Forfeit (baseball)

Retrosheet St. Louis Cardinals Major League Baseball

In rare cases, baseball games are forfeited, usually when a team is no longer able to play. In the event of forfeiture, the score is recorded as 9–0, as stated in rule 2.00 of the Major League Baseball Rules Book. The 9–0 score equates to the number of innings in a regulation game. Actual game statistics are recorded as they stand at the time of the forfeit; the game is recorded as a loss in the standings for the forfeiting team and a win for the other team, even if the forfeiting team is ahead at that point.

Although not uncommon in baseball's early days, forfeits are now rare. There have been only five forfeits in Major League Baseball since 1954; the last forfeit was in 1995, and prior to that, 1979. Since 1914, there has only been one incident where a team deliberately made a decision to forfeit a game, by the 1977 Baltimore Orioles.[1]

Sports with seven-inning games, such as high school baseball or softball, generally award a rule-based score of 7–0. The same is true for Little League Baseball, per Rule 2.00, under the definition of "Forfeit", there is one run allocated per inning, so for Minors and Majors divisions, that would be score of 6–0, and for Intermediate and above divisions, that would be a score of 7–0. In college baseball, the NCAA has the authority to retroactively forfeit games if the winning team is found to have violated NCAA rules, however this is a general NCAA rule and not one exclusive to baseball. Regardless of the sport, in the NCAA games are usually forfeited retroactively as a consequence of recruiting violations, if players and/or teams are caught violating the NCAA's strict rules regarding amateurism and/or if (a) player(s) are otherwise found to have been ineligible to play for some reason. Retroactive forfeiture can also happen for Little League World Series games, and occurred following the 1992 and 2014 events.

MLB forfeits before 1970

Forfeits were more common in the early days of Major League Baseball. In 1871, six games were forfeited in two months. There was at least one forfeit almost every year from 1882 until 1909. 1884 saw forfeits in the double digits, many because one team failed to appear for a game or refused to continue playing. Game 2 of the 1885 World Series was forfeited when St. Louis pulled its team from the field to protest the umpiring.[2] There were five forfeits in the National League in 1886. The high rate of forfeits slowed after 1910, with one forfeit every few years. Game 7 of the 1934 World Series was in jeopardy of being forfeited when Detroit Tigers fans began showering the outfield with debris after St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Joe Medwick slid hard into Tigers third baseman Marv Owen; however, a potential black eye to the Series was averted when Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ordered both Medwick and Owen replaced in the one-sided game.[3]

In games that were played before the advent of stadium lighting (or had an enforced curfew), forfeits were also sometimes declared as a result of a team's stalling tactics. A baseball game is not official until 5 innings have been completed, or ​4 12 innings if the home team is winning. Consequently, a team that was behind by a considerable number of runs before the end of the fifth inning might deliberately slow down the game, in the hopes that darkness or the curfew would come before the game was declared official. Note, however, that deliberate attempts to slow down play for this reason are subject to a forfeiture being declared. The last such incident took place in 1954. On July 18, the visiting Philadelphia Phillies were leading the hometown St. Louis Cardinals 8–1 in the fifth inning of the second game of a doubleheader. With darkness approaching and the game not yet official, Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky brought in three new pitchers in the inning. Umpire Babe Pinelli, citing an unnecessary delay of the game on the part of the Cardinals, forfeited the game to the Phillies.[4]

Forfeits have become extremely rare in recent years. The advent of night baseball has eliminated the use of stalling tactics to beat the sunset. No major league city has been regularly subject to a general curfew in recent decades. In the sort of extraordinary circumstances that would warrant a temporary curfew in a city scheduled to host MLB games (such as the 1989 World Series earthquake), it is extremely unlikely Major League Baseball would allow the game(s) to be played. In such cases, MLB typically reschedules the game(s) or moves the game(s) to the opponents' stadium or a neutral venue. In one exceptional case when the 2015 Baltimore protests caused local authorities to impose a curfew, MLB satisfied the terms of the curfew by ordering the affected game to be played earlier in the day and without spectators.

Of the five forfeits that have occurred in the expansion era of baseball (post-1960), all but one have been the result of fans disrupting the game to a point where the stadium staff cannot control them, at which point the home team is forced to forfeit.

MLB forfeits since 1970


  1. ^ "Orioles Lose by a Forfeit in Bull‐Pen Mound Dispute". New York Times. September 16, 1977.
  2. ^ "A Row in St. Louis" (PDF). The New York Times. October 16, 1885. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  3. ^ "Cards Win Series, Beat Tigers 11-0; Tiger Fans Riot" (PDF). The New York Times. October 10, 1934. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  4. ^ "Cards Bow, 11-10, Forfeit 2d Game" (PDF). The New York Times. July 19, 1954. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  5. ^ Leventhal, Josh (2000). Take Me Out to the Ballpark: An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present. New York City: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. ISBN 1-57912-112-8.
  6. ^ "Yankees Win Finale on a Forfeit, 9-0" (PDF). The New York Times. October 1, 1971. p. 49.
  7. ^ McPherson, Myra; Huth, Tom (October 1, 1971). "Rowdy Fans Hand Senators Final Loss". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ Kalinsky, George; Shannon, Bill (1975). The Ballparks. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc.
  9. ^ "Riot by Indians' Fans in 9th Forfeits Game to Rangers" (PDF). The New York Times. June 5, 1974. p. 35.
  10. ^ "Orioles Lose by a Forfeit in Bull-Pen Mound Dispute," United Press International (UPI), Thursday, September 15, 1977. Retrieved May 14, 2020
  11. ^ "Anti-Disco Rally Halts White Sox" (PDF). The New York Times. July 13, 1979. p. A16.
  12. ^ The Washington Post. July 14, 1979. p. C2. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "Rowdy Fans Cause Dodgers to Forfeit Game". The New York Times. August 11, 1995. p. B9. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
  14. ^ Baker, Chris (1995-08-11). "Three Strikes and Dodgers Forfeit: Baseball Game is called after fans throw balls on the field with one out in the ninth. Nomo overshadowed". Los Angeles Times.