A clock determines the duration of a game in most team sports. In NBA basketball, there are four 12-minute quarters. NFL games have four 15-minute quarters. There are three 20-minute periods in NHL, while most soccer leagues have standard 45-minute halves. The list goes on and on.
What makes baseball different and intriguing is that time Is not a factor. The game continues until a certain number of innings have been completed, and in most leagues, one team scores more runs than the other.
Typically, a baseball game has 9 innings. Softball and high school baseball games will ordinarily have 7 innings, while Little League Baseball has 6 innings.
What is an Inning in Baseball?
An inning is similar to a period in other sports, with one distinct difference: an inning isn’t a set period. There are 9 innings in a Major League Baseball game, with each inning split into a half-inning which ends when the fielding team records three outs.
The process continues for a full 9 innings unless a match is shortened due to inclement weather. If the game is tied after nine innings, extra innings play out until a winner is decided.
During an inning, one player from each team on offense will be sent to bat. The team in the field has nine players, trying to stop the team at bat from scoring. They do so by recording “outs”.
The inning doesn’t conclude until three batters are deemed to be “out”. The next team then comes to bat until three outs are recorded.
The Makeup of an Inning
Top of the Inning
In baseball, the home team is in the field first, and the visiting team is at-bat. This is to ensure that the home team has the last at-bat in the game. The top of the inning is when the road team is batting, continuing to bat until three outs are made against them.
Middle of the Inning
This is the transition phase where the home team goes in to bat after getting the away team out. The away team will now take the field.
During this time, infielders and outfielders will loosen up their arms throwing, while the pitcher will complete his warm-up pitches. This usually takes a few minutes.
Bottom of the Inning
The bottom of the inning begins when the home team’s next batter in the lineup comes up to bat. The visiting team will attempt to get three outs. Once that is accomplished, the bottom of the inning is over, and a new inning is ready to begin.
How Many Outs Are in an Inning?
An out is a way to describe a player on the team at bat that is, in essence, taken “out” of play. A team’s chances to score in every inning is dictated by how many outs are remaining.
In theory, a team could be at-bat indefinitely. Once three outs are recorded, the half-inning is complete, and the team in the field now comes to bat.
Types of Outs
An out is recorded as a strikeout if a pitcher can throw three strikes to a batter before throwing four balls. A strike is determined in several ways:
- One way is for the pitcher to throw the ball in the strike zone, which is, by definition, a ball is thrown over home plate above the knees and below the midpoint of the batter’s waist and shoulders. We must note that umpires have variations that they call in a game that generally deviates from the “book” strike zone.
- Another way to record is a strike is for the batter to hit a foul ball, except for two strikes unless the ball is just barely tipped by the bat into the catcher’s glove.
- The other strike is for the batter to swing and miss the ball entirely.
If a grounder is fielded and thrown to the first baseman, who catches it while his foot is on the base, the batter is out if this occurs before the batter’s foot touches the base.
The force out is similar but can occur at any base, including home plate, if the baserunner is forced to run on a ground ball put into play.
When a ball is hit into the air and caught by an outfielder before it touches the ground, the out is noted as a “fly-out”.
If an infielder catches the ball, the batter has “popped out”. Should the ball be caught in foul territory, the batter has “fouled out”.
The batter has ” lined out ” if the ball is hit more directly without a noticeable arc and a fielder catches it.
A player running for the next base will be out if he is tagged with the ball or the fielder’s glove with the ball before his foot reaches the base. If a player slides into a base and over slides, he can be tagged out.
Runner Out of the Baseline
Although this doesn’t happen frequently, occasionally, a run that tries to avoid a batted ball in the infield or tries to avoid a tag will run out of the baseline.
An umpire will rule him “out” if the runner is out of the baseline by more than three feet. There is an exception to this rule, which is when a runner tries to avoid colliding with a fielder attempting to field the ball.
How Long is a Baseball Inning?
The length varies based on pitches thrown, the number of at-bats, visits to the mound by a manager, the speed at which the pitchers deliver pitches, and the number of pitching changes.
Theoretically, an inning could last indefinitely. The umpire must record six outs, three by each team, for an inning to end.
An inning could take a few minutes if each team is retired without a hit, with the pitcher using a minimum number of pitches.
How Long Does a Major League Baseball Game Last?
Generally speaking, a 9-inning game will take about three hours to complete. If a match is tied after 9 innings, then extra innings will determine the game’s outcome.
For the 2020 and 2021 seasons, MLB started extra innings by putting a runner on second base to make it easier for runs to score. This attempted to reduce the number of extra innings and speed up the games.
Before MLB effected this rule, it wasn’t uncommon for games to last 15 innings and beyond. The longest game in 2020 was 14 innings, with many games decided in the first extra inning.
Games often end after the top of the 9th inning, when the visiting team is behind and fails to tie or go ahead in their half of the 9th inning.
In such a case, the home team does not bat and wins the game. When lousy weather limits the game to less than nine innings but at least five innings, the umpire will rule the game as complete with the team ahead as the winner.
Duration of Non-Major League Baseball Games
How Many Innings Are There in Minor League Baseball?
In minor league baseball, which includes rookie leagues, A, AA, and AAA, the rules are the same as for Major League Baseball.
A pitch clock of 20 seconds in the higher minor league levels has reduced games by 10 to 15 minutes. In addition, doubleheaders in minor leagues are seven innings.
In 2020 and 2021, MLB used seven innings for doubleheaders but plans to return to nine innings starting next season.
How Many Innings Are There in a College Baseball Game?
Collegiate baseball games are also 9 innings long, and doubleheaders are generally 7 innings each. However, there is one exception to the innings rules if one team is ahead by 10 or more runs.
If this occurs after seven innings in a single game or five innings in a doubleheader, the “mercy rule” is in effect, and the game is over.
This rule isn’t in play for professional games.
How Many Innings Are There High School Baseball?
High school games are 7 innings long, but a game can be called with an official winner after four innings if the weather is inclement.
The “mercy rule” is also in effect after four innings at the high school level, and fields without lighting can resume games later or call after four innings.
How Many Innings Are There in Japanese Baseball?
Japanese baseball leagues play the traditional nine innings but have limits of 12 innings in the regular season and 15 innings in the playoffs; therefore, ties can occur.
How Many Innings Are There in Olympic Baseball?
9 innings is also the standard for Olympic baseball games.
Longest Major League Baseball Games by Innings
May 1, 1920: Brooklyn Robins versus Boston Braves (26 innings)
If it had not been for darkness setting, the game could have lasted even longer. The amazing thing about this 1-1 tie was that the 26 innings took only 3 hours and 50 minutes to complete.
May 8, 1984: Chicago White Sox versus Milwaukee Brewers (25 innings)
Tied for the second-longest game in terms of innings, this battle took over eight hours to complete, going down as the longest in time duration of any game in MLB history.
The game began on May 8 with just under 15000 fans in attendance at Comiskey Park. At 1 am with the score tied at 3-3, the game was suspended. The next day, the game needed eight more innings before the White Sox came out on top.
September 11, 1974: St. Louis Cardinals versus New York Mets (25 innings)
This game went down as the longest straight MLB game by innings in history. Nearly 13500 fans at Shea Stadium were in for a barnburner that lasted just over seven hours. The game ended at 3:13 in the morning with the Cardinals winning, 4-3.
April 15, 1968: Houston Astros versus New York Mets (24 innings)
This game started with Don Seaver on the mound for the Mets versus Don Wilson for the Astros. The game went, unbelievably, scoreless for the first 24 innings, which is the longest that any match in MLB has ever gone scoreless. The Astros scored the game’s lone run in the 25th, ending the contest in just over six hours.
July 21, 1945: Detroit Tigers versus Philadelphia Athletics (24 innings)
This was the longest game in MLB history before the White Sox and Brewers surpassed them nearly 40 years later. Only two pitchers played in this 4 hour and 48-minute game, ending in a 1-1 tie.
September 1, 1906: Philadelphia Athletics versus Boston Americans (24 innings)
In front of nearly 18000 fans, the game was tied at 1-1 through six innings. No other runs crossed the plate until the Athletics scored 3 in the 24th inning. Both starting pitchers, Jack Coombs and Joe Harris hurled the entire 24 innings in a 4-1 win for the Athletics.
The Tradition of the Seventh Inning Stretch
Fans rise from their seats for this brief break after the top of the seventh inning. This tradition, known as the “seventh-inning stretch”, is a massive part of MLB, but the origins of this tradition are vague, at best.
It may date back to 1869, but a well-known story of origin involves the 27th President of the United States, William Howard Taft.
On opening day in Washington on April 14, 1910, Taft threw out the first pitch. In the middle of the seventh inning, Taft stood up to stretch his legs. Thinking he was about to leave the game, fans stood up with respect for Taft.
Another well-known story about the origins of the seventh-inning stretch involves the first base coach at Manhattan College, Brother Jasper.
In 1882, Jasper called a timeout during the seventh inning because the crowd was disorderly. He instructed the crowd to stretch their legs, and rumor has it that the New York Giants began this tradition, and it spread from there.
However, these stories took a backseat after a letter was found written by Harry Wright, manager of Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869.
He noted that “the spectators arise between halves of the 7th inning, extend their legs and arms and walk about”. This predates the stories about Brother Jasper and President Taft but doesn’t really prove the origin.
Whatever the origin is, which may never be thoroughly verified, legendary Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray added to the tradition. In the middle of the seventh inning, Caray sang “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” in the broadcast booth while broadcasting for the White Sox during the 1970s through 1981.
Little did he know, White Sox owner Bill Veeck placed a microphone in the booth. Caray soon picked up the microphone and sang to the White Sox crowd.
The tradition continued when Caray broadcast for the Cubs from 1982 through 1997. Soon, teams from around the league adopted the culture, and nearly all teams have their rendition of the song during the seventh-inning stretch.