third baseman George Kell started the big inning by reaching on shortstop Stephens’s error. Right fielder Vic Wertz singled. So did left fielder Dick Wakefield, scoring Kell. Catcher Aaron Robinson hit a three-run homer to deep right field, and Detroit had a 5-4 lead.

The siege of Kinder continued. Groth walked, and first baseman Sam Vico sacrificed him to second. Hutchinson drew a walk, and McCarthy called on Earl Johnson to relieve Kinder. One out later, Johnny Lipon singled in Groth, making it 6-4. Kell walked. Wertz singled again and drove in two runs, taking second base on the throw. Wakefield singled and drove in Kell and Wertz for the eighth and ninth runs of the inning. It was 10-4, Tigers.

The Red Sox comeback began soon afterward. Merrill Combs, pinch-hitting for Earl Johnson, walked with one out in the fourth. Center fielder Stan Spence singled.2 After Pesky grounded out, both runners moving up, Ted Williams homered high into the right-center-field stands, his third of the season and the 225th of his career.3 Tigers 10, Red Sox 7, through just 3½ innings.

Windy McCall, in only his fourth major-league appearance, was Boston’s third pitcher of the game. After a relatively uneventful fourth, the Tigers opened the bottom of the fifth with three consecutive singles – Eddie Lake, Lipon, and an RBI single by Kell – making it an 11-7 game.

Marv Grissom had relieved Hutchinson, got the third out of the fourth inning, and retired the side in order in the fifth. But the Red Sox finally drew even with four runs in the top of the sixth. Batts walked, McCall singled, and Spence singled and drove in Batts. Pesky grounded into a force play at second and Williams struck out. Vern Stephens singled in McCall. Second baseman Bobby Doerr singled and drove in Pesky. Stubby Overmire relieved Grissom, and first baseman Billy Goodman singled and drove in Stephens. The Tigers’ six-run lead had turned into an 11-11 tie.

After McCall stranded two runners in the sixth, the Red Sox went back ahead in the top of the seventh. Batts walked. McCall sacrificed him to second. Spence doubled, but Batts couldn’t score, holding at third.

Marlin Stuart become Detroit’s fourth pitcher. Pesky singled to center and drove in Batts. Williams grounded to Vico at first. Spence scored, with Williams taking second on Lipon’s errant throw to the plate. Stephens singled and Williams scored, giving Boston a 14-11 lead.

McCall retired the Tigers in order in the seventh and eighth, giving him three straight scoreless frames. The Red Sox threatened to add insurance in the ninth, putting two men on base with one out for Ted Williams. But Wakefield caught Williams’s fly ball to left, then threw to Kell at third for the tag on Spence, completing the inning-ending double play.

Still, the Red Sox took a three-run lead into the ninth. After five innings of relief, allowing just one run, McCall – a rookie with only 2⅔ innings of major-league experience before this game – had perhaps run out of steam. Pinch-hitter Jimmy Outlaw singled to lead off the top of the Tigers ninth. Another pinch-hitter, Hoot Evers, walked. Lake also walked, loading the bases with nobody out.

Denny Galehouse, at age 37 appearing in what turned out of the be the final game of his 15-season big-league career, took over from McCall. Pat Mullin became the third pinch-hitter for Detroit and tripled off the wall in right-center, tying the game, 14-14, and putting the potential winning run at third.

After Kell walked, Joe McCarthy sent in lefty Chuck Stobbs to relieve Galehouse. He got a shallow fly ball to right from Wertz and a foul popup from Wakefield. The fourth Boston pitcher of the inning, right-hander Tex Hughson, relieved Stobbs to face catcher Bob Swift, who had pinch-hit for Robinson in the eighth. Swift “almost tore a hole through [third baseman] Johnny Pesky with a liner [he] held, for the third out.”4

The Tigers called on Dizzy Trout to pitch and the rest of the game became a battle of usual starters Trout and Hughson.

Stephens singled to lead off the 10th, but Doerr hit into a 1-6-3 double play. Hughson retired the side on order in the bottom of the 10th. Trout retired the side in the top of the 11th. Hughson got himself in trouble in the bottom of the 11th with a one-out double by Neil Barry and then a wild pitch. Kell popped up to second, and Hughson intentionally walked both Wertz and Wakefield.5 Swift hit the ball hard, to left, but “Ted Williams tore back and made a fine leaping catch of Swift’s drive just shy of the left field grandstand front wall.”6

Spence walked and Williams singled in the Red Sox 12th. Stephens grounded into an inning-ending double play. Hughson retired the Tigers in order in the bottom of the inning.

In the 13th, the Red Sox’ Goodman reached on a one-out error. Sam Mele singled him to second. Batts struck out and Hughson – batting for himself – grounded out, short to first.

The Tigers mounted one last threat in the bottom of the 13th. After two outs, Kell reached on Stephens’ second error of the game, ending up on second base. He took third on a wild pitch. Wertz and Wakefield walked. The bases were loaded. Swift flied out to center field, this time a fairly routine hit to Spence. It was the third time he’d come up with a runner on third base (in the 9th, 11th, and 13th innings), and he connected each time, but couldn’t get the hit that would have ended the game.

One minute shy of four hours, the umpires called the game on account of darkness. It ended in a 14-14 tie.7

There had been 20 hits for the Red Sox and 17 for the Tigers. Boston pitchers walked 13 batters, while Detroit’s pitchers walked six. There were three Tigers errors and two Boston errors. The Red Sox left 10 runners on base; the Tigers left 16. Despite all the errors, 13 of each team’s runs were earned.

Both teams had produced reasonably well with runners in scoring position – Detroit was 7-for-19 and Boston was 9-for-19. Half of Boston’s run came with two outs. The Tigers had five two-out RBIs.

By the time the Tuesday afternoon game at Briggs Stadium was called, the Tigers had used five pitchers and the Red Sox had used six. The Detroit Times declared, “Wildest Spectacle in Years Means Nothing.”8 The slugfest had been seen by 18,502.

But it might have meant something in the long run. All of the day’s statistics counted in the official records, but the game had to be replayed in its entirety. When the Red Sox next visited Detroit, the tie was made up as part of a June 5 doubleheader.

Instead of playing a single game with a May 3 win already in the books, Boston needed to bring starting pitcher Joe Dobson back on one day of rest to win the doubleheader’s first game, and Detroit then battered three Red Sox pitchers for 11 runs and 15 hits in the nightcap. Boston came away with one win, rather than two, on its way to finishing just one win behind New York in the final standings.

As of the 2024 season, the 14-14 tie between the Red Sox and Tigers remained the highest-scoring tie in American League history. The only National League tie with a higher score was the 16-16 deadlock between the Cleveland Spiders and Cincinnati Reds on September 30, 1894.9 Among other leagues regarded as major leagues, the American Association’s Philadelphia Athletics tied Brooklyn, 19-19, on May 2, 1886; and the Negro National League’s Chicago American Giants and Indianapolis ABCs played an 18-18 tie on June 28, 1921.10



This article was fact-checked by Mike Huber and copy-edited by Len Levin. Thanks to John Fredland for noting the June 1921 NNL game and Adam Darowski of Sports Reference for the information on nineteenth-century tie games.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.



Photo credit: Ted Williams,  Trading Card Database.



1 The Yankees then beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series, four games to one.

2 The team’s usual center fielder, Dom DiMaggio, had traveled to San Francisco for the funeral of his father.

3 Burt Whitman, “Sox, Tigers Tie, 14-14, in 13th,” Boston Herald, May 4, 1949: 35.

4 Whitman.

5 That the walks to Wertz and Wakefield in both the 11th and 13th were intentional was reported by Macdonnel in the Detroit Times. Neither of the ninth-inning walks were intentional.

6 Whitman.

7 A season later, on September 7, 1950, the Tigers and Cleveland Indians played a 13-13 tie in a 10-inning game. There was another, even higher-scoring tie game the Red Sox played, but it was a spring-training game. The Red Sox played the Cincinnati Reds to an 18-18 tie on April 6, 1939. After eight innings, the game was called off for lack of baseballs. The teams had begun the game in Florence, South Carolina, with a good supply of four dozen balls, but there was a 40-mph “breeze” throughout the game. (At one point in the third inning, Cincinnati shortstop Billy Myers’ cap blew off and time was called so he could run and retrieve it.) Several times batted balls were knocked off course by the wind. The two teams combined for 46 hits, among which were four home runs and a considerable number of ground-rule doubles hit into the stands. A large number of foul balls were also hit into the crowd of 2,285 and fans held onto them as souvenirs. The field had just been laid out a week earlier and “there wasn’t a blade of grass on the diamond” so “great clouds of dust” obscured play despite the local fire department watering the grounds. The game ended in the top of the ninth with a runner on first base, when Harry Craft fouled off the 48th baseball into the crowd. Rookie Ted Williams was out with a fever. This summary is drawn from Bill Nowlin, Red Sox Threads (Burlington, Massachusetts: Rounder Books, 2008), 320, 321.

8 Leo Macdonell, “Marathon Slugfest Ends in 14-14 Tie,” Detroit Times, May 4, 1949: C-29. The phrase ran as an overline to Macdonell’s article.

9 There have been three 14-14 ties in the NL, most recently between the Bostons and New York Giants on September 24, 1900. The two previous 14-14 ties involved the Providence Grays and Worcester Ruby Legs in 1880 and the Philadelphia Phillies and Brooklyn Grooms in 1895.

10 It was an astonishing game in which the home-team ABC’s led 10-0 after seven innings. Chicago then scored nine runs in the top of the eighth, climbing to within one run. Indianapolis responded with eight runs in the bottom of he eighth, giving it an 18-9 lead. The Giants then – again – scored nine runs in the ninth, to tie the game. In the two nine-run innings, Chicago successfully executed 11 bunts (six of them perfect squeeze plays) and hit two grand slams. “American Giants Win and Tie Taylor A.B.C.s,” Chicago Defender, July 2, 1921: 10.

Additional Stats

Boston Red Sox 14
Detroit Tigers 14
13 innings

Briggs Stadium
Detroit, MI


Box Score + PBP:

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