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. However, the 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. The 9-0 score equates to the number of innings in a regulation game. Sports with seven-inning games, such as high school baseball or softball, generally award a rule-based score of 7-0.
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 the last one had been in 1979. Since 1914, there has only been one incident where a team deliberately made a decision to forfeit a game, in 1977.
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. In the expansion era of baseball (post-1960), forfeits generally occur only when fans disrupt 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 and two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Senators fans—angered by the team's impending move to Dallas-Fort Worth, where the Senators were to become the Texas Rangers in 1972—stormed the field and vandalized the stadium. With no prospect of order being restored (the security guards had simply walked out during the game), 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 jumped 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 drunken and rowdy fans—armed with an array of debris including chunks of the stadium seating—brawled with players from both teams as well as with staff members. The umpires forfeited the game to Texas.
- During the September 15, 1977 game between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium, a light rain had been falling, and 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. Before the start of the bottom of the fifth inning, 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 removed 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 refused to order the removal of 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 they did not do so, he ordered the game forfeited to the Blue Jays. This was the only time since 1914 that a major-league baseball team deliberately forfeited a game.
- Disco Demolition Night: On July 12, 1979, the Chicago White Sox held a game 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. Rowdy and intoxicated fans, who had packed Comiskey Park beyond capacity, immediately stormed the field, engaged in various acts of vandalism and theft, and did not leave the field until the arrival of Chicago police in full riot gear. The field was so badly torn up that the umpires 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. However, fans interrupted the game in the seventh inning when they threw these baseballs onto the field. In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Cardinals were leading the game 2-1. The first batter, Raúl Mondesí, was called out on strikes and then ejected by home plate umpire Jim Quick for arguing, as was Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda moments later. Dodger fans, fueled by a series of close calls and a few rounds of alcohol, again threw their souvenir baseballs onto the field. The Cardinals left the field due to safety concerns and the field was cleaned up so play could resume. However, when the Cardinals returned to the field, at least one ball sailed out of the center field bleachers and the umpires immediately forfeited the game to St. Louis. As a result of this incident, Major League Baseball decreed that for any future promotional giveaways of baseballs or any other throwable object, the items would be given out as fans exited the stadium.
- Leventhal, Josh (2000). Take Me Out to the Ballpark: An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. ISBN 1-57912-112-8.
- The New York Times. October 1, 1971. p. 49. Missing or empty
- 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.
- The New York Times. June 5, 1974. p. 35. Missing or empty
- The New York Times. September 16, 1977. p. 93. Missing or empty
- The New York Times. July 13, 1979. p. A16. Missing or empty
- 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.