What is the longest baseball game ever? While Major League Baseball continues to look for new ways to reduce game times, there is nothing fans at the ballpark love more than free baseball. From the World Series and MLB playoffs to the archives of MLB history, some of the longest games ever took things to the extreme.
There isn’t a simple answer to the question, how long is an MLB game? Baseball is played without a clock. If both pitchers go three-up and three-down, an inning can last for just a few moments. If both teams pile up the runs, it can last far longer. The longest MLB inning occurred on May 8, 2004, when the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers combined for 18 runs in a 5th inning that lasted 68 minutes.
We’ll take a deep dive into the record books, looking at the longest baseball game ever throughout the MLB season, MLB postseason and even college baseball.
MLB game length in 2022
In recent years, Major League Baseball has put an emphasis on speeding up games. There is still a lot of work to be done with pitch clocks, fewer pitching changes and more adaptations on the way in the future. For now, there seem to be some signs of progress, per Baseball-Reference.
Average length of MLB games by year
- 2022: 3 hours, 7 minutes
- 2021: 3 hours, 11 minutes
- 2020: 3 hours, 6 minutes
- 2019: 3 hours, 10 minutes
- 2018: 3 hours, 4 minutes
- 2017: 3 hours, 8 minutes
- 2016: 3 hours, 4 minutes
The goal for MLB is to decrease the average length of games to under three hours. It’s likely years away from happening, but it’s achievable considering the average game length was under three hours as late as 2011.
As for the longest MLB game ever, there’s more on that below.
What is the longest MLB game ever?
1. Brooklyn Robins 1, Boston Braves 1 on May 1, 1920 – 26 innings
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the longest MLB game ever happened decades ago. The record goes all the way back to May 1, 1920, a meeting between the Brooklyn Robins and Boston Braves. On that historical date, neither team could do much at the plate.
Brooklyn jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 5th inning, thanks to a leadoff walk that turned into a runner on second with one out after a botched double play. A few moments later, Ivy Olson dropped in an RBI single for the first run of the game. An RBI single in the bottom of the 6th inning tied it, those would be the last runs scored in a game that started during the day.
Related: Boston Red Sox schedule, 2022 roster
Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger both pitched the entire 26-inning game and likely could have gone back out for the 27th inning. When the night sky arrived at Braves Field, darkness brought a 20-inning scoreless stretch to a halt.
2. Chicago White Sox 7, Milwaukee Brewers 6 on May 8, 1984 – 25 innings
There is a tie for the second-longest game in MLB history and both occurred just a decade apart. The Chicago White Sox faced the Milwaukee Brewers in an early 1984 season matchup. Both teams were tied 3-3 after 18 innings as the clock struck 1 a.m. The game was postponed, resumed the next day and both teams tacked on 3 runs in the 21st inning. Finally, a walk-off in the 25th sealed the longest baseball game ever (duration) at 8 hours and 6 minutes.
3. St. Louis Cardinals 4, New York Mets 3 on Sept. 11, 1974 – 25 innings
When examining the candidates for the longest baseball game ever, you’ll notice a trend. In this Sept. 11 meeting between the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets, both teams went 14 innings without scoring a single run. This 1974 night game started on a Wednesday night at Shea Stadium and mercifully ended at 3:13 a.m. EST on Thursday, a 7-hour pitcher’s duel that is recognized as the longest MLB game ever without a delay or postponement.
4. Houston Astros 1, New York Mets 0 on April 15, 1968 – 24 innings
In what can only be described as two of the best pitching performances by MLB teams in the same game, the Mets and Houston Astros went 23 innings without scoring a single run. Tom Seaver (10 innings, 2 hits_ and Don Wilson (9 innings, 5 hits) threw gems and both starters had hours to ride the bench after they were pulled before this game mercifully ended on an RBI grounder that went underneath the infielder’s legs. When the lone run touched home, a 6-hour and 6-minute game ended.
5. Detroit Tigers 1, Philadelphia Athletics 1 on July 21, 1945 – 24 innings
We’ve got to give credit to the Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics. While a 24-inning game is a grind, they somehow got through it in under 5 hours. Tigers’ starting pitcher Les Mueller covered 19.2 innings, allowing one unearned run. On the other side, Russ Christopher (13 innings) and Joe Berry (11 innings) split the workload for Philadelphia.
6. Philadelphia Athletics 4, Boston Americans 1 on Sept. 1, 1906 – 24 innings
Incredibly, per MLB.com, Athletics’ manager Connie Mack served as skipper in two of the longest MLB games ever. The A’s opened the score in the 3rd inning and were then held scoreless for 21 innings. Yet, they still won.
Heading into the 2022 MLB season, there have been just eight Major League games that went 23-plus innings. During that same stretch, nine games ended after reaching the 22-inning milestone.
Longest baseball game ever – 9 innings
- New York Yankees 14, Boston Red Sox 11 on Aug. 18, 2006 – 4 hours, 45 minutes
- Arizona Diamondbacks 10, Colorado Rockies 9 on June 24, 2016 – 4 hours, 30 minutes
Longest baseball game in MLB playoffs history
While the longest baseball game ever and its closest challengers trace back decades, things are a lot different in October. Many baseball fans will remember the longest MLB playoff game ever because it happened in 2014.
On Oct. 4, the Washington Nationals hosted the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. Washington held a 1-0 lead until the 9th inning, with a game-tying RBI double by Pablo Sandoval. Both teams were held scoreless until the 18th inning. After 6 hours, Brandon Belt uncorked a 3-2 pitch into the bleachers. Hunter Strickland secured the save and San Francisco celebrated its Game 2 victory after 6 hours and 23 minutes of baseball.
Longest MLB postseason games ever
- Houston Astros 7, Atlanta Braves 6 on Oct. 9, 2005 – 18 innings, 5 hours and 50 minutes
- New York Mets 7, Houston Astros 6 on Oct. 15, 1986 – 16 innings, 4 hours and 42 minutes
- New York Mets 4, Atlanta Braves 3 on Oct. 17, 1999 – 15 innings, 5 hours and 46 minutes
- New York Yankees 7, Seattle Mariners 5 on Oct. 4, 1995 – 15 innings, 5 hours and 12 minutes
- Texas Rangers 6, Toronto Blue Jays 4 on Oct. 9, 2015 – 14 innings, 4 hours and 57 minutes
What is the longest World Series game ever?
The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers provided plenty of memorable moments in the 2018 World Series. One night everyone remembers is Oct. 26, when the Red Sox and Dodgers delivered the longest baseball game ever in World Series history.
Tied 1-1 going into extras, an RBI single by Eduardo Nunez broke the tie in the 13th inning. However, Yasiel Puig stole Boston’s hope with a two-out RBI single off Nathan Eovaldi in the bottom of the frame. In the 15th, everyone in Dodger Stadium thought Max Muncy hit the walk-off blast but it was foul. Muncy got his second chance, sending the baseball just over the wall to end it after 7 hours and 20 minutes. Thank goodness this game was played in California and not on the East Coast.
Longest baseball game ever – World Series history
- Kansas City Royals 5, New York Mets 4 on Oct. 27, 2015 – 14 innings, 5 hours and 9 minutes
- Chicago White Sox 7, Houston Astros 5 on Oct. 25, 2005 – 14 innings, 5 hours and 41 minutes
Longest baseball game ever in college
The longest college baseball game ever happened fairly recently. On May 30, 2009, the Texas Longhorns beat the Boston College Eagles 3-2. It lasted 7 hours and 3 minutes across 25 innings, setting the NCAA record for longest baseball game ever in both duration and innings.
Here are the other longest college baseball games ever.
- College of Charleston 3, William & Mary 2 on May 16, 2014 – 23 innings, 6 hours and 3 minutes
- UL Lafayette 6, McNeese State 5 on March 27, 1971 – 23 innings, unknown duration
- TCU 3, Sam Houston State 2 on May 31, 2014 – 22 innings, 6 hours and 54 minutes
- Fresno State 3, San Diego 2 on march 26, 2011 – 22 innings, 7 hours and 12 minutes
What is the longest at bat in MLB history?
Ironically, the player responsible for ending one of the longest playoff games ever is also te man credited with the longest at-bat ever. Brandon Belt saw 21 pitches from Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018. The ordeal lasted 13 minutes, with Belt and Barria going back and forth thanks to countless fouls. Finally, he flew out to right field for the out.
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.