Suspended Game - History and Oddities

History and Oddities

Originally the ability to start and/or continue a baseball game was determined almost entirely by weather, and in fact the rule states that if there are several factors in play, weather overrides the others.

Before artificial lighting was available, games that ran out of sunlight or clear skies were simply called, resulting in ties. There were tied games in three different early World Series (1907, 1912, 1922) as well as some of the 19th Century Series. Called games that ended in ties were simply replayed, if necessary, as with those three World Series games, as well as a regular-season game in 1908 which was declared a tie because the fans had run onto the field toward the exit gates, thinking the Giants had won the game. This was a common practice at game's end at the Polo Grounds. The game was replayed at the end of the season and became essentially a one-game playoff.

Another famous example would be the 26-inning, 1-1 tie game of May 1, 1920, between the Brooklyn Robins (a.k.a. Dodgers) and the Boston Braves at Braves Field. Under the current rule, the game would have been resumed the next time the two teams were scheduled to meet. The longest professional baseball game, a minor league game in Rhode Island, was suspended (on agreement of all parties), rather than ending in a tie, after the 32nd inning. The resumed game, with everyone rested, ended one inning later.

The second-longest games in major league baseball were the 25-inning games of September 11–12, 1974, and May 8–9, 1984. The former game was played continuously, into the early morning hours of the next day, before the St. Louis Cardinals finally defeated the New York Mets, 4-3, at Shea Stadium. The latter game was suspended after 17 innings due to a league-imposed curfew. It was resumed the next day, and Harold Baines ended it with a homer in the 25th inning, as the Chicago White Sox defeated the Milwaukee Brewers at Comiskey Park. In both cases, by rule, the games are recorded under the date on which they started.

With the advent of lights in the 1930s, the need for suspended games arose, for the sake of fairness and to prevent "shenanigans" on the part of the home team.

The rules were expanded over time, to cover other situations. Wrigley Field, which did not acquire lights until August 1988, would sometimes see games called due to darkness. The rule was extended to cover darkness, again in the sense of fairness, as the setting sun was equated to "light failure".

The further extension of the rule to suspend rather than call games interrupted by lengthy rain-showers was also done in part to prevent stalling tactics on the part of the team trailing in the game, if any. Suspending the game took away any such incentive.

Thus, suspended games are much more common since the rules were expanded, and tied games have consequently become much less common, at least at the major league level. An anecdotal example for the Minnesota Twins occurred on Saturday and Sunday, October 2 and 3, 2004. The Saturday game was suspended due to a time limit required by the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome being a shared facility (there was a University of Minnesota football game scheduled that night). That is a typical occurrence during the early part of the college football season at the Metrodome, and usually there is enough time for the baseball game to finish and the field to be prepared for the football game. In this case, the game went into extra innings and was suspended, tied. It was finished before the start of the Sunday scheduled game. However, as per the rules, the suspended game was considered to have occurred on Saturday.

A substantial time between the parts of a suspended game can cause various oddities and debates about questions such as the status of a player's streak of some kind (such as consecutive games played or hit safely), or even the date of a player's "debut" in the major leagues. These kinds of questions were not at issue, of course, before the concept of suspending a game. The rules for substitutions in suspended games theoretically contain a loophole that would allow a player to appear on both sides of the box score, if he were traded between teams during the time the game was suspended. This situation could even result in a traded pitcher being credited with both a win and a loss for the game, or with a loss and a save, or with both a save and a blown-save.

A convergence of the Wrigley Field situation and the player-debut situation occurred on the game scheduled for April 20, 1986. The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs were tied at 8 runs apiece after 13 innings when the umpires suspended the game on account of darkness. It was a Sunday game, and the next available slot was August 11. The game went on for four more innings before the Pirates broke through with a pair in the top of the 17th. Barry Bonds came in as a pinch-hitter in the August 11 portion of the game and stayed in the game as center fielder. Because the game is recorded as April 20, some sources list that date as Bonds' debut. However, Bonds' actual debut with the Pirates was May 30. However, player statistics are still counted as having occurred on the date of the original game. Therefore, Lou Montanez, who was called up to the majors on August 5, 2008, officially recorded his first career hit on April 28 of that year - albeit in the resumption of a suspended Orioles-White Sox game, which actually finished on August 26. Alberto Castillo also recorded his first career victory in that game, in spite of not making his MLB debut until July 8. Furthermore, Rocky Cherry recorded his first career save three and a half months before being called up. In a final unusual moment, Ken Griffey Jr., who singled for the Cincinnati Reds on April 28, walked for the White Sox in that game, thus officially reaching base for two teams in the same day.

On October 27, 2008, in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays, continuing rain forced the Commissioner's office to suspend the game. The break in the action occurred between the top and bottom of the sixth inning, with the score tied at 2-2. This was the first suspended game in the history of the World Series. There had been three tied games previously: 1907, 1912, and 1922. No ties are possible under the modern rules, which provide for suspension of a tied game and resumption of it at the next possible date.

A unique situation occurred on July 9, 2009, when the Washington Nationals traveled to Houston to face the Astros in a game that had been suspended on May 5, in the bottom of the 11th inning, in Washington. Joel Hanrahan pitched the top of the 11th for Washington, but in the interim had been traded to Pittsburgh for Nyjer Morgan; he remained the pitcher of record and earned the win when Morgan scored (he pinch-ran for Elijah Dukes, who was no longer on the Washington roster) on a throwing error by Miguel Tejada. It was the first walk-off victory for a team in an opposing stadium since 1975.

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