Doubleheaders with More Than Two Teams

By David Vincent

This article was published in the Spring 2017 Baseball Research Journal.

A modern fan goes to the ballpark to see two teams battle each other. This is almost always a single game on one day at one venue. However, baseball had a tradition for many years of playing two games on Sundays and holidays such as the Fourth of July, a tradition that has disappeared from the schedule. In 2016, the 30 major-league teams played 14 doubleheaders due to weather issues—with none scheduled before the season began. In 1949, when there were 16 teams in the league, two games were played on the same day 163 times with 111 of them as part of the original schedule.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most two-game sets were played as a morning and afternoon pair requiring a separate ticket for each, but many were played as one single-admission event, while in the twenty-first century, two games on one day are almost always played as two single games, one afternoon and one evening. These separate-admission sets are not considered “doubleheaders” under Major League Baseball's Official Rules but colloquially— and for purposes of this article—the term includes all instances where two games were played in one day, whether single or separate admission.

Most doubleheaders featured the same two teams in both games, but there are a number of these sets in major league history that do not fit this pattern. Many of these featured three teams in one ballpark, but others are even more unusual. Most of these unusual game sets were played in the nineteenth century and this article runs through the 2016 season. All schedule and game result information has been taken from Retrosheet, with additional detail from contemporary news accounts.

THREE TEAMS IN ONE SET

Three teams playing two games in one day in one ballpark has occurred 17 times. In most cases, the home team played in both contests, but that was not the case twice. See Table 1 for a complete list of these doubleheaders. Note that the italicized lines indicate doubleheaders with the team in the “Visitor 1” column playing both games against two different home teams.

Teams felt free to change the published schedule to suit their needs in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for reasons such as playing games on days that would draw a bigger crowd, resulting in more money for the owners. As noted earlier, Sundays and holidays were the biggest days for attendance at the ballpark. Travel issues also contributed many times to schedule changes during the year, as did inclement weather.

The most recent instance of this odd scheduling occurred on September 25, 2000, in Cleveland. On September 10, the White Sox and Indians had been rained out in Cleveland in the last meeting of the year between the two clubs. This game was rescheduled for the afternoon of September 25, causing the White Sox to return to Cleveland for the day and giving the Indians an unusual day/night twin bill, since the Minnesota Twins were already set to play them on that date. The Tribe won that afternoon game, 9–2, but the Twins prevailed in the night cap 4–3. This is the only time that three American League teams played in one doubleheader.

On September 12, 1951, the New York (now San Francisco) Giants were rained out in St. Louis. This being the Giants' last trip to St. Louis and the last meeting of the year between the clubs, the New Yorkers remained in town to make up the game the next afternoon. After beating the Giants that Thursday afternoon, 6–4, the Cardinals played their scheduled contest against the Boston (now Atlanta) Braves that evening. The visitors beat the Redbirds, 2–0, in the second game.

Before 1951, it had been 52 years since the last time that three teams played in the same ballpark on the same day. There were 10 of these doubleheaders during the 1899 season. That year, the National League’s Cleveland Spiders played 42 games at home and 112 away. Most of their best players were sent to the St. Louis Perfectos (Cardinals), also owned by the Cleveland owners. Although the original schedule had an even split of home and road games, the Cleveland season did not play out that way. The club was not drawing fans and opponents refused to travel to the banks of Lake Erie since their share of the gate would not pay for their expenses. Cleveland ended with a 20-134 record and folded after the season. During that 1899 National League season, seven of the ten unusual doubleheaders featured Cleveland as one of the visiting teams, as their schedule was reworked during the season. The Spiders also acted as home team, although in Chicago, for one other doubleheader. None of these unusual doubleheaders were planned before the season started.

 

Table 1: Doubleheaders with Three Teams

Date League Visitor 1 Visitor 2 Home Note
06/17/1884 NL New York Philadelphia Boston 1
06/17/1885 NL Philadelphia New York Boston 1
09/14/1887 AA Cincinnati Cleveland Metropolitan  
09/15/1887 AA Cincinnati Cleveland Metropolitan  
10/08/1898 NL St. Louis Cleveland Chicago 2
06/11/1899 NL Louisville Cleveland Cincinnati  
06/25/1899 NL New York Cleveland St. Louis  
07/09/1899 NL Louisville Cleveland St. Louis  
08/06/1899 NL Louisville St. Louis Cincinnati  
08/20/1899 NL Cleveland Louisville Chicago  
09/03/1899 NL Louisville Cleveland Cincinnati  
09/10/1899 NL Cleveland Louisville Cincinnati  
09/24/1899 NL Louisville St. Louis Cleveland 3
10/08/1899 NL Cleveland Louisville Chicago  
10/15/1899 NL St. Louis Louisville Chicago  
09/13/1951 NL New York Boston St. Louis  
09/25/2000 AL Chicago Minnesota Cleveland  

Notes:

  1. Scheduled as three-team set before the season
  2. St. Louis played both games as visitor; Cleveland and Chicago home teams in Chicago
  3. Louisville played both games as visitor; St. Louis and Cleveland home teams in St. Louis

 

One 1899 doubleheader of note was played on September 24 in St. Louis. The Louisville Colonels had been scheduled in Cleveland on August 21 and in St. Louis on September 6. Both of these contests were moved to September 24 in St. Louis. The Colonels played as the visiting team twice that day, beating the Perfectos (Cardinals) in the first game and the Spiders in the second contest. The second game was stopped after seven innings due to darkness.

As the 1898 season wound down, the St. Louis Browns (Cardinals) were scheduled to host the Cleveland Spiders on Saturday, October 8 and the Chicago Orphans (Cubs) on Monday, October 10. Both of these games were transferred to Chicago and played on October 8. Teams did not like to play on Mondays because they drew fewer fans and many Monday games at the turn of the twentieth century were moved to other, more profitable, days. On this October Saturday, the last place Browns beat Cleveland, 4–3, in an afternoon contest called after seven innings to allow the Spiders to catch a train. Once Cleveland had left, Chicago played as the visiting team in their own home park and beat St. Louis, 4–3. These two results put Chicago into fourth place ahead of Cleveland, where they finished the season.

On September 14 and 15, 1887, the Metropolitans of the American Association hosted three-team doubleheaders on consecutive days. The Cincinnati Reds and Metropolitans were rained out on June 17 and September 12 and those games were rescheduled for September 14 and 15, when the Metropolitans were scheduled to play the Clevelands. These four games were played at the St. George Play Grounds on Staten Island, with the postponed games played in the morning and the scheduled games in the afternoon. New York lost all four contests to the visitors. To add to the confusion, Cincinnati left the Play Grounds after their morning games each day and went to Brooklyn to play the Brooklyns in the afternoon. Thus, the Metropolitans hosted two games against two opponents and Cincinnati visited two ballparks to complete a separate doubleheader. Four teams played a total of three games on each of those days spread between two ballparks.

The Boston Beaneaters (Atlanta Braves) of the National League played a scheduled three-team doubleheader on June 17, 1885. June 17 is the Bunker Hill Day holiday in Boston. In the morning, Boston lost to the Philadelphias, 5–3. After lunch, they lost to the New York (San Francisco) Giants, 10–0. The Philadelphias took the train to Providence to play the Grays in the afternoon, losing that contest, 10–4. The Philadelphia team played a split doubleheader that day as the visitor in two cities.

One year earlier, on June 17, 1884, the Beaneaters hosted another scheduled “triple double.” In the morning they hosted and lost to the New Yorks (San Francisco Giants), 7–6, in a 12-inning contest. That afternoon, the Bostons were beaten by the Philadelphias (Phillies), 7–2. During their lunch break, the New Yorks traveled to Providence for an afternoon contest against the Grays. New York lost that second game. The Gothams thus played two teams in two cities that day, which is the subject of the next section.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES (AND FOUR TEAMS)

Some large metropolitan areas, such as New York and Chicago, have had multiple teams within their confines. Most often, these clubs are in different leagues but sometimes they are not. The close physical distance between Brooklyn and Manhattan has allowed the National League to create some interesting scheduling. Other league cities have been close enough to allow teams easy travel between them. In the previous section, four days were cited on which a team played in two ballparks on one day: June 17, 1884, June 17, 1885, September 14, 1887 and September 15, 1887.

The first two featured a team traveling from Boston to Providence between games, while the latter two had a team traveling within the New York metropolitan area. On these days, Providence and Brooklyn played one game while Boston and Metropolitan played two.

Table 2 shows all instances of days when teams played two games in two ballparks. In most cases, both visiting teams traveled to the other park but there are a few in which only one team traveled. All of these doubleheaders were on the original league schedule unless otherwise noted in the table.

 

Table 2: Doubleheaders with Four Teams and Two Ballparks

Date League Visitor 1 Visitor 2 Home Note
05/30/1883 AA Cincinnati Columbus Metropolitan  
    Columbus Cincinnati Athletic  
05/30/1883 NL Cleveland Buffalo Boston  
    Buffalo Cleveland Providence  
07/04/1883 NL Boston Providence New York  
    Providence Boston Philadelphia  
05/30/1884 NL Philadelphia New York Boston  
    New York Philadelphia Providence  
05/30/1884 AA (None) Columbus Baltimore 1
    Columbus Cincinnati Washington  
05/30/1884 AA St. Louis Indianapolis Metropolitan  
    Indianapolis St. Louis Brooklyn  
06/17/1884 NL New York Philadelphia Boston  
    (None) New York Providence  
07/04/1884 UA Cincinnati St. Louis Baltimore  
    St. Louis Cincinnati Washington  
05/30/1885 NL Detroit (None) Boston 2
    Chicago Detroit Providence  
06/17/1885 NL Philadelphia New York Boston  
    (None) Philadelphia Providence  
05/31/1886 AA Louisville Cincinnati Metropolitan 3
    Cincinnati Louisville Brooklyn 3
09/14/1887 AA Cincinnati Cleveland Metropolitan 3
    (None) Cincinnati Brooklyn 3
09/15/1887 AA Cincinnati Cleveland Metro 3
    (None) Cincinnati Brooklyn 3

Notes:

  1. Scheduled as a doubleheader but changed after the season started
  2. Chicago and Boston rained out in the afternoon
  3. Not on the original schedule

 

On Decoration Day (May 30) 1883, both the National League and American Association scheduled four teams/two cities doubleheaders. In the NL, the Cleveland Blues played in Boston in the morning and in Providence in the afternoon. The Buffalo Bisons reversed the travel path that day, taking the train 41 miles to Boston for their second game of the day.

The Association teams had a tougher travel day on that 1883 date. The Cincinnati Red Stockings played in New York in the morning and took the train to Philadelphia, a distance of about 95 miles, to play the Athletics in the afternoon. The Columbus Buckeyes played the Athletics in the morning and the Metropolitans in the afternoon.

A few weeks later, on July 4, 1883, the Boston and Providence National League teams each made the New York/Philadelphia trek between games of a doubleheader. This is the only instance of the Beaneaters and Grays doing the traveling, as they usually were hosts for this sort of game set.

On May 30, 1884, the two league schedules featured three sets of traveling doubleheaders, which is the most of these unusual scheduling quirks in one day. In the National League, the Philadelphias (Phillies) and the New Yorks (San Francisco Giants) split games between Boston and Providence. Philadelphia moved southwest from Boston while New York traveled in the opposite direction.

In the American Association, the St. Louis Browns (Cardinals) played the Metropolitans in the morning and the Brooklyns (Los Angeles Dodgers) in the afternoon. The Indianapolis Hoosiers reversed the travel that day. The other four-team set in the AA had the Columbus Buckeyes in Washington in the morning and in Baltimore in the afternoon. The Cincinnati Reds were scheduled to play the Orioles in the morning and the Washingtons in the afternoon, thus reversing the movement of the Buckeyes. However, the morning game in Baltimore was moved to the previous day, thus avoiding the 40-mile commute between games.

On July 4, 1884, the Union Association got into the act with the only unusual schedule in the league’s one-year existence. The Baltimore Monumentals and the Washington Nationals each hosted two teams for Independence Day twin-bills. The Cincinnati Unions played in Baltimore and then traveled to Washington while the St. Louis Maroons played the Nationals in the morning and then the Monumentals in the afternoon.

For the third consecutive Decoration Day, the 1885 National League scheduled a set of games in two ballparks featuring four teams, with the Boston Beaneaters (Atlanta Braves) and Providence Grays again hosting the contests. The Detroit Wolverines started the day in Boston and then took the train to Providence for the afternoon game. The Chicago White Stockings (Cubs) played the Grays in the morning but were rained out in Boston that afternoon, with the make-up played on July 24.

The last of these sets not already mentioned occurred on Monday, May 31, 1886, which that year was the Decoration Day remembrance. These traveling sets were not in the original American Association schedule. The Cincinnati Reds were scheduled to play the Brooklyns in Brooklyn on May 28 and the Louisvilles were set to play the Metropolitans the same day. These games were moved to May 31, with the Reds playing in Brooklyn and then in New York City with the Louisvilles taking the opposite path.

FOUR TEAMS AND TWO LEAGUES IN ONE DAY

The last set of games to be discussed in this article involve two games played in one ballpark in one day with each game representing a different league. All of these games were played in New York. Table 3 shows the complete list of these games.

From 1883 through 1885, the National League’s New York team (sometimes called the Giants in 1885) shared a home field with the Metropolitans of the American Association. The Metropolitans joined the AA in 1883 and they shared the Southeast Diamond of the Polo Grounds for three seasons, then moved to Staten Island for the last two years of their existence.

In 1885, the two squads were both scheduled to play home games on Wednesday, August 26. The Association contest was played at two o'clock in the afternoon that day and the League game followed. The Metropolitans beat the Baltimore Orioles, 8–2, in the first game and the Gothams beat the Providence Grays in the second game, 6–0. One admission allowed the patron to see both games.

The Giants first scheduled home game of the 1885 season was rained out on May 1. That contest, against the Boston Beaneaters (Atlanta Braves), was rescheduled for August 28, which originally was an open date for the two clubs. That Friday afternoon, just as had been done two days previously, the Metropolitans played their scheduled game at two. The home team lost to the Athletics of Philadelphia, 4–2. Then the National League makeup game was played, with the home team victorious, 3–1. As had been the case on the 26th, one ticket allowed a fan to see both games.

 

Table 3: Two Games in One Park in Different Leagues

Date Game League Visitor Home
08/26/1885 1 AA Baltimore Metropolitan
  2 NL Providence New York
08/28/1885 1 AA Athletic Metropolitan
  2 NL Boston New York
09/10/1885 1 AA Louisville Metropolitan
  2 NL Providence New York
09/23/1885 1 AA St. Louis Metropolitan
  2 NL Buffalo New York
09/24/1885 1 AA Cincinnati Metropolitan
  2 NL Buffalo New York
09/26/1885 1 AA Cincinnati Metropolitan
  2 NL Buffalo New York
04/15/1998 1 AL Anaheim New York
  2 NL Chicago New York

 

The Giants and Metropolitans staged four single-admission doubleheaders in September 1885. In each case, the Mets were scheduled to play at home. The Giantis' schedule called for games on the road but all four games were transferred to New York with the permission of the league. The Association game was played first in all cases.

On Monday, April 13, 1998, a steel beam fell from the upper deck structure at Yankee Stadium and landed in the empty lower seating bowl. This occurred in the afternoon just as the Yankees were about to start batting practice and caused the postponement of game that night and the following, April 13 and 14. The Anaheim Angels were in New York to start a three-game series. The two postponed contests were made up in August. The third game of the series was played as scheduled on April 15. However, this game was transferred to Shea Stadium, the home of the New York Mets. The contest was played in the afternoon and the Yankees beat the Angels, 6–3. Both teams then vacated the stadium and two more teams moved into the clubhouses. That evening, the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs, 2–1, in their scheduled contest. The Yankees were scheduled to play the Tigers at Yankee Stadium on April 17 through 19 but that series was moved to Detroit. The scheduled series for the Yankees in Detroit that would have been played later in April was moved to New York. (Fans of quirky doubleheaders may recall the Yankees and Mets have also played some odd two-team sets. In "interleague play" in 2000, 2003, and 2008, weather cancellations forced the rescheduling that resulted in the two teams playing in one stadium in the afternoon and the other in the evening.)

Baseball schedules can be affected by many external influences, such as weather. These factors can cause unusual scheduling quirks, some of which have been detailed in this article.

DAVID VINCENT was presented with the Bob Davids Award in 1999 and has been a SABR member since 1985.