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How Many Baseballs Are Used in an MLB Game

  • Number of baseballs used in a game varies depending on the level of play and pitcher’s preference.
  • During a typical MLB game, 8 to 10 dozen Rawlings ROMLB baseballs are used
How Many Baseballs are used in a Game


Among the myriad of fascinating baseball figures and facts, there’s a question that is often overlooked: how many baseballs does it take to play the MLB game?

This figure isn’t just a curiosity; it serves as an entry point into the complex world of Major League Baseball (MLB) as well as other leagues, shedding light on the intricate ballet that is a baseball season.

Made from a two pieces of leather cover, two wax strings, cork and almost a mile-and-a-half long yarn, a 9 inch baseball is by T-ballers to MLB players and fans from all over the world.

While parents, fans and players anxiously wait for the spring season to begin, equipment managers from rec leagues to professional baseball teams are working hard to make sure that they have enough baseballs to accommodate thousands of games that will be played in a year.

Total number of baseball games in a season
The total number of baseballs used in a given season depends on how many games are scheduled for a season. You may want to read my post, How Many Games Are Played in a Season, to get a good understanding on this topic.

As an avid baseball fan and a local rec league commissioner with many years of experience, I can shed some light on the the staggering number of baseballs that are used each year.

We will explore each level of baseball, from youth leagues to the Major Leagues, examining the average number of baseballs used per game, the factors contributing to this number, and how one league compares to other levels of baseball.

Table of Contents

Life of an MLB Baseball

Every baseball in an MLB game starts its journey at the Rawlings factory. It is here that the perfect sphere of cork, rubber, and wool yarn gets its distinctive white cowhide cover, hand-stitched with exactly 108 stitches. But the baseball’s journey has only just begun.


Before a baseball can be used in an MLB game, it must be prepared—a ritual that involves rubbing each baseball with a special mud, known as Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud.

This process removes the factory gloss and helps pitchers get a better grip. This preparation is a vital step to ensure fair play, and is an art in itself.

For each MLB game, about 120 baseballs are prepared with mud. However, not all these baseballs see action; on average, 60 to 70 baseballs are used per game.

Rubbing Lena Blackburne Mud

The rest serve as backups, always ready to step into the fray when a ball is fouled off into the stands, lost on a home run, or discarded due to scuffs or dirt.

Read on to find out how many baseballs are used at each level of play.

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Stingy Past of Hoarding Baseballs

The iconic sphere that is baseball serves as an enduring symbol of the game’s resilience, and none more so than during the challenging times of the Great Depression.

The Great Depression, which lasted from 1929 to 1941, had a significant impact on the United States’ economy and professional baseball felt the pinch. Attendance at games dropped dramatically as people could no longer afford the luxury of a baseball game, and teams faced financial strain.

Although none of the sixteen National league teams that existed at the time (the league was composed of 16 teams from 1903 to 1960) went completely bankrupt or folded as a direct result of the Great Depression, team owners, struggling with dwindling resources, held onto their baseballs like precious gold. The economic constraints of the time meant there was little room for the usual dozens of balls used in today’s modern game.

Each scuffed and battered baseball was used until it was virtually unplayable, mirroring the nation’s spirit of making do and carrying on. In one memorable incident, a young fan who had caught a rare foul ball was asked to throw it back onto the field so that the game could continue.

That simple act of a youngster surrendering his prized catch captures a snapshot in time where the baseball, in its scarcity, became even more symbolic of the sport’s enduring allure amid adversity.

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How Many Baseballs are Used in a Youth Baseball Game

In the landscape of youth baseball (most rec leagues have teams suitable for 5 to 17 year old player), the focus is on developing skills, fostering a love for the game, and above all, having fun. At this level, the average number of baseballs used in a single game is considerably lower compared to higher levels.

Youth baseball games, on average, utilize around four to eight baseballs per game. In almost all cases, each team manager presents two new game balls to the umpire during the plate meeting (a short meeting before the start of game to go over rules).

Plate Meeting Prior to a Youth Baseball game

A typical lower level of play (8U and younger) means less fouling so four new baseballs should be enough to complete the game but as kids get stronger, you will start to lose more baseballs.

If additional baseballs are needed, team managers will usually dip into their practice balls rather then opening up more (new) game balls.

Total Number of Baseballs for a Youth Baseball League

Unlike the professional leagues, local recreation leagues are often 100% volunteer run, non-profit organizations with limited budgets so they tend to purchase just enough baseballs to complete the spring and/or fall baseball.

On average, four to eight recreation baseball teams are formed for a each age bracket for spring season and two to four rec teams for fall ball.

Extra Baseballs
Kids love getting game balls at the end of a game so I was coaching, I usually purchased two boxes baseballs on my own. You will also need a bucket of practice balls.

Teams at each age level are given two boxes of game balls to cover approximately 8 to 10 regular-season games and 3 or so additional playoff games at the end of the season.

How Many Baseballs are Provided for a Youth Baseball Team

For a typical recreation league, each team manager receives two dozen age appropriate baseballs at the beginning beginning of each season. Twenty-four baseballs really aren’t that much so the manager has to be careful to not run out of game balls before the season is over.

Some leagues instruct a home team to provide all baseballs but since most rec leagues are self-contained (i.e. all teams are from the same town/league), the rule book usually says that each team provide two games balls to the home plate umpire.

Players on the older teams (i.e. 6th grader and up) do hit hard, so we purchase higher quality baseballs like Rawlings, Diamond and McGregor branded baseballs and managers for these older teams instruct their players to recover foul tipped baseballs that end up in a wooded area.

Free baseballs?
If your low on budget and need some practice balls for your team, read my post, Where Can I Get Some Free or Unwanted Baseballs?

So a typical, medium sized rec league team will consume:

  • 4-8 new baseballs per game
  • approximately 24 baseballs for season
  • around 3-6 baseballs during playoff games
  • total of 30 baseballs

So for the entire league, an oversimplified math works out to be:

  • Assuming 50-60 rec teams (T-ball to Babe Ruth) for Spring and 40 teams for Fall
  • A rec league will purchase roughly 250 boxes of age appropriate baseballs for the year
  • The league will purchase additional 50 boxes for insurance (creating more teams than projected, etc.)
  • 300 boxes of baseballs works out to be 3,600 baseballs
  • A rec league will usually spend on average $35 per dozen or $10,500 on baseballs every year!

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How Many Baseballs are Used in a Middle and High School Baseball Game

Middle and High school baseball is often the proving ground for young players with serious ambitions in the sport. Here, the standard of play takes a leap, and so does the average number of balls used per game.

These games typically go through about 10 to 15 balls per game. This increase from youth baseball is due to better pitching, which results in more fouled balls and an increased emphasis on maintaining the pace of the game with fresh balls.

Contributing factors include the higher standard of play, the adherence to stricter regulations, and the availability of resources.

Interviews with school coaches and athletic directors bring to light the delicate balance of managing resources while adhering to high school athletic regulations. In comparison to college games, high school games tend to use fewer balls.

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How Many Baseball are used in a College Game

College baseball provides a vibrant landscape where tomorrow’s major league stars can hone their skills today. This level of play sees a significant uptick in the number of baseballs used per game.

On June 16, 2018, a battle between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Oregon State Beavers at the TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska lasted more than 4 hours and in the process, consumed more than seven dozen baseballs (typical CWS game uses around 60 baseballs).

2018 College World Series – NC vs Oregon

Thankfully, the College World Series (CWS) organizers at the TD Ameritrade Park was ready because they started the world series with 175 dozen game balls and 96 dozen practice balls.

Baseballs used in College World Series games
As per NCAA, the balls are allocated to each teams on Friday before the start of the CWS when each team receive 12 boxes of practice balls in four buckets.

During that same time, the grounds crew will prepare 30 boxes of game balls by lightly rubbing Lena Backburn Baseball Rubbing Mud (as they do in the MLB) and roughly 15 to 20 boxes of baseballs are left unused at the end of the CWS.

These leftover baseballs are usually given to the members of the grounds crew of NCAA staff members as keepsakes or donated to a local charity

A typical college game will go through about 24 to 30 baseballs. The rise from high school levels can be attributed to a number of factors. More skilled play leads to more balls hit into foul territory or lost due to home runs. Furthermore, stringent NCAA regulations require that a clean ball be used almost every pitch, particularly in televised games where the viewing experience is a key concern.

Bulk NCAA baseballs

Conversations with college baseball coaches and NCAA officials illuminate the complex dynamics at play. On one hand, there’s the need to prepare players for the professional levels; on the other, there’s a constant pressure to manage resources effectively.

When compared with minor league play, college games typically use fewer balls, but more than high school games, once again reflecting the continuum of play quality and regulation.

Based on anecdotal information gathered, below is a list of the estimated baseballs used by various college teams:

  • 30-35 baseballs per game per team (i.e total of 60-70 baseballs between 2 teams in a game)
  • There are approximately 56 games in a regular season = 1,960 baseballs or 165 boxes per team
  • There are 299 D1 teams = 586,040 baseballs or 48,837 boxes
  • There are 274 D2 teams = 537,040 baseballs or 44,754 boxes
  • There are 389 D3 teams = 762,440 baseballs or 65,537 boxes
  • There are 189 JUCO D1 teams = 370,440 baseballs or 30,870 boxes
  • There are 118 JUCO D2 teams = 231,280 baseballs or 19,273 boxes
  • There are 98 JUCO D3 teams = 192,080 baseballs or 16,000 boxes

So in short, a very rough estimate of the total number of baseballs used in college games(**) is a staggering 2,679,320 baseballs every year or 223,276 cases!

If you were to stack the boxes on top of each other, they will be approximately 16 miles long!

** Playoff game balls are not included due to NCAA D1 CWS utilizing double-elimination rounds at the regional level

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Professional League Baseball Rules

In the latest MLB Umpire Manual, Rule 3.0.1: d stipulates that “…the home club have at least one dozen regulation reserve balls are immediately available for use if required…”

In reality, a home team usually prepares many more boxes than the required minimum.

Guessing Game
The number of baseballs used in a game is highly speculative as it depends on numerous factors like if a pitcher is a breaking pitch specialist, where balls end up in dirt more often than fastball pitchers. If the offense is on a hot streak, more baseballs will be used during the game.

Independent and amateur leagues will usually prepare the fewest number of game balls but the MiLB and MLB team will usually prepared eight to twelve dozen baseballs.

Grounds crew for the home team usually prepares the game balls by applying Lena Blackburn Rubbing Mud to new baseballs (by the way, umpires no longer do this).

Each stadium will also have hundreds of boxes of game balls (and practice balls) locked in a storage room, ready to be prepared on moments notice.

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How Many Baseballs are Used in an Independent Baseball League Game

Independent Baseball Leagues operate in smaller markets with considerably less financial stability than MiLB and MLB.

Atlantic League Baseballs

Then it’s no surprise that many independent leagues try to save money by not purchasing as many balls.

  • American Association of Professional Baseball
    • Approximately 35-45 baseballs per game per team (or 70-90 baseballs between 2 teams per game)
    • 4,500 baseballs per regular season (100 games)
    • 54,000 baseballs for the league during regular season (12 teams)
  • Atlantic League of Professional Baseball
    • Approximately 45-55 baseballs per game per team (or 90-110 baseballs between 2 teams per game)
    • 6,930 baseballs per regular season (126 games)
    • 69,300 baseballs for the league during regular season (10 teams)
  • Empire Professional Baseball League
    • Approximately 30-40 baseballs per game per team (or 60-80 baseballs between 2 teams per game)
    • 2,600 baseballs per regular season (65 games)
    • 15,600 baseballs for the league during regular season (6 teams)
  • Frontier League
    • Approximately 35-40 baseballs per game per team (or 70-80 baseballs between 2 teams per game)
    • 2,600 baseballs per regular season (65 games)
    • 39,300 baseballs for the league during regular season (15 teams)
  • Pecos League
    • Approximately 6-12 baseballs per game per team (or 12-24 baseballs between 2 teams per game)
    • 2,600 baseballs per regular season (65 games)
    • 41,600 baseballs for the league during regular season (16 teams)
  • Pioneer League
    • Approximately 35-45 baseballs per game per team (or 70-90 baseballs between 2 teams per game)
    • 4,320 baseballs per regular season (96 games)
    • 43,200 baseballs for the league during regular season (10 teams)
  • United States Professional Baseball League
    • Approximately 12-24 baseballs per game per team (or 24-48 baseballs between 2 teams per game)
    • 1,800 baseballs per regular season (75 games)
    • 7,200 baseballs for the league during regular season (4 teams)

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How Many Baseballs are Used in a Minor League Baseball Game

Minor league baseball games at the Rookie, High A, Low A, Double A levels are nine innings long just like the MLB games. But MiLB does not go through the number of baseballs like the MLB because they are kept in the game a longer.

A ball scuffed up from that pitch in the dirt? Throw it back in. A ball fouled off to a screen? No problem.

Florida State League Baseballs

In addition, the majority of Rookie, High/Low A and AA balls have slightly thicker leather and stitching making these baseballs more durable than the balls used in AAA/MLB.

Because of this, a typical lower MiLB game is estimated to use 4 to 6 boxes of baseballs

  • Rookie (Dominican Summer League)
    • 46 teams, 72 games
    • 119,232 baseballs or 9,936 boxes
  • Rookie (Arizona League)
    • 18 teams, 60 games
    • 38,880 baseballs or 3,240 boxes
  • Rookie (Arizona League, Florida League)
    • 18 teams, 60 games
    • 38,880 baseballs or 3,240 boxes
  • Low-A (Class A)
    • 30 teams, 132 games
    • 142,560 baseballs or 11,880 boxes
  • High-A (Class A+)
    • 30 teams, 132 games
    • 142,560 baseballs or 11,880 boxes
  • Double-A
    • 30 teams, 138 games
    • 149,040 baseballs or 12,420 boxes

In total, MiLB teams (excluding Triple-A) uses approximately 631,152 (or 52,596 boxes) baseballs during regular season!

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How Many Baseball are used in an MLB Game – Including MiLB Triple-A games

During 1970s and 1980s, most players were discouraged by MLB owners to hand out the game balls as souvenirs between games so the only way to get one was through catching a home run ball or foul ball.

However all that changed after the strike of 1994-1995 when the owners were desperate to bring back fans stadiums. They realized that giving away balls was an effective way to “reward” and grow future fan base.

Minor League Baseball

So what was once a rare treat is now a common sight at every single MLB games where players toss game balls in to the stand between half innings.

So how many baseballs are used in an MLB game? An average Major League Baseball game will go through an astonishing 60 to 70 baseballs, and sometimes even more!

Fun Fact
Jason Lloyd at The Athletic (paywall) actually counted the balls and determined that during a game between Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Guardians used 115 baseballs!

I am sure Cleveland’s equipment manager was sweating (as they usually prepare ‘only’ 10 boxes or 120 baseballs per game).

This is due to a combination of elite play, strict regulations, and the desire to maintain a pristine viewing experience for fans and broadcasters alike. Any ball that is nicked, scuffed, or dirtied is immediately taken out of play.

Talks with MLB managers, players, and league officials unveil the critical balance between ensuring a fast-paced, engaging game and managing the considerable expense of maintaining a high ball turnover. When compared to all other levels of play, Major League games unsurprisingly use the most balls, reflecting the apex of the sport’s skill level and regulatory standards.

  • Triple-A (MiLB)
    • 30 teams, 144 games
    • 155,520 baseballs or 12,960 boxesA
  • American League (MLB AL)
    • 15 teams, 162 games
    • 87,480 baseballs or 7,290 boxes
  • National League (MLB NL) – 15 teams
    • 15 teams, 162 games
    • 87,480 baseballs or 7,290 boxes

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Interesting Factors Affecting Ball Use

Beyond the progression from youth leagues to the Majors, there are several interesting factors that can affect ball use in a baseball game.

Weather conditions play a big part. In wet conditions, balls are frequently switched to ensure they remain dry and safe to play. Heat can also affect the ball’s lifespan, causing it to soften more quickly and necessitating a change.

Waterlogged baseball

The number of fouls and balls hit into the crowd for souvenirs also has an impact, particularly at the professional levels. Each ball hit into the crowd at a Major League game is a ball lost to play, and fouls that scrape the ground are often replaced due to potential scuff marks.

Changes in regulations have had an impact, too. As the rules have evolved to emphasize player safety and game speed, more balls have been needed per game. Broadcast considerations have also played a part, with clean balls preferred for a better viewing experience.

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The number of baseballs used in a single game tells a tale of progression. It’s a story of improving skills, of escalating competition, of rising standards, and of changing regulations.

From the five to ten balls in a youth game, to the ten dozen or so balls in a Major League game, we see a clear trajectory that mirrors a player’s journey through the ranks of the sport.

Looking forward, the number of balls used in a game is likely to be influenced by emerging trends in the sport. New rules, changes in broadcasting technologies, and developments in the manufacture of baseballs themselves could all play a part.

But one thing seems certain: in the game of numbers that is baseball, the number of balls used in a game will continue to be a fascinating part of the story.

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Fun Facts

How many baseballs are used in an average Major League Baseball game?

On average, a Major League Baseball game uses between 60 to 70 baseballs. This can vary based on factors like the number of foul balls, home runs, and instances of balls being dirtied or damaged.

Why are so many baseballs used in a single MLB game?

A large number of baseballs are used due to various factors. These include foul balls, balls hit into the crowd (which are typically kept as souvenirs), scuffs or dirt on the ball from play, and any perceived irregularity that may affect the fairness of play. Furthermore, broadcasting requirements often necessitate the use of clean, fresh baseballs for a better viewing experience.

How many baseballs are used in a minor league baseball game?

A minor league baseball game typically uses between 30 to 50 baseballs. Like in the major leagues, the number can vary based on the number of fouls, home runs, and instances of balls being replaced due to damage or dirt.

How does the number of baseballs used vary between youth, high school, college, and professional games?

The number of baseballs used in a game generally increases with the level of play. Youth games typically use 5 to 10 baseballs per game, high school games use around 10 to 15, college games use about 24 to 30, and minor league games use around 30 to 50. Major League games use the most, with an average of 60 to 70 baseballs per game.

What factors lead to a new baseball being introduced in a game?

A new baseball is introduced whenever the existing ball is hit into the stands, hit out of the playing field, becomes scuffed, dirtied, or damaged, or if the pitcher requests a new ball.

How does weather impact the number of baseballs used in a game?

  • Weather plays a significant role in ball use. In wet conditions, balls must be replaced more frequently to ensure they are dry and safe to play with. Similarly, hot weather can make balls soften more quickly, which may require more frequent replacements.

What happens to baseballs that are fouled off into the stands?

  • In professional games, baseballs fouled off into the stands are typically kept by the spectator who catches them. They are not returned to play.

How many baseballs are prepared for use before an MLB game?

For a Major League Baseball game, usually around 120 baseballs are prepared for potential use. However, only about half of these, on average, end up being used.

How do MLB games manage to have a constant supply of baseballs ready for use?

Each Major League Baseball club has personnel whose job is to ensure a sufficient supply of baseballs. These individuals keep an inventory of baseballs and ensure that new balls are readily available during the game.

How do baseballs used in professional games differ from those used in youth leagues?

Baseballs used in professional games are usually of higher quality, with tighter stitching and higher quality leather, compared to those used in youth leagues. This is to ensure consistency and fairness at the professional level.

How have changes in rules and regulations impacted the number of baseballs used in games?

Over time, rules and regulations have become stricter about replacing baseballs that are dirty, scuffed, or otherwise damaged. These changes, along with others intended to improve the pace of play and the viewer experience, have led to an increase in the number of baseballs used per game.

How does the use of baseballs in American leagues compare with their use in international leagues?

International leagues often have similar standards as the U.S., but specific usage may vary based on local regulations, game conditions, and traditions. For example, in Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan), fewer baseballs might be used per game due to different rules and playing style.

How do minor leagues manage the cost of the baseballs used in games?

Minor League clubs manage costs by budgeting for baseball usage as a necessary part of operations. They also use baseballs as promotional items when they are no longer suitable for play, helping to offset costs.

How does the lifespan of a baseball compare between youth, high school, college, and professional games?

A baseball’s lifespan is generally shorter in higher levels of play. At the youth level, a baseball might last an entire game or even multiple games. At professional levels, a baseball is typically used for only a few pitches before being replaced.

What role do umpires play in deciding when to change a baseball during a game?

Umpires play a significant role in this aspect. They are responsible for inspecting the ball after each play and deciding whether it needs to be replaced due to being dirty, scuffed, or damaged. The pitcher can also request a new ball.

Has the number of baseballs used in games increased over the years? If so, why?

Yes, the number of baseballs used in games has generally increased over the years. This is due to factors such as changes in rules and regulations, improved standards of play, and efforts to improve the viewing experience by using clean, new balls more often.

How do televised games impact the number of baseballs used?

Televised games often use more baseballs, as broadcasters prefer the use of clean, fresh balls to ensure a better viewing experience. Additionally, more balls may be hit into the stands as souvenirs during high-profile televised games, which further increases usage.

What happens to baseballs that are taken out of play in professional games?

Baseballs that are taken out of play in professional games are typically used for practice, given away as souvenirs, or used in promotional activities. Some are also donated to charities.

How are baseballs stored and cared for prior to a game?

Baseballs are usually stored in a controlled environment to maintain their condition. Prior to the game, they may be rubbed with a special mud to remove the factory gloss, per Major and Minor League regulations.

Has technological advancement in baseball manufacturing affected the lifespan and thus the number of baseballs used per game?

Technological advancements have improved the durability and consistency of baseballs, but they have not significantly reduced the number of balls used per game. This is because most balls are replaced due to scuffs or dirt, not structural failure. However, further advancements could potentially impact future usage.

Who is the most generous MLB player with game balls?

Ten good guys in MLB (according to bleacherreports) are: Anthony Rizzo, RA Dickey, Adam Jones, Clayton Kershaw, Curtis Granderson, Joe Maddon, Andrew McCutchen, Joe Mauer, Robinson Cano and Mike Trout

Where Can I get the baseball signed by a player?

Jeff Gundlach wrote an excellent piece with advice from his friend Brent Lillibridge who happens to be a former MLB player

How many buckets of Lena Blackburn Rubbing Mud is produced each year?

Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud is a special type of mud used by Major League Baseball and other sports leagues to prepare baseballs before games. The exact quantity of mud produced each year is not publicly disclosed by the company.

It’s known that every MLB team gets a supply of Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud each year, typically in the form of one or two 32-ounce containers. Considering that there are 30 teams in the MLB and likely additional sales to minor league teams, other sports leagues, and even the public, the total production could be quite significant.

Which player hit the most number of foul balls during a regular season game?

Since MLB started keeping the accurate pitch count, Brandon Belt of San Francisco Giants faced unfathomable 21-pitches at his at-bat against Angels pitcher Jaime Barria lasting over 13 minutes (16 total foul balls)!

Belt’s pitch counts were:

  • Foul, Ball (0-1), Strike swinging (0-2), Foul (0-2), Foul (0-2), Ball (1-2), Foul (1-2)
  • Foul (1-2), Ball (2-2), Pickoff attempt (2-2), Foul (2-2), Pickoff attempt (2-2), Foul (2-2)
  • Foul (2-2), Foul (2-2), Foul (2-2), Foul (2-2), Pickoff attempt, Foul (2-2), Foul (2-2)
  • Foul (2-2), Pickoff attempt (2-2), Foul (2-2), Foul (2-2), Belt lined out to right.

Belt ended up seeing a total of 40 pitches in five plate appearances that day, including 22 foul balls with a two-strike count

Before 1988, Luke Appling who played or the White Sox from 1930 to 1950, was the undisputed “foul ball king”

What was the highest scoring game?

The highest-scoring game in the history of Major League Baseball took place on August 25, 1922, between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs won the game with a score of 26-23, making the combined score of the game a record-setting 49 runs.

In this game, the Phillies scored 14 runs in the first inning, yet they couldn’t hold onto their lead, and the Cubs gradually caught up and took the win. It’s worth noting that this game took place during what is known as the “Live Ball Era” of baseball, a period characterized by high-scoring games and powerful offensive dynamics.