April 11, 1907: The only Opening Day Forfeit in Baseball History


The only opening day forfeit in major league baseball history occurred at New York’s Polo Grounds on April 11, 1907. The Giants were forced to forfeit to the Philadelphia Phillies because of fan unruliness.

The fact that the game was played at all is a miracle. New York was hit by an April snowstorm the night before which covered the field. Members of the grounds crew were called to the Polo Grounds early to clear the field and get it ready for play. In hindsight the game on April 11, 1907 probably should have been postponed. If it had baseball history would not have been made.

It was not and the grounds crew piled all of the snow along the edges of foul territory. Despite the conditions 17,000 diehard fans showed up to see Frank ‘Fiddler’ Corrison of the Phillies take the mound against ‘Iron Man’ Joe McGinnity of the Giants. McGinnity got the start over the great Christy Mathewson. Fans who sat near the field had to deal with piles of snow in front of them.

The Phillies scored in the first and increased their lead with runs in the fifth and sixth. Though the fans were cold on this April 11 day there was no reason to believe that baseball history would be made. But as the game went on umpire Bill Klem and the players noticed fans becoming less enchanted with it and more so with the snow.

Meanwhile, Corrison was shutting the Giants out. He would only allow New York one hit, a single by outfielder Cy Seymour while walking eight and striking out three. And Phillies outfielder Sherry Magee started the season batting .1000 by going four for four with a triple and one run batted in. Even without a forfeit the April 11 game seemed destined to make baseball history as a Giants loss.

Then in the ninth inning the fans began to throw snowballs at each other. The commotion distracted from the game. Security was called in to handle the situation but could not. The snowball fight spread as fans rushed the field. There was nothing that Klem could do so he ordered the game forfeited with Philadelphia’s 3-0 lead the final score.

There is a chance that the forfeit could have been avoided. It could have been postponed. What difference it made to play it on April 11 instead of the 12 was probably in order to save the paid gate. Baseball history is full of frugal owners.

It also could have been avoided if the Giants had supplied enough security to handle the crowd. Ironically the state had voted that year not to provide police protection at events such as baseball games. Since major league baseball rules state that the home team is responsible for their fans Klem had grounds to forfeit the game.

And April 11, 1907 went down as the only opening day forfeit in major league baseball history.

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