Doubleheader in Baseball: Types & Instances in MLB

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A doubleheader in baseball presents one of the most thrilling and captivating spectacles in the world of sports. This article will guide you through the exhilarating journey of a doubleheader, its origin, and its unique place in baseball lore. Whether you’re a seasoned baseball enthusiast or a newbie looking to understand the sport’s intricacies, this read promises to be an engaging and enlightening experience. Let’s explore together the intriguing realm of baseball’s doubleheader!

What is a doubleheader in baseball?

A doubleheader in baseball is a set of two baseball games played between the same two teams on the same day in front of the same crowd. This practice originated in the early days of the sport when traveling was difficult and games were scheduled to maximize the use of time and resources. Currently, doubleheaders are typically scheduled when a prior game between the same teams was rained out or postponed.

In modern times, the concept of a baseball doubleheader has evolved slightly from its original definition. While traditionally a doubleheader would involve two games, played back-to-back by the same teams in a single day and for the same audience, contemporary use of the term has extended to include two games played by the same teams in one day, but not necessarily in immediate succession or for the same crowd.

In this context, the two games could be attended by different audiences, adding another layer of complexity and excitement to the already thrilling world of baseball.

What are the different types of doubleheaders?

There are 2 types of doubleheaders: Conventional and Split Doubleheaders.

Conventional Doubleheaders

In a conventional doubleheader, spectators get the privilege of enjoying two games for the price of a single ticket. Once the initial game concludes, there is typically a pause of around 30 to 45 minutes as regulated by the Official Baseball Rules, after which the subsequent game commences. The interesting aspect to note here is that from a statistical perspective, only the attendance for the latter game is accounted for. The crowd count for the initial game is recorded as zero, regardless of the actual turnout.

Split Doubleheaders

A different variant in baseball, known as the split or “day-night” doubleheader, involves scheduling two games in one day, with the first occurring in the early afternoon and the second in the evening. This setup requires separate ticket purchases for each game’s attendance. This model is highly favored among major-league organizations due to the potential revenue from the separate ticket sales for each game.

Split doubleheaders frequently result from weather-related postponements where tickets have already been sold for the individual games. However, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) of 2002, scheduling split doubleheaders is generally not permitted unless special circumstances are approved by the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), such as making up for a game delayed due to rain.

Despite these rules, exceptions do occur. For instance, on August 22, 2012, Chase Field hosted its first-ever doubleheader, where the Arizona Diamondbacks played the Miami Marlins. This occurrence was due to a scheduling violation of another CBA rule, prohibiting 23 consecutive games without a day off.

Since the 2012 season, teams have been allowed to expand their active roster by one player (currently from 26 to 27 players) for split doubleheaders, provided that the doubleheaders are scheduled with at least 48 hours’ notice, as per the CBA.

Number of innings in doubleheaders

In some specific circumstances, the length of games played as part of a doubleheader is reduced to seven innings, contrary to the customary nine. This practice is commonplace in college and minor league baseball, where doubleheaders are often decided in seven innings, including during the postseason. This was exhibited in 1994 when an initial game between Vancouver and Albuquerque in the five-match Pacific Coast League championship series was postponed due to rain, leading to a seven-inning doubleheader on the date initially scheduled for the second game.

In minor leagues, if the first game is a continuation of a previously suspended game, it is played to its originally intended length (seven or nine innings), and the following matchup in the doubleheader is a seven-inning game. Leagues that introduce a runner on second base at the onset of extra innings apply this rule from the eighth inning.

In the context of Major League Baseball, a significant deviation occurred during the 2020-2021 seasons. The COVID-19 pandemic had pushed the MLB’s 2020 season start from March to July, and to lessen the toll on team pitchers, all games in doubleheaders were scheduled to last for seven innings during the truncated season. This rule was initially established for the 2020 season alone, but it was extended to the 2021 season as well. However, the 2022 season witnessed a return to the traditional nine-inning doubleheaders.

History was made on August 2, 2020, when the first major-league seven-inning doubleheader took place. This historic event was marked by a showdown between the Cincinnati Reds and the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, with Reds claiming victory in both games.

What are notable instances of doubleheaders in MLB history?

Below, you can see some of the most notable instances of doubleheaders in MLB history:

July 28, 1925: Chicago White Sox vs. Washington Senators

The Chicago White Sox played a doubleheader against the Washington Senators, winning both games on July 28, 1925.

September 4 – September 15, 1928: Boston Braves

The Boston Braves played an extraordinary nine consecutive doubleheaders between September 4 and September 15, 1928, showcasing a remarkable series of back-to-back games.

September 1, 1890: Brooklyn Bridegrooms vs. Pittsburgh Innocents

The Brooklyn Bridegrooms faced the Pittsburgh Innocents on September 1, 1890, winning all three games in a rare instance of a tripleheader.

September 7, 1896: Baltimore Orioles vs. Louisville Colonels

On September 7, 1896, the Baltimore Orioles played a tripleheader against the Louisville Colonels, emerging victorious in all three games.

October 2, 1920: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds engaged in a tripleheader on October 2, 1920, with Cincinnati winning two out of the three games.

Home-and-home Doubleheader – September 7, 1903: New York Giants vs. Brooklyn Superbas

A unique home-and-home doubleheader took place on September 7, 1903, involving the New York Giants and Brooklyn Superbas. The teams split the games, with each winning on their home turf.

Interleague Doubleheaders – New York Mets vs. New York Yankees

The New York Mets and New York Yankees participated in interleague doubleheaders on multiple occasions, a rare event due to the logistical challenges of hosting games at each team’s ballpark.

September 13, 1951: St. Louis Cardinals

On September 13, 1951, the St. Louis Cardinals hosted a doubleheader against two different teams, securing a win against the New York Giants in the first game but losing to the Boston Braves in the second.

September 25, 2000: Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians hosted a doubleheader against two different teams on September 25, 2000. They defeated the Chicago White Sox in the first game but faced a loss against the Minnesota Twins in the second.

MLB doubleheader rules for 2023

In 2023, Major League Baseball (MLB) has reverted to traditional doubleheaders, featuring two full-length nine-inning games in a day. This change aims to uphold the sport’s endurance ethos, compelling teams to play two complete games if needed on the same day. To address the physical toll on players during doubleheaders, a key adjustment involves expanding the team roster. Known as the “26th man” rule, teams can now bring up an additional player for doubleheader matches, providing extra relief or backup support. This temporary addition ensures teams have ample resources without straining their regular players, and the extra player returns to the minor leagues after the games.

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James Arnold
I'm James, and I live in Stanislaus County, California. I'm playing Baseball for many years, and I love this sport so much that I also encourage my kids (Danny and Sara) to play Baseball & Softball.