The Top 15 Highest Scoring MLB Games in History
MLB fans who enjoy quick, low-scoring pitching duels came to the wrong place.
As teams gear up for Opening Day, baseball seeks answers to expediting pace of play. Signaling an intentional walk will spare a few seconds. Keeping hitters inside the batter's box may shave off some ticks here and there.
Yet ultimately, baseball is an untimed game that can last an eternity when teams can't record outs.
With immense help from Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index, let's look back at all regular-season games since 1901 to identify the highest-scoring clashes from MLB's modern era, ranked in ascending order of total runs scored. The ties—a majority of the contests ended with 35 or 36 runs—are ordered by year from oldest to newest.
These games kept fans entertained with non-stop offense. The box scores reveal gaudy stat lines too outlandish for a video game, and many occurred far before such technology surfaced. Some of the franchises no longer exist—at least not in the same city—but two tenured National League clubs engaged in the sport's two wildest shootouts.
Cleveland Indians 21, St. Louis Browns 14 (1925)
The Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns opened the 1925 season with a tidy football score and mess of a baseball game.
Up 13-9 entering the eighth inning, St. Louis had a golden opportunity to begin the year with a win. That was before allowing a dozen runs in a single frame to lose 21-14.
Iconic outfielder Tris Speaker hit one of Cleveland's four home runs and swiped one of its five stolen bases. Yet it's impossible to enthusiastically celebrate the victors when the losers made 10 errors.
Twenty-eight years later, the Browns moved to Baltimore without a single championship and changed their name to the Orioles.
After the NFL's Rams left St. Louis for Los Angeles, ESPN.com's Thomas Neumann looked back at the city's forgotten MLB franchise. Renowned broadcaster and St. Louis native Bob Costas' theory for why they never received scorn for moving feels prescient after examining 1925's Opening Day embarrassment.
"It's not just that they're bad—they're comically, lovably, absurdly bad," Costas told Neumann. "So I think the reason why they're remembered nostalgically isn't just because they once existed and then left, or because they were bad. It's because they were interestingly bad."
Philadelphia Athletics 18, Cleveland Indians 17 (1932)
When researching MLB's highest-scoring affairs, the Philadelphia Athletics popped up more than anyone else. And they almost always finished on the losing end:
- 1901: Boston Americans 23, Philadelphia Athletics 12
- 1932: New York Yankees 20, Philadelphia Athletics 13
- 1936: Chicago White Sox 21, Philadelphia Athletics 14
Since this list features two more Athletics shortcomings, let's take a look at a triumph.
Some readers may say this game doesn't count, as the Athletics and Indians needed 18 innings to produce 35 total runs. Yet they entered extras at 15 apiece before both lineups stuttered.
Superstar first baseman Jimmie Foxx went 6-for-9 with three dingers, the last of which he crushed in the 16th frame. Cleveland, however, canceled out the two-run blast with a pair of scores.
Even the pitchers joined the fun. Eddie Rommel, who threw a now-unthinkable 17 innings in relief of Philly starter Lew Krausse, went 3-for-7 with a walk. Cleveland starter Clint Brown collected two hits but allowed 13.
Although 17 runs is a typically admirable output, the Indians left a staggering 24 runners on base. Shortstop Johnny Burnett's MLB-record nine hits went to waste in the gutting 18-17 loss.
Chicago White Sox 29, Kansas City Athletics 6 (1955)
Different city, same struggles. After 54 seasons in Philadelphia, the Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955. Following their sixth game at Municipal Stadium, the crowd probably wanted to ship them away again.
Less than a week removed from surrendering 27 combined runs in consecutive losses, the Athletics took a beating for the ages. The Chicago White Sox tied the 1950 Boston Red Sox with an MLB-record 29 runs scored in one game.
Athletics starter Bobby Shantz, the 1952 American League MVP, relinquished nine runs before getting chased out in the second inning. By the end of the frame, the White Sox wielded an 11-3 edge.
Catcher Sherm Lollar and outfielder Bob Nieman each hit two of the team's seven homers. Batting from the No. 8 hole, Lollar rattled off five hits, a tally matched by leadoff man Chico Carrasquel. The light-hitting shortstop finished the season with a .348 slugging percentage.
Before relocating to Oakland in 1968, the Athletics never reached 75 victories in any of their 13 seasons in Kansas City.
Chicago White Sox 22, Boston Red Sox 13 (1970)
The White Sox and Red Sox battled for colored-sock supremacy in high-octane encounters throughout the 1970 season. Closing out their first series, the White Sox avoided a sweep by touching home plate 22 times.
Boston answered with a quaint 13 runs, commenced by a first-inning homer from star first baseman Carl Yastrzemski. By then, however, Chicago had already jumped to a 6-0 lead in a hot start fueled by two Red Sox errors.
Outfielder Walt Williams and shortstop Luis Aparicio orchestrated Chicago's offensive bonanza by each lacing five hits atop the batting order. Third baseman Bill Melton authored the team's lone long ball, a solo shot to start the third.
On Aug. 29, Chicago once again stood triumphant in an offensive-laden victory, 13-9, over Boston. The Red Sox gained payback the following day, starting a doubleheader sweep with a 21-11 win over their budding rival.
Minnesota Twins 24, Detroit Tigers 11 (1996)
The Minnesota Twins opened 1996 on fire, averaging 7.0 runs per game through April. Three weeks after dropping 16 on the Detroit Tigers, they tortured their American League Central foes again.
Minnesota crossed home in all but one inning of April 24's 24-11 rout, and they exited six of them with three runs or more. Designated hitter Paul Molitor proved he could still rake at age 39, driving in five runs on a triple and homer.
With the game out of hand in the ninth, Chip Hale decked a three-run dinger in Molitor's spot.
Greg Myers, a journeyman catcher who retired with a career .708 OPS, helped open the floodgates with five hits, including two doubles. Detroit lost by 13 despite receiving two bombs from second baseman Mark Lewis.
Of the dozen pitchers used, only rookie Dan Naulty escaped with a zero in the run column. The Twins reliever cooled the ferocious Tigers bats with three scoreless innings.
Colorado Rockies 18, Florida Marlins 17 (2008)
It's hardly a surprise to see Coors Field host a pair of baseball's most memorable slugfests. Nine years ago, the Colorado Rockies won the first of two highlighted bouts in their hitter's paradise.
The Rockies and Florida Marlins celebrated the Fourth of July with plenty of fireworks, combining for 43 hits and 35 runs. Mike Jacobs reached base six times (4-for-4 with a double and two walks) for Florida while Colorado's first four batters went a combined 16-for-22 with five homers and 13 runs.
That includes leadoff hitter Ryan Spilborghs and franchise cornerstone Matt Holliday, who exploited the venue's high altitude with two homers apiece. Yet the Rockies still entered the final inning trailing 17-16 before rallying with four singles, the last of which from Chris Iannetta sealed the walk-off win.
Brooklyn Robins 20, Philadelphia Phillies 16 (1929)
Although now remembered as the Dodgers, the franchise went by multiple nicknames before making the current moniker official.
History has washed over the Robins, who scored 26 runs in a doubleheader on May 18, 1929.
They needed nearly all 20 in the first game to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in a 20-16 showdown featuring five-hit outings from outfielders Johnny Frederick and Babe Herman. The Robins chased Philadelphia's starter Phil Collins out of the opening inning with five runs.
The Phillies gained vengeance by winning the second bout of the doubleheader 8-6. First baseman Chuck Klein, who homered and drove in five during the earlier loss, went deep again in a victorious effort.
Boston Red Sox 22, Philadelphia Athletics 14 (1950)
Welcome back, Athletics. Have you met Ted Williams?
He's pretty good at hitting baseballs. On Jun. 29, 1950, he caught hold of two of them for a double and homer. A pair of RBI groundouts gave him six in all.
It took two innings for the matchup to spiral out of control. The Athletics couldn't diminish the Red Sox's 14-7 lead, which expanded to a 22-14 triumph at Shibe Park, Philadelphia.
This wasn't even Boston's premier scoring tally in 1950. Every starter reached base at least twice during June 8's 29-4 torching of the Browns. At the time, 29 runs set a new MLB high, which was later matched by the White Sox, before the Texas Rangers recorded 30 on Aug. 22, 2007.
Chicago Cubs 23, St. Louis Cardinals 13 (1954)
Few rivals from any sport have battled as long as the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, who scored 36 runs on just 35 hits in each club's third game of the 1954 season.
Future Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Ralph Kiner and Ernie Banks contributed one hit apiece, but that didn't stop everyone else from going nuts. St. Louis struck with five runs in the second, but Chicago quickly gained them back in the third. The foes went back and forth until the Cubs broke the game open in the fifth.
Despite a Gene Baker double representing the only extra-base knock, the Cubs compiled 10 runs on six walks (one intentional) and six singles. St. Louis' spotty defense helped by committing two of its five errors during the disastrous frame.
A lack of run prevention derailed the Cardinals throughout the season. Despite topping the NL in runs scored (799), they finished a spot above the Cubs in sixth place out of eight teams.
Cincinnati Reds 19, Philadelphia Phillies 17 (1969)
Although not yet The Big Red Machine, the 1969 Reds still fielded a terrific lineup led by Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Alex Johnson and a young Johnny Bench. On Aug. 3, they helped overcome the pitching staff's worst day of the year in a 19-17 win over the Phillies.
The four sluggers went a combined 16-for-21 with four walks and 11 runs. Rose reached base all seven times.
Philadelphia led 9-5 after three innings, but Rose and Lee May both clobbered three-run jacks during a 10-run fifth. The Phillies fought back with seven in the sixth, but they still fell two scores short.
Although the Reds missed the postseason at 89-73, they commenced their 1970s dynasty the following year with the first of four World Series appearances during the decade.
Cincinnati Reds 24, Colorado Rockies 12 (1999)
Let's circle back to Coors Field for an encounter which didn't end as well for Colorado.
The Reds and Rockies wasted no time on May 19, 1999, scoring 10 total runs in the first inning. Sean Casey's three-run homer contributed to Cincinnati's six-run first, but Colorado evened the score during the second.
Cincinnati, however, was far from finished. From the fourth to seventh frames, the NL Central squad posted 17 combined runs. Casey went yard again to finish a masterful 4-for-4 with three walks, five runs scored and 6 RBI. Yet he probably doesn't own the game's most noteworthy line, as Jeffrey Hammonds cleared the fences three times.
The outfielder, who played sparingly throughout his career, improved his slash line to a still middling .205/.286/.455 that day. Yet the power outburst may have served as a turning point in his season, which he concluded batting .279/.347/.523.
The Rockies must have liked what they saw, as they brought Hammonds on board as a starting outfielder the following year. With 61 games to enjoy Coors, he hit a blistering .399/.465/.651 with 14 homers at his new home park, earning the first and only All-Star bid of his 13-year career.
Boston Red Sox 19, Texas Rangers 17 (2008)
The 2008 Red Sox stockpiled double-digit runs in 15 games. The only offense to register a higher OPS than their .805 was the Rangers.
Both AL powerhouses put on a show when meeting on Aug. 12 at Fenway Park. After David Ortiz blasted two homers off Scott Feldman in a 10-run first, Boston probably thought it quickly pulverized its way to an easy victory. Yet Texas stormed back with eight scores in the fifth and five more the following frame.
When both teams took a much-needed seventh-inning stretch (one run apiece), the Rangers suddenly boasted a 16-15 advantage. Luckily for the Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis' three-run homer in the eighth turned an epic collapse into a triumphant comeback.
"Both teams were as frustrated as the next, but you just have to play it out," Youkilis told MLB.com's Mark Remme. "You've got to play until you get that 27th out."
New York Giants 25, Cincinnati Reds 13 (1901)
The NFL's New York Giants averaged 19.4 points per game during the 2016 season. On Jun. 9, 1901, decades before baseball's Giants moved to San Francisco, they cemented a 25-13 victory over the Reds
The standout score from the baseball Giants is even more surprising when peering at their season numbers. They finished 52-85, averaging 3.8 runs per game with just 19 home runs throughout the entire year.
Shortstop George Davis, who submitted seven long balls and a .426 slugging percentage, wielded the lineup's fiercest bat. Opponents shut them out 15 times.
Yet they used all of their offense in one game against the Reds, who relinquished an NL-worst 5.8 runs per contest. The following season, pitcher Christy Mathewson produced two of the Giants' six home runs.
Philadelphia Philies 23, Chicago Cubs 22 (1979)
Imagine needing to play extra innings after scoring 22 runs. The Phillies and Cubs faced that bizarre scenario in MLB's second-highest scoring game since 1901.
Setting the tone for a wild shootout on May 17, 1979, starters Randy Lerch and Dennis Lamp each recorded just one out. Philadelphia, which left the first leading 7-6, topped itself with eight runs in the third. The Cubs then scored 13 times from innings four to six, with three more in the eighth.
Cubs first baseman Bill Buckner went 4-for-7 with a homer and seven RBI—seven years before his infamous World Series blunder. Batting behind him in the cleanup role, left fielder Dave Kingman cleared the bases with three deep flies.
Pete Rose, Larry Bowa and Garry Maddox each sprayed two doubles for the Phillies, combining to score 11 runs on a dozen hits. Mike Schmidt, meanwhile, refused to settle for two bases.
The star third baseman instead socked a pair of dingers. His second homer broke the 22-22 stalemate in the 10th, and Rawly Eastwick mercifully maintained the new-earned lead.
One could say this revenge was 57 years in the making for the Phillies, who lost the No. 1 highest-scoring game to the Cubs in 1922. More on that next...
Chicago Cubs 26, Philadelphia Phillies 23 (1922)
The Phillies nearly pulled off the greatest comeback ever.
The Cubs compiled 10 runs in the second, and that wasn't their best inning. Two frames later, they scored 14 to take a resounding 25-6 lead. Even the Philadelphia Eagles would greatly struggle to erase such a lofty deficit.
Yet the Phillies kept fighting. They chipped away with three in the fifth before accumulating eight runs in the eighth. With only three more outs at their disposal, they brought the game to 26-23 before running out of gas.
The Phillies scored 23 runs on 26 hits without belting a single homer. Outfielder Hack Miller generated some power for the Cubs, living up to his name with four hits and two round-trippers.
Philadelphia cruelly forced starter Jimmy Ring and reliever Lefty Weinert to eat abysmal innings for the team. Ring surrendered 17 baserunners and 16 runs, while Weinert yielded the other 10 scores and 18 baserunners before settling down.
Nevertheless, the 57-96 squad might have earned a remarkable win had manager Kaiser Wilhelm shown mercy on his reeling hurlers.
By the way, the highest-scoring game in MLB history lasted three hours and one minute.
Note: All stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.