Forfeit Baseball Rules & Instances in MLB History

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In baseball, a “forfeit” is a rare but very consequential event that can significantly alter the landscape of a game. Though not commonly seen due to the structure and rules of professional baseball, when a forfeit does occur, it results in the automatic loss of the game by the forfeiting team. In this article, we will explore the concept of forfeit in baseball, examining its causes, implications, and notable instances throughout the history of the sport.

What is forfeit in baseball?

A forfeit in baseball is a rare occurrence where a game ends because of a violation of the rules by one team, resulting in an automatic win for the opposing team. The score is usually recorded as 9-0, regardless of the actual score at the time of forfeit. Forfeits can occur due to several reasons, such as a team failing to field the minimum number of players, a team intentionally delaying the game, or a team’s fans causing disruption that prevents the game from continuing.

MLB Forfeit Rules

Major League Baseball’s Rule 4.15 outlines the specific scenarios in which an umpire may call a forfeit, effectively handing the victory to the opposing team.

(a) The first scenario arises when a team either fails to show up on the field on time or refuses to start play within five minutes after the umpire has signaled the commencement of the game. However, if the team’s late arrival is, in the umpire’s opinion, unavoidable, he or she may allow leeway.

(b) The rules also cover situations where a team deliberately engages in strategies to delay or shorten the game.

(c) If a team refuses to continue play during a game, a forfeit may be called. This only stands unless the umpire has suspended or terminated the game.

(d) In the event of a game suspension, a team is required to resume play within one minute of the umpire signaling a restart. Failure to do so may result in a forfeit.

(e) Consistent and willful violation of any game rules, following a warning from the umpire, could lead to a forfeit.

(f) If a team does not comply in a reasonable time with the umpire’s directive to remove a player from the game, this could result in a forfeit.

(g) Lastly, a team must appear for the second game of a doubleheader within twenty minutes of the first game’s conclusion. However, the umpire in charge of the first game may choose to extend the intermission period. Failure to appear in due time may lead to a forfeit.

By understanding these rules, fans and players alike can better appreciate the intricate mechanics of the sport, and how strict regulation ensures fair play and sportsmanship.

What happens when a baseball game is forfeited?

Forfeited baseball games have interesting scoring rules. If the game is official, players still get recognized for their statistics. The outcome depends on who was leading at the time of forfeit. If the winning team was leading, pitchers get a win or loss like in any other game. But if the forfeiting team was leading, no pitcher gets attributed with a win or loss. Regardless, all forfeits are recorded as 9-0 victories for the non-forfeiting team. Understanding these scoring quirks deepens our knowledge of the game and shows its commitment to fairness and integrity.

Forfeits in MLB history

In the early days of MLB, forfeits were not uncommon. From 1871 onwards, forfeits occurred at a rate of six games in two months, setting a precedent. Forfeits became a regular occurrence between 1882 and 1909, with at least one happening almost every year. The year 1884 saw a notable increase in double-digit forfeits, often due to team no-shows or refusals to continue playing. The trend continued with five forfeits in the National League in 1886.

Teams would sometimes forfeit due to a lack of players, which was common in an era with smaller rosters. However, forfeits gradually declined after 1910. Modern curfews and the advent of night baseball reduced the use of stalling tactics to meet sunset deadlines. Major league rosters today have ample personnel for replacements, minimizing the chances of forfeits.

While rare, fan-related forfeits have occurred. The Washington Senators’ final game in 1971 ended in a forfeit due to fan disruptions after the team’s move. Promotions like Ten Cent Beer Night in 1974 and Disco Demolition Night in 1979 also led to fan-related forfeits. However, improved communication, transportation, and modern minor league systems have made team replacements more efficient.

Since 1960, instances of forfeits have been exceptionally rare, showcasing the league’s ability to adapt and ensure scheduled games proceed as planned.

The most recent forfeit in MLB history occurred on August 10, 1995, during a Los Angeles Dodgers game. The Dodgers had distributed 15,000 baseballs as souvenirs to honor their past Rookie of the Year winners. However, these souvenirs became projectiles during the seventh inning, causing a six-minute interruption. The game resumed until the penultimate bottom of the ninth inning when a stray baseball landed near a St. Louis Cardinals player. This sparked a barrage of souvenir baseballs from the spectators, leading to further delay. As a result, the umpires declared a forfeiture, making it a 9-0 win for the Cardinals. This incident represented a period in the 1990s when spectator disruptions were not uncommon, as teams often distributed throwable items to fans who couldn’t resist throwing them back.


The rarity of forfeits in modern baseball underscores the evolution and adaptation of Major League Baseball. Enhanced communication, systematic team replacements, and improved transportation have essentially eliminated the risk of forfeits due to team absences. However, spectator disruptions, although rare, still pose a potential threat, as seen in the last recorded forfeiture in 1995 during a Los Angeles Dodgers game. This event is a reminder that while the sport has progressed significantly, the potential for unforeseen circumstances still exists. Despite this, the chances of another forfeiture occurring in today’s modern baseball landscape are remarkably low, pointing to the resilience and adaptability of Major League Baseball.

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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.