Happy 98th birthday to the fastest baseball game ever played

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

At one end of the pacing continuum we have the current malaise of slowness (real, exaggerated or imagined), and on the other end we have what unfurled on Aug. 30, 1916 in the North Carolina State League. What unfurled was a 31-minute nine-inning game between the Winston-Salem Twins and the Asheville Tourists.

It was one of the last games of the 1916 Class D regular season, and the Twins had a three o'clock train to catch out of Asheville. The problem? The game was scheduled to start at 2 o'clock. Since the game didn't matter in anything but the most techincal of senses, the two sides agreed to begin more than a half-hour ahead of time and to, well, play with a sense of haste. To wit, the pitchers would lob the ball over the plate, and the batters would swing at the first pitch no matter what. When those batters became runners, they ran until they touched the plate or were tagged out. The result? The game ended before the game was scheduled to begin (a 2-1 Twins victory).

The second greatest detail from this contest is that the umpire showed up in the fourth inning. The greatest detail of from this contest? Courtesy of Bill Ballew's book, A History of Professional Baseball in Asheville, here's the greatest detail from this contest ...

Yea, verily: Men and events conspired to have a base-runner thrown out by his own teammate. Let us reflect upon this fact for a moment or two ...

In any event, once the Tourists' owner showed up at the appointed time and discovered the game to be freshly concluded, he bawled out the respective managers and offered a refund to ticket-holders, many of whom were just arriving.

On the upside, history was made, as this particular tilt edged out a 1910 contest involving the Atlanta Crackers by one minute for the honor of shortest sanctioned nine-inning game ever played. So there's that.

One more oddity: Per SABR the batboy for his 31-minute affair was likely a 15-year-old lad named Thomas Wolfe, who would of course go on to be an author of much critical renown.

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