Baseball’s Biggest Inning

This article was written by Art Ahrens

This article was published in the 1977 Baseball Research Journal


    After beating the National League to a pulp with three straight pennants, Cap Anson’s Chicago White Stockings could not make it four in a row in 1883, but no one could accuse them of not trying.  Especially on September 6, for their second-to-last home game of the year. All they did was score eighteen runs in the seventh inning, to set a major league record which lasts to this day.

  Battling the Detroit Nationals at Chicago’s lakefront ballpark, the White Stockings held an 8-3 lead after six and a half innings. Up to that time, the game had not been extraordinary. Detroit had taken an early lead with a three run first inning, but Chicago had come back with one in the first, three in the third, another in the fourth, two in the fifth, and one in the sixth. Then they came up in the bottom of the seventh for the inning of innings.

  To start the attack, Ed Williamson knocked one of pitcher George Weidman’s deliveries for two bases. Tom Burns did the same, to produce Chicago’s first run of the inning. Fred Pfeffer singled, Burns stopping at third. Seconds later, both scored on a two-bagger by weak-hitting Fred Goldsmith, the Chicago pitcher. This made the score 11-3, with nobody out.

  Up stepped rookie Billy Sunday, who moved Goldsmith to third with a short single. Although Billy’s preaching days were far in the future, it certainly appears that Divine Providence was on the side of him and his teammates that afternoon.

  Abner Dalrymple singled, bringing Goldsmith across. Then George Gore tripled, sending Sunday and Dalrymple home with Chicago’s fifth and sixth runs of the inning. Mike Kelly quickly singled Gore to the plate, then took second when rightfielder Dick Burns muffed Cap Anson’s flyball. There were now two men on, and still nobody out.

  The White Stockings had now batted around. In his second trip to the plate, Williamson singled, scoring both runners. (How the cumbersome Anson made it to home plate from-presumably-first is a mystery. Unless Burns’ muff was a two-base error, placing him on second to begin with, or possibly Kelly and Anson had both moved up on a passed ball or wild pitch. If any of these possibilities occurred, none of the newspapers made any mention of it.) The shaken Weidman then switched positions with Dick Burns in right field, as the latter tried his hand in the pitcher’s box.

  But Burns’ luck proved no better than that of his bedraggled predecessor. Chicago’s Tom Bums greeted him with a home run into the north end seats, for the tenth and eleventh runs of the inning.  Doubles by Pfeffer and Goldsmith brought in run number twelve.  The score was now 20-3-and still nobody out.

  After Sunday’s second single brought Goldsmith home, there was a brief respite as Burns retired Dalrymple on a fly and Gore on a grounder. But the inning was far from over. Successive singles by Kelly, Anson, and Williamson pushed Chicago’s scoring total to sixteen. Burns doubled for his third hit of the inning, scoring Williamson, after which Pfeffer singled Burns in with the eighteenth and record run. Goldsmith made it safely to first on third baseman Joe Farrell’s error, but Sunday fouled out to end the inning. The score was now 26-3.

  With victory all but tucked away, Anson switched some of his men around during the last two innings. Willliamson went in to pitch “in response to requests from the crowd”, as the Chicago Times phrased it the following morning. Goldsmith was moved to first base, Kelly from catcher to second base, Pfeffer from second base to third, while Anson relinquished first base for the catcher’s box. After Detroit collected two runs in the eighth, Anson and Williamson switched positions. The visitors squeezed out another tally in the ninth to make the final score 26-6.

  Criticizing the home team’s musical chair game of the last two innings as bad sportsmanship, the Chicago Inter-Ocean commented that:

This part of the work is very funny, but it is decidedly disrespectful to the visiting club and should not be allowed. It is bad enough to beat the Detroits without turning them into ridicule.

Regardless, the victory put Chicago into the league lead for the first time that season, although it did not last. Boston ultimately won the pennant by four games, and Chicago had to be content with the runner-up slot.

  In less than half an hour, Anson’s thumpers made entries in the record book which have lasted nearly a century. Major league club records include the following:

  Most runs, inning- 18

  Most hits, inning- 18

  Most total bases, inning-29

  Most players with two or more hits, inning-6 (Williamson, Burns, Pfeffer, Goldsmith, Sunday, Kelly)

  Most times facing pitcher, inning-23 (tied by Boston AL, June 18, 1953)

  National League record, most RBI’s, inning-15 (second to l7 by Boston AL, June 18, 1953)

  Individual records are as follows:

  Most hits, inning-3 (Burns, Pfeffer, Williamson. Also by Gene Stephens, Boston AL, June 18, 1953)

  Most runs, inning-3 (Burns. Also by Sammy White, Boston AL, June 18, 1953)

  Most times facing pitcher, inning-3 (Williamson, Burns, Pfeffer, Goldsmith, Sunday. Also by many

  Others.)

  Most extra base hits, inning-3 (Burns. Two doubles and one home run.)

  Most total bases, inning-8 (Burns. Also by many others.)

  Most doubles, inning-2 (Burns, Goldsmith. Also by many others.)

  In addition, only two other pitchers have matched Goldsmith’s two doubles in one frame. Oddly enough, both were Chicago hurlers-Ted Lyons of the White Sox on July 28, 1935, and Hank Borowy of the Cubs on May 5, 1946.

  The fact that there were so many doubles in the eighteen run inning may have been attributable to the fact that the Chicago ballpark had a short right field fence (about 230 feet), and a ground rule which stated that a ball hit over that fence went as a double. The following year, the rule was altered to give the batter a home run. As a result, the 1884 White Stockings hit 142 “home runs” in 112 games, a dubious record which remained the standard until broken by the New York Yankees in 1927. Whether or not any of Chicago’s doubles in their record inning were of the “right field fence” variety could not be determined from the newspaper accounts, but it is probable that a number of them were.

The box score of the historic game appears below:

 

 CHICAGO

AB

R

H

E

 DETROIT

AB

R

H

E

Dalrymple, LF

6

3

2

1

Wood, CF

4

2

3

0

Gore, CF

7

2

3

0

Farrell, 3B

5

0

1

2

KelIy,C-3B

7

3

3

1

Powell, lB

5

1

0

0

Anson, lB-C-P

6

3

4

0

Hanlon,2B

4

2

0

0

Williamson, 3B-P-C

6

3

3

0

Bennett, RF

5

1

1

0

Burns, SS

6

4

4

1

Houck, SS

4

0

1

0

Pfeffer, 2B-3B

6

2

4

0

Trott, C

3

0

1

0

Goldsmith,P-1B

6

3

3

0

Weidman,P-RF

4

0

0

1

Sunday, RF

6

3

3

1

Burns, RF-P

4

0

1

2

 

Innings

DETROIT   300  000 021
CHICAGO   103 121 (18)0*

Earned runs-Chicago 17, Detroit 1; Left on base-Chicago 5, Detroit 7, Time of game-2 hours, 25 minutes; Attendance-2,000; Umpire-Decker.

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