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Monday, April 07, 2014
Is a seven-inning game still baseball?

This is an incredibly interesting idea. But is nine innings an "essential" rule of baseball, such that it no longer is "baseball" if games are only seven innings? I don't think so, but I'm interested in other thoughts.


Fun fact: the 1845 Knickerbocker rules had the game end with 21 runs. This was changed in the convention of 1857, for reasons that are interesting but not really suited for a blog comment. The original proposal was for the game to end after seven innings. This is the version in the draft proposal, and which came out of the rules committee. An amendment was proposed from the convention floor to make it nine innings, and this amendment was adopted. The argument for this change was not recorded. Some modern writers suggest that it was for the sake of symmetry, with the nine players, but this is speculation.

Henry Chadwick for about ten years, from the mid-1860s through the mid-1870s, sporadically pushed for ten-men, ten-innings. The ten men was the point, adding a "right short stop." The ten innings was justified since the innings would go faster with the additional fielder, but it is reasonable to suspect that symmetry was also behind this.

And, of course, minor league double header games are routinely played to only seven innings, and have been for as long as I can remember.

The upshot is that anyone arguing that nine innings is some sort of essential element to the game is simply betraying his near-sightedness.

Anonymous Richard Hershberger -- 4/08/2014 9:17 PM  

Let me add a comment as a New Zealand sports lawyer, and cricket fan.
Cricket is a game which, like baseball, is loved by its fans, and disliked by its detractors as being too long, and too boring.
The game has, over the last few years, responded to this in two ways which seem relevant to your post
1. a rain shortened match is now made interesting by the application of a mathematical formula known as the "Duckworth Lewis". In brief, it means that if rain intervenes, a realistic target is established, and a fair result obtained.
2. an entirely new form of the game, called T20, has been introduced - enabling a match to be completed in less than three hours. Initially it was repelled by the game's purists, but is now embraced by popularity around the world (the world championships have just concluded, and the definitive league, in India, is about to commence for the year).
The point is that, as evidenced in each of these ways, a game can and should continue to develop over time. While initially bound to be the subject of rejection, innovations such as a shortened innings result might actually rejuvenate baseball.

Blogger Andrew Scott-Howman -- 4/09/2014 12:51 AM  

A baseball game can absolutely be seven innings. Most kids grow up playing less than nine innings, instead using time limits and even a drop dead time rule. High school baseball games are seven innings, normal tournaments are seven innings or time limit until the final championship game. Boys really only play nine innings on a regular basis when they reach the college level.
Sure, a game less than nine changes some factors of the game, especially with pitchers, but it doesn't change the essence of baseball.
On a side note, full softball games are seven innings.

Blogger Julia Williams -- 4/21/2014 10:36 PM  

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