There’s No Tying in Baseball! Oh, Wait, Yes, Yes There Is…

Anyone who sat through the Sunday Night Football contest between Seattle and Arizona deserves hazard pay for sure. The ugly game limped through five full quarters and resulted in a 6-6 tie.


Not only was the game a horrific display of sport, neither team’s fan bases could claim victory as solace, since their was no victor. It was a fistful of meh. It probably was worse than a nil-nil draw in soccer.

Ties in football used to me more common, but thanks to overtime, college football has eliminated it entirely, and the NFL has adapted a modified sudden-death system such that you’d think one team or the other could score in an entire extra quarter. Alas, sometimes it doesn’t happen.

Other sports (soccer, as mentioned, for one) allow ties. Hockey used to have boatloads of ties every year, but now OT and the shootout have eliminated those (and made reading their standings table an entire mess).

Some sports do not. Basketball’s overtime rules make it nigh near impossible to tie. The ties I have seen were due to unforeseen events, or a scorebook issue (no, really, my alma mater and their arch rival tied a game in the 50’s because it was found that the scorebook was messed up after the game and it was too late to do anything about it).

Baseball, you’d think, would also not have tie games, thanks to extra innings and all.

You’d think wrong.

On September 29th of this year, the Cubs and Pirates played to a 1-1 tie in Pittsburgh. It was the last trip into Pittsburgh for the Cubs, so the game couldn’t be restarted. But since the game lasted at least five innings, all of the stats counted. So Ivan Nova gets a ‘complete game’ by pitching 5 1/3 innings. The 19,991 fans get bupkes, though (actually, the Pirates will allow them to exchange those tickets for a game in 2017, but they didn’t HAVE to do that).

Before then, the last tie game was in 2005. Ties don’t happen much in baseball anymore, and there’s a reason why.

Baseball finally got smart and decided that they’d suspend games that were ‘official’ if they were interrupted by weather. Before then, the only way a game could be suspended was due to darkness (which happened in Wrigley Field on occasion), curfew, or if the team had to leave to catch their plane (back when they flew commercial). Otherwise it was done if they played five innings, or a rainout if they didn’t.

The rain out rules have always been a confusing quagmire, though. In the day, a game that was either official and stopped due to rain or darkness and the scores REVERTED to the last full inning, or the last complete half-inning, or whatever the rule-makers felt like at the time.

This led to all KINDS of shenanigans, especially in the era of when the scores reverted back. When skies were threatening, teams would stall like crazy, or go up and make outs as quickly as possible. There was also a lot of umpire intimidation where the lone up was put on the spot to call the game or keep playing It was kind of a farce.

The old St. Louis Browns of the American Association played a memorable game where the ump didn’t want to suspend a game against the Brooklyn Bridegrooms played in Brooklyn, so the Browns lit candles in their dugout as a protest to show how dark it was.

Exacerbating that darkness rule was the practice of starting a game in mid-afternoon. The clubs wanted to start the game after many of the patrons were off of work (or could reasonably leave), which meant games started at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. You can imagine how dark the conditions were in September and October (and April, to be honest) in certain cities thanks to those late starts.

Tie games were to be made up as well, if possible, so teams could play over the scheduled number of games. This is how Pete Rose played 163 games in 1974 and 1979. Cal Ripken played 163 games in 1996 thanks to a 1-1 tie with the Rangers on June 17th.

Now, though, it’s almost impossible to have a game called a tie. But one of the most famous games in history was a tie, though. The September 23, 1908 game between the Giants and Cubs at the Polo Grounds. The Merkle game.

It was declared a tie.

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