Perfectly rare occurrences in baseball

I’m pleased to present another guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a new Wednesday contributor here. Today, he looks at last week’s near-perfect game and other rare feats in baseball history.


When a bad call denied Detroit Tiger Armando Gallaraga a perfect game, the media made a big deal of how rare a baseball feat it is to face 27 batters and put all 27 down.

Given that there have been 18 perfect games during baseball’s modern era, a perfect game would be better labeled infrequent rather than rare.

Many other baseball oddities– too numerous to mention in this short space– are less common. For pitchers, among them are walks to the first four batters (only five times); six home runs surrendered by a starting pitcher (six times) and perfect games lost on the twenty-seventh batter (ten times).

It’s rarer then to have a perfect game spoiled by the twenty-seventh batter than it is for the pitcher to complete his flawless game!

Gallaraga’s isn’t even the most interesting of the (nearly) perfect games.

That award would go to Babe Ruth, then a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. On June 23, 1917, Ruth walked the Washington Senators’ first batter, Ray Morgan, on four straight pitches. Ruth, who had already been jawing with umpire Brick Owens about his first three “Ball” calls became enraged and was promptly ejected.

When Ruth charged Owens and swung at him, police led him off the field. Ernie Shore relieved Ruth.

On Shore’s first pitch, Sox catcher Pinch Thomas threw out Morgan trying to steal. Morgan retired the next twenty-six batters. Since all twenty-seven outs were recorded while Shore was on the mound, the game was considered perfect for decades until the Rules Committee changed its classification to combined no-hitter.

After analyzing all the data, I’ve concluded that baseball’s most interesting rare feat involves runs scored in a single game.

On only three occasions in modern baseball has a National League team scored in every one of its half innings during a nine-inning game. No American League team has ever done it. And no two teams in either an American or National League game have both scored in each of their nine half innings.

Think of it. Hundreds of thousands of baseball games have been played since 1900. Yet, in what seems virtually impossible, in only three of them has a team scored in each of their nine at bats.

In baseball’s highest scoring single game, August 25, 1922 when the Chicago Cubs beat the Philadelphia Phillies 26-23, the Cubs scored in four innings and the Cubs in six. How did the Cubs get to 26 runs by scoring in only four frames? In the second, they scored 10 and in the fourth, fourteen.

On August 12, 2008, when the Red Sox bested the Rangers 19-17 to set the American League record for most runs in a single game each team tallied in only five innings.

In a Texas-Baltimore double header on August 22, 2008 the Rangers won both games by scores of 30-3 and 9-7. In a total of thirty-six innings played, twenty-one of them were scoreless.

Earlier this season, when the Milwaukee Brewers thumped the Pirates 20-0 in the worst loss in Pittsburgh franchise history, the Brewers were held scoreless in three innings.

Not scoring runs isn’t as headline-grabbing as perfect games. Statistically however it’s far more difficult to put up at least one run in each half inning than it is to be perfect.


Joe Guzzardi is a fellow member of the Society for American Baseball Research and the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. He has agreed to contribute guest posts here every Wednesday through the baseball season.