One of the main differences between baseball and other major sports is that there’s no time limit in baseball.
There’s no ticking clock determining when exactly the game has to finish.
So, the answer to the question of how long do baseball games last can vary from game to game.
The length of the game depends on a lot of things and various factors can make a game longer or shorter.
One thing is certain – if you plan to watch baseball, be prepared to set aside a significant chunk of your time.
You’ll likely have to plan your whole day around the game. For true baseball fans, this is not a problem as they enjoy and savor every moment of the game.
However, for those less enthusiastic about baseball, the length of the game can often seem like an eternity.
How Long Do Baseball Games Last?
There’s no precise answer to this question, and here’s why.
A baseball game lasts 9 innings. If the score is tied, teams will play extra innings to determine the winner.
All things considered, on average, most of the MLB games finish in about three hours.
In the 2020 season , the league introduced 7-inning doubleheaders, making those games about a half-hour shorter.
Still, this rule was created to help players due to the condensed schedule during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we’ll see if it is here to stay.
The Length of a Baseball Game Through Years
Over the years, baseball games became longer and longer.
In the 2021 season, the length of the average game is 3 hours and 8 minutes.
According to the MLB, the average length of the game in the previous season was a bit over 3 hours and 5 minutes.
That is a significant increase over, for example, the 2001 season when the games lasted 2 hours and 59 minutes.
If we go farther back, the difference is even greater. In 1991, the average major league game lasted 2 hours and 54 minutes.
This is the date for the regular season, in playoffs, the games are even longer.
Here’s an interesting fact for you:
While the games overall take more than three hours, there are only around 18 minutes of total action over the course of a whole game.
So, what influences how long do baseball games last?
Factors that Add Time to a Baseball Game
An average MLB game features between 3 and 5 pitching changes by each team.
Every pitching change stops the action while the manager walks to the mound, waits for the umpire to head out, only for the reliever to slowly jog from the bullpen to take his place at the mound.
A Higher Number Of Strikeouts
Recently, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of strikeouts.
It’s not unusual for a player to strike out more than 10 times over the course of the season.
This means that more hitters going deep into count than making contact with the ball early and fewer outs in the field than through the strikeout.
The result is a significantly longer game.
The Prolonged Time Between Pitches
Pro pitchers like to take their time and work slowly, particularly near the end of close games.
Also, when the catcher will often head to the mound after being shaken off by the pitcher.
Can a Baseball Game Go On Forever?
If the game is tied after the ninth, the winner is determined after extra innings which continue until the tie is broken.
So, in theory, a baseball game can last forever.
Of course, in reality, this doesn’t happen, although there are examples of games lasting over 20 innings and going on for hours.
What was the Shortest Baseball Game Ever?
Unlike today, a 100 or so years ago, some teams went to the extremes to make the game as short as possible.
Plate appearances took no more than 30 seconds and pitchers wasted no time between throws or innings.
So, most of the shortest ball games ever come from that era.
Shortest Baseball Game Ever
The shortest game ever recorded was a class D matchup between the Asheville Tourists and the Winston-Salem Twins on August 30, 1916. The game lasted only 31 minutes.
Interestingly, the main reason for the lighting speed of this game was that the Twins’ players had to catch the train out of town.
Shortest MLB Game Ever
As for the MLB, the fastest 9-inning game happened on September 28, 1919.
The matchup between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies at the Polo Grounds lasted only 51 minutes.
What is the Longest Baseball Game Ever Played?
The longest game ever in professional baseball took place in 1981.
Longest Baseball Game Ever
It happened in the Triple-A International League as the Pawtucket Red Sox hosted the Rochester Red Wings at the McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket.
The Red Sox won the game 3-2 after playing staggering 33 innings. 32 of those innings were played on April 18 and 19 while the last inning took place on June 23.
Overall, the game lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes.
Longest MLB Game Ever
In the MLB, the longest game in history lasted 26 innings. It was the 1920 game between the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Robins.
However, as the pace of the play was faster back then, the game took only 3 hours and 50 minutes.
As for the elapsed time, the record belongs to the White Sox – Brewers matchup from May 8-9, 1984. The game was completed after 8 hours and 6 minutes.
Some people simply can’t get enough of baseball and the length of the game doesn’t matter much to them.
Still, in the modern world, people have less and less free time and are often don’t have enough time to watch the 3-hour game.
Especially since due to the varying length, they can’t exactly plan their time.
Besides, the uncertainty about how long the ballgame lasts puts a dent in the schedule of TV networks.
This puts pressure on the governing bodies of baseball to shorten the games, while still preserving the rhythm that makes the game so exciting.
MLB has already made some moves to reduce the game-time, but so far, the data tells us that the games are only getting longer with each year.