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.
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. 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.
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 1⁄2 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.
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
- Washington Senators' final game at RFK Stadium: On September 30, 1971, the home team led the New York Yankees by 7–5 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Senators fans were angered by the team's impending move to Dallas–Fort Worth, where the Senators were to become the Texas Rangers in 1972. Forgetting one out was left in the game, they stormed the field and vandalized the stadium. With no prospect of order being restored after the security staff had simply left during the game, resulting in many fans walking in without paying, the umpires forfeited the game to the Yankees.
- Ten Cent Beer Night: A promotion held by the Cleveland Indians on June 4, 1974, backfired when intoxicated Cleveland fans ran onto the field and attacked Texas Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs with the score tied 5–5 in the ninth inning. This led to a riot in which the drunk and rowdy fans, armed with an array of improvised weapons and various other objects, including chunks of the stadium seating, brawled with players and officials from both teams as well as with the umpires, who subsequently forfeited the game to Texas.
- During the September 15, 1977, game between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium, the grounds crew placed a tarpaulin over the two mounds in the Blue Jays' bullpen, which was in foul territory, outside the left field foul line after light rain. Before the start of the bottom of the fifth inning (with the Blue Jays leading 4–0), Orioles manager Earl Weaver came out of the dugout and claimed to umpire Marty Springstead that the tarp endangered his players by exposing them to the risk that they could slip or trip on it when entering the bullpen to catch a fly ball; Weaver ordered his team from the field, and said that they would not return until the tarp was removed. Springstead ordered the tarp removed from the mound that was closest to fair territory, but not the tarp from the other mound, and told Weaver that he could play the game under protest. After arguing with Springstead for nearly twenty minutes, Weaver returned to the dugout. Springstead then waited five minutes (the period of time specified by the rule book) for the Orioles to retake the field. When Weaver said they would not do so, Springstead ordered the game forfeited to the Blue Jays.
- Disco Demolition Night: On July 12, 1979, the Chicago White Sox held a promotion in which Chicago radio personality Steve Dahl came onto the field to blow up a box full of disco records between games of a doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers. After the box was blown up, rowdy and intoxicated fans who had packed Comiskey Park beyond capacity stormed the field, engaged in various acts of vandalism and theft, and did not leave the field until Chicago Police arrived in full riot gear. The field was so badly damaged that the umpires and managers decided the second game could not be played. American League President Lee MacPhail later forfeited the second game to Detroit.
- On August 10, 1995, the Los Angeles Dodgers gave out baseballs to paying customers as they entered the Dodger Stadium gates for a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Fans interrupted the game in the seventh inning when they threw these baseballs onto the field, and again in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the Cardinals leading 2–1, when the first Dodgers batter, Raúl Mondesí, was called out on strikes and ejected by home plate umpire Jim Quick for arguing, followed by Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda moments later for arguing with and abusing Quick. Dodger fans, fueled by a series of close calls, again threw their souvenir baseballs onto the field. The Cardinals left the field due to safety concerns, causing a several-minute delay, but when the Cardinals returned to the field, Dodgers fans threw more balls out of the center field bleachers, forcing the umpires to forfeit the game to St. Louis. As a result of this incident, Major League Baseball ruled that in any future promotional giveaways of baseballs or any other throwable object, the items would be given out as fans exited the stadium.
- "Orioles Lose by a Forfeit in Bull‐Pen Mound Dispute". New York Times. September 16, 1977.
- "A Row in St. Louis" (PDF). The New York Times. October 16, 1885. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
- "Cards Win Series, Beat Tigers 11-0; Tiger Fans Riot" (PDF). The New York Times. October 10, 1934. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
- "Cards Bow, 11-10, Forfeit 2d Game" (PDF). The New York Times. July 19, 1954. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
- 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.
- "Yankees Win Finale on a Forfeit, 9-0" (PDF). The New York Times. October 1, 1971. p. 49.
- McPherson, Myra; Huth, Tom (October 1, 1971). "Rowdy Fans Hand Senators Final Loss". The Washington Post.
- Kalinsky, George; Shannon, Bill (1975). The Ballparks. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc.
- "Riot by Indians' Fans in 9th Forfeits Game to Rangers" (PDF). The New York Times. June 5, 1974. p. 35.
- "Orioles Lose by a Forfeit in Bull-Pen Mound Dispute," United Press International (UPI), Thursday, September 15, 1977. Retrieved May 14, 2020
- "Anti-Disco Rally Halts White Sox" (PDF). The New York Times. July 13, 1979. p. A16.
- The Washington Post. July 14, 1979. p. C2. Missing or empty
- "Rowdy Fans Cause Dodgers to Forfeit Game". The New York Times. August 11, 1995. p. B9. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
- 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.