One of the most common questions I’m asked as a baseball fan is, Can baseball games ever end in a tie? After all, ties are almost unheard of in other sports, and it may seem strange that baseball would have this rule. However, there’s actually some logic behind it! Read on to learn more about why ties can happen in baseball.
A Brief History of Ties
In baseball, as in most other sports, games can end with no winner and no loser. For example, there’s a rule that states that extra innings played during official tournaments (like professional or collegiate play) will go until one team scores. That means even if both teams score exactly as many runs as their opponent does at any given point in extra innings, they still keep playing until someone wins by scoring more runs than their opponent. However, not all leagues have adopted such rules. And that means there is an infinitesimally small chance that two evenly matched teams could play each other and achieve neither victory nor defeat. The last time such an outcome happened was 2009 when Xavier University scored four runs against Belmont University but also gave up four of its own.
Why There Are No Ties in Major League Baseball
If a baseball game ends with both teams having scored exactly as many runs as their opponents, we say that it ended in a tie. But does it ever happen that there are no runs at all? Actually, yes; such games are called tie games and occur very rarely. In fact, throughout Major League Baseball’s entire history, only seven games have ended with no runs scored by either team—but they have been far from even contests. In those seven games, one team has lost by more than one run every time and never more than five!
The Rules of Ties
According to Rule 21 of Major League Baseball‘s Official Rules, tie games are possible but extremely rare: When an umpire declares a game ended because of darkness or rain, and at least two innings have been completed, all score records shall be wiped out and each team will be credited with and charged with that number of wins and losses that they would have earned if called at the end of any complete inning. A tied game must go at least four innings to become official. Under these rules, many games that begin as ties may eventually play out as official wins for one team or another when light improves or rain subsides.
According to baseball rules, if it’s still tied after nine innings, you play an extra inning and keep going until someone has a lead after an inning. This means that theoretically, you could end up playing 27 innings before you figure out who won. That’s happened three times so far — twice in Japan, once in North America. The most famous tie game was at Shea Stadium between New York and Pittsburgh on June 23, 1969; it took 16 innings for New York to win 1-0 (the Yankees would go on to beat Baltimore for their one-and-only World Series title that year). This tie game also featured some bad weather — it rained all day long before and during part of the game.
There’s just one way for a baseball game to end in a tie—if it rains so hard that neither team can continue play. But if you’re wondering what happens when two evenly matched teams are equally unlucky (or lucky, depending on how you look at it) and two storms hit right as they’re trying to win, there isn’t really an answer. It just doesn’t happen very often. In fact, there have only been four official games that ended in ties since 2010, and all of them were halted by rain.
It is theoretically possible to end a baseball game with a tie. However, it would have to be an extremely long game, and there are numerous other possible ways for play to stop before then. Since Major League Baseball started keeping official records of games back in 1876, just two games have ended tied: A 3-3 game between Brooklyn and Boston on May 7, 1912 and another 3-3 affair between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on June 21, 1935. Both of those were extra inning affairs that went beyond regulation time (9 innings) but ended when neither team could score any more runs; it was simply too dark for any further play.
Yes and no. The final score of an MLB game can never be tied, because baseball is always played to at least nine innings. But that doesn’t mean there have never been tie games. Although it hasn’t happened since 1951 (in fact, it only happened twice), ties are possible under baseball rules as long as one team is not ahead by more than 10 runs when its batting during extra innings. It also helps if both teams agree to it—for instance, if neither team has any incentive to continue playing and both teams feel like just calling it a day.