No two games alike? Sure, but these are the closest.by Jonathan Falk
May 10, 2012
On Aug. 1, 1965, the Detroit Tigers went to Comiskey Park to play the White Sox in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader. In a close battle, the Pale Hose emerged victorious in a 1-0 battle, scoring a run in the second and holding the lead. Detroit was held to three hits, had only one walk, and struck out five times, while Chicago had six hits, one walk and four strikeouts. Detroit left four men on base, Chicago three.
Just another game? Well, yes, but consider this. On Aug. 25, 1975, Detroit went to Texas and a very odd thing happened. The Tigers lost 1-0 on a Texas run in the bottom of the second. They had three hits with one walk and five strikeouts while the Rangers had six hits, one walk and four strikeouts. Once again, Detroit left four men on base, the opponent three.
Using the Retrosheet game log database, these are the two most similar games in major league history. They are the only games with identical run lines, hits, walks, and strikeouts for both teams. So for anybody who says that one baseball game is pretty much like another, point out that of the almost 170,000 games for which we have line scores, they’re all different. Unless you’re a devout Tigers fan… then you’ll remember a game in August that was suspiciously similar to one about 10 years earlier.
Here are the box scores of these two games:
Even with games this similar, however, there are some differences. One was a day game; one was a night game. Left on base totals were the same, even though I didn’t match on this, but there were two errors in the later game, with none in the previous game. Both winning pitchers pitched complete game shutouts, but in the first game Detroit used a reliever for one inning. The most memorable difference is that Detroit turned a triple play in 1965. There were three double plays in the 1975 game, but none in 1965. The other memorable similarity? Willie Horton batted cleanup in both games (DHing in the second, an impossibility in 1965) and was 0-for-4 both times.
Clearly one could make other similar games by matching on other things which were different in this game: at-bats and errors, for example. But this is my nominee for the two most similar games in baseball history.
Jonathan has been a Braves fan ever since they showed up in Atlanta to mesmerize a ten year old.