The Game Score statistic was developed by Bill James as a way of giving pitchers a score for each game they pitch. A closer look at how the stat is calculated will be discussed later in this post. The statistic is a way to rate starting pitchers. The average starting pitching Game Score is 49 to 51 (depending on the year). This season's league average is 51. R.A. Dickey currently leads the majors with an average Game Score of 66.9. Matt Cain's perfect game rated a 101, one of the highest nine inning scores ever. This is the story of the two highest Game Scores ever recorded. They both happened in the same game.
The game occurred on May 1, 1920 between the Brooklyn Robins, who would later become the Dodgers, and the Boston Braves (now in Atlanta) at Braves Field in Boston. Attendance is recorded at just over four thousand souls.. The game was delayed until three o'clock because of rain and would later be called on account of darkness. It ended in a 1-1 tie after twenty-six innings, the longest game in major league history. Because the game ended in a tie, it was like it never happened. The statistics for the game counted, but the game did not. It would later be replayed to make sure each team had 154 games (with a winner and loser).
Baseball was different then. It was a game of contact. The average strikeout per nine rate in the majors that season was 2.9. Al Mamaux of the Robins led the majors with a 4.8 strikeout per nine rate that season. Did pitchers throw as hard as they do now? Doubtful. But one pitch was fast enough to fracture the skull of Ray Chapman whose death in that same 1920 would become the only major league fatality. But the idea was to pitch to contact. The Twins of today would have loved 1920. And true to form, each team in this 26-inning marathon only struck out seven times.
Starting pitchers of that day were expected to go the distance. As such, pitchers pitching well into a extra-innings game was not unusual. But this game on May 1, 1920 took that case to the extreme. Both starting pitchers, Joe Oeschger of the Braves and Leon Cadore of the Robins pitched all twenty-six innings!
These two pitchers were not Hall of Fame caliber pitchers. Both finished their careers with sub-.500 records. But the similarities do not end there. Both were born in Chicago, Illinois, within eight months of each other and went to high school and college out west. Oeschger went to high school and college in California and Cadore went to high school in Idaho and college in Washington. And yet, in 1920, they both pitched for East Coast teams and met on that fateful day to pitch in the longest game in major league history. Oh, and they both won fifteen games in 1920.
Both gave up a single run in the game. The Robins scored first in the top of the fifth on a single by Ivy Olson. Olson went 0-9 in the rest of his day's at bats. The Braves scored their run in the bottom of the sixth when Tony Boeckel's single scored Walton Cruise, who had a double, one of only two extra base hits the entire game. Both were hit by the Braves. The other double was by Hall of Fame shortstop, Rabbit Maranville. Maranville went 3-10 in the game and raised his average to .133. He was one of the few batters that would raise averages on this day. Charlie Pick of the Braves went without a hit in eleven at bats. And Chuck Ward of the Robins went 0-10.
By the time the game was called at 6:50 because of darkness, the two teams had combined for only 24 hits in 171 at bats. That is a .140 average for the game. Cadore gave up fifteen hits and five walks. Oeschger only gave up nine hits and four walks.
Some strange facts for the game:
- The Robins would play the Phillies the next day and took a loss in thirteen innings. The day after that, they played the Braves again and lost in nineteen innings. They had played 58 innings in three day! And had nothing to show for it.
- Despite allowing only one run in 26 innings in this game, Joe Oeschger would lead the National League that season in runs allowed and homers allowed.
- Leon Cadore had a 2.62 ERA in 1920. Take away this one game, and his ERA was 2.87. The one game shaved 25 points off his ERA for the season.
- Joe Oeschger's ERA for 1920 was 3.46. Take away this one game and his ERA would have been 3.76. So this one game shaved 30 points off his season ERA.
- Both starting catchers were relieved part way through the game. The replacement catchers went a combined 1-13.
- The 26 innings took only three hours and fifty minutes to play, about the average time of a typical AL East game of today.
And now for those Game Scores. Okay, here is how they work. Each starting pitcher starts out with 50 points. You add a point for each out or three points per inning. You add two points for each inning completed after the fourth inning. You add a point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit and four points for each run allowed. But you only lose two points if the run is unearned and you subtract a point for each walk. Let's do the math together:
Joe Oeschger: 50 points to start. 78 points for his outs. 44 points for each inning beyond the fourth. 7 points for his strikeouts. Subtract two for each hit and four for the run allowed and four more for the four walks. That would be =(50+78+44+7) - (18+4+4) or 179-26 for a total Game Score of 153, the all time record for a single game.
Leon Cadore: 50 points to start, 78 points for 26 competed innings, 44 points for each inning beyond the fourth plus seven points for his strikeouts. Subtract 30 for the hits and 4 for the run and five more for the walks. That would be: =(50+78+7+44) - (30+4+5) or 179 - 39 for a 140 Game Score, the second highest all time.
The two pitching Game Scores from the longest game in major league history is a record that most certainly will never be broken. One of today's pitchers pitching 26 innings? Forget about it.