Last night, someone visited from a forum where a question was posted about the most unearned runs given up by a team in one game. I didn't have the answer on the site, but last September, I posted about the most unearned runs charged to individual pitchers and that entry was linked to in the forum. Of course, once I saw that, I wanted to know what the answer actually was.
I'm sure unearned runs were far more common in the late 19th century and early 20th century, when errors occurred much more frequently. In fact, looking at the career numbers of some pitchers from then confirms this. Nearly one-third of the runs allowed by Christy Mathewson were unearned. One-quarter of the runs Walter Johnson allowed were unearned. Cy Young gave up over 1000 unearned runs in his career.
When so many runs were unearned, it's likely at least some blowout games saw a lot of unearned runs. I would also think unearned runs weren't very notable. Sure, fans might harp on a team's defense (or lack thereof), but giving up, say, five unearned runs in a game probably wouldn't have the same surprise factor as it would today. With that in mind, perhaps it's good that the following list covers 1956-2008, where a lot of errors in a game is pretty glaring.
|Houston Astros||New York Mets||7/27/1985||16||0||16|
|Houston Astros||Chicago Cubs||5/31/1973||16||3||13|
|Minnesota Twins||Kansas City Royals||9/12/1976||16||3||13|
|Texas Rangers||California Angels||9/14/1978||16||3||13|
|New York Yankees||Baltimore Orioles||6/5/1989||16||3||13|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Balitmore Orioles||9/28/2000||23||10||13|
|New York Mets||Los Angeles Dodgers||8/26/1962||16||4||12|
|Chicago Cubs||San Francisco Giants||9/3/1963||16||5||11|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Texas Rangers||6/30/1992||16||5||11|
|Boston Red Sox||Cleveland Indians||7/14/1957||17||7||10|
|Chicago Cubs||Montreal Expos||6/25/1975||12||2||10|
|San Francisco Giants||St. Louis Cardinals||4/26/1976||15||5||10|
|California Angels||Chicago White Sox||5/31/1978||17||7||10|
|Oakland Athletics||Minnesota Twins||4/27/1980||20||10||10|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Pittsburgh Pirates||5/3/1985||16||6||10|
|Oakland Athletics||Cleveland Indians||6/7/1987||12||2||10|
|Oakland Athletics||Chicago White Sox||10/3/1987||17||7||10|
|Minnesota Twins||New York Yankees||7/22/1990||10||0||10|
|Houston Astros||San Diego Padres||4/7/1996||17||7||10|
|Boston Red Sox||Toronto Blue Jays||5/5/1996||11||1||10|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Milwaukee Brewers||10/7/2001||15||5||10|
|Los Angeles Angels||New York Yankees||8/3/2008||14||4||10|
Hm, I guess sixteen runs allowed is the magic number for a lot of them to be unearned. I didn't realize the Angels gave up ten unearned runs only a couple weeks ago. I guess you learn something new every day.