This article was written by Ron Liebman
This article was published in the 1980 Baseball Research Journal
Editor’s note: All statistics published below are through the 1979 season.
When the Phillies defeated the Cubs 23-22 in 10 innings on May 17, 1979 in the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field in Chicago, it prompted research as to the other unusually high scoring games in the annals of baseball. The classic irony is that the only game where a greater two-team score was ever recorded was also played at Wrigley Field, and between the same two ball clubs. On August 25, 1922, the Cubs, who had once led 25-6, held on to win 26-23 for the all-time record score of 49 runs.
In the 1979 game, the Phillies saw a 21-9 lead vanish before finally emerging the victor, on Mike Schmidt’s second home run of the game (Dave Kingman of the Cubs hit three homers) in the 10th inning off relief ace Bruce Sutter. While the 1979 game had a record-tying 11 home runs, the 1922 game had only 3 home runs, all by the winning Cubs. The 1979 game stands as the highest score for an extra-inning game, as well as the highest score for a game decided by one run. The Phillies and the Cubs had an additional marathon game in Chicago on April 17, 1976 when the Phillies blew a 12-1 lead, and wound up winning 18-16 in 10 innings on Mike Schmidt’s fourth consecutive home run of the game.
Prior to the 1979 extravaganza, the second largest scoring game of all time was played in 1890 when Brooklyn of the Players League (a one-year major league) defeated Buffalo 28-16 on July 12 at Brooklyn.
Two major league games had 43 runs scored, both coming in the 1890s, with scores of 22-21 and 36-7. Those games mark the largest score in a one-run game in nine innings and the largest score by one team in one game, respectively.
In modern times, the top one-run game score prior to 1979 had been 18-17 in 18 innings on July 10, 1932, when the Philadelphia Athletics defeated the Cleveland Indians in an American League game. In that game, the Athletics were on a one-day trip to Cleveland (no Sunday ball was permitted that year in Philadelphia) and Athletics Manager Connie Mack carried only two pitchers with him. When starter Lew Krausse (father of a later-day American League pitcher) yielded four hits and three runs in the first inning, Mack called on reliever Eddie Rommel, later an umpire, who was forced to hurl the rest of the way. He surrendered 14 runs and 29 hits, but wound up being the winning pitcher!
Rommel had hurled three innings the day before, but the Athletics were in a stretch where they had played doubleheaders on July 7, 8, and 9, with another one coming up on the 11th. Cleveland shortstop Johnny Burnett made a record nine hits in the game, Jimmie Foxx had 16 total bases, and Rommel gained his only win of 1932 and his final major league victory.
In 1890, in an American Association game when that circuit was a major league, Brooklyn defeated Syracuse by a score of 22-21 in Brooklyn — this being the largest 1-run decision in 9 innings.
The American League, which became a major league in 1901 (25 years after the National League), has never had a game where more than 36 runs were scored. The Boston Red Sox defeated the Philadelphia Athletics 22-14 on June 29, 1950 in a game which was played in Shibe Park, not the more comfortable Fenway Park in Boston. Earlier in June, the Red Sox had defeated the lowly St. Louis Browns 20-4 and 29-4 on consecutive afternoons in Boston’s Fenway Park. Boston batted .302 that year, becoming the last major league team to compile a season batting average of .300. There were seven other American League games, counting the 18-17 game earlier referred to, in which a combined total of exactly 35 runs were scored.
In terms of scoring by one team in a single game, the Chicago NL team, then known as the White Stockings, set the record with its 36-7 victory over Louisville in 1897. This was the last of eight major-league games prior to 1900 in which 30 or more runs were scored by one team. While there have been well over 150 games since 1900 where a team scored 20 or more runs in one game (including the two games where both teams turned the trick), there have been no modern games where a team scored 30 or more runs.
In only 12 games, six in each major league, did a 20th century team score 25 or more runs. The feat was most recently accomplished by the Chicago White Sox in 1955 when they defeated the Kansas City Athletics by a score of 29-6 to tie the 29-run mark set by the Boston Red Sox in their 29-4 win over the St. Louis Browns in 1950. The top NL mark since 1900 was the St. Louis Cardinals’ 28-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in 1929.
Here are the linescores of the two Philadelphia-Chicago NL games, played in 1922 and 1979, which are the highest scoring games in major league history for both teams combined in the same game. Also included are the linescores of the Syracuse-Brooklyn AA game in 1890, which is the highest one-run decision in nine innings in major league history, and Chicago’s 36-7 win over Louisville in 1897, which represents the most runs scored by one team in a major league game. Note that the Cubs in 1922 had innings of 10 runs and 14 runs in a very erratic offensive effort.
May 17, 1979
August 25, 1922
June 29, 1897
April 18, 1890
There follows a list of major league games prior to 1900 where one team scored 30 runs or both teams scored 40 runs. Asterisk indicates home team.
- July 22, 1876 (NL): *Chicago over Louisville 30-7
- July 24, 1882 (NL): *Chicago over Cleveland 35-4
- June 9, 1883 (NL): *Boston over Detroit 30-8
- July 3, 1883 (NL): *Chicago over Buffalo 31-7
- Aug. 27, 1887 (NL): *Boston over Pittsburgh 28-14
- Apr. 18, 1890 (AA): *Brooklyn over Syracuse 22-21
- June 26, 1890 (PL): Philadelphia over *Buffalo 30-12
- July 12, 1890 (PL): *Brooklyn over Buffalo 28-16
- Aug. 7, 1890 (NL): *Cincinnati over Pittsburgh 23-17
- Sep. 10, 1891 (AA): * Milwaukee over Washington 30-3
- June 18, 1893 (NL): * Cincinnati over Louisville 30-12
- June 29, 1897 (NL): *Chicago over Louisville 36-7
The major league games between 1900 and 1979 where one team scored 25 runs or both teams scored 35 runs are carried below:
- Apr. 19, 1900: Philadelphia over *Boston 19-17 (opening day)
- June 9, 1901: New York over *Cincinnati 25-13 (forfeit game)
- Sept. 23, 1901: Brooklyn over *Cincinnati 25-6
- June 4, 1911: *Cincinnati over Boston 26-3
- Aug. 25, 1922: *Chicago over Philadelphia 26-23
- May 18, 1929: Brooklyn over *Philadelphia 20-16 (Game 1)
- June 15, 1929: New York over *Pittsburgh 20-15 (14 innings)
- July 6, 1929: St. Louis over *Philadelphia 28-6 (Game 2)
- Sep. 23, 1930: St. Louis over *Philadelphia 19-16
- Apr. 30, 1944: *New York over Brooklyn 26-8 (Game 1; Weintraub 11 RBI)
- Apr. 17, 1954: *Chicago over St. Louis 23-13
- Aug. 3, 1969: Cincinnati over *Philadelphia 19-17
- May 17, 1979: Philadelphia over *Chicago 23-22 (10 innings)
- May 2, 1901: Boston over *Philadelphia 23-12
- Sep. 9, 1921: *Chicago over Detroit 20-15
- July 7, 1923: *Cleveland over Boston 27-3 (Game 1)
- Apr. 14, 1925: Cleveland over *St. Louis 21-14 (Opening Day)
- May 11, 1930: *Cleveland over Philadelphia 25-7
- July 10, 1932: Philadelphia over *Cleveland 18-17 (18 innings)
- May 25, 1936: New York over *Philadelphia 25-2 (Lazzeri 11 RBI)
- July 18, 1936: Chicago over *Philadelphia 21-14 (Game 2)
- Aug. 12, 1948: Cleveland over *St. Louis 26-3 (Game 2)
- June 8, 1950: *Boston over St. Louis 29-4
- June 29, 1950: Boston over *Philadelphia 22-14
- Apr. 23, 1955: Chicago over *Kansas City 29-6
- May 31, 1970: Chicago over *Boston 22-13