9 of the most horrifying games in history

You'll want to look away ... but you can't!

October 31st, 2021

An earlier version of this story ran in 2020.

The night is dark. The air is crisp. The fog rolls in. You bite your fingernails and try to hide under a blanket. No matter how much you want to turn away, you can't.

No, I'm not talking about watching a horror movie on Halloween night, when the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest. Instead, I'm talking about the most horrifying baseball games ever played -- the ones where some player or team is so overmatched that it becomes a complete mess.

As we celebrate Halloween, let's look at some of the worst performances, biggest losses and messiest displays ever seen on the diamond.

Worst starting pitching performance: Jason Jennings, Astros -- July 29, 2007

Line: 2/3 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 11 ER

Jennings has a record I'm sure no pitcher wants: The most runs allowed in a game by a starter without lasting at least one inning. And he only needed 39 pitches to do it, too.

Mike Cameron and Adrián González both hit two-run home runs off the Astros starter. Padres starting pitcher Tim Stauffer added to the embarrassment when he laced a bases-loaded single to score two. Even one of the outs Jennings managed to record scored a run, when González hit a sacrifice fly in the inning.

"It obviously was the worst inning of my baseball career," Jennings said. "It was pretty much an embarrassment. I was embarrassed for my teammates and for the fans."

Worst relief pitching performance: Bubba Harris, A's -- July 4, 1948

Line: 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 BB, 12 ER

Well, this is one Fourth of July I'm sure Harris would like to free from his mind. At the time, Harris was a 22-year-old rookie with the Philadelphia A's who had appeared in 19 games and posted a sterling 1.09 ERA. Then he had to face the Red Sox.

Harris was called in from the bullpen in the sixth inning, got Johnny Pesky to ground out, then remained in the game for the seventh with the score at 6-5. Things got ugly fast. Harris walked leadoff hitter Ted Williams, which was followed by a bunt single, another walk, a single, a fielder's choice -- you get the idea. Before the inning was done, Harris had faced 14 batters, walking five of them and giving up six hits as the Red Sox scored 14 runs in the inning to run away with the victory.

One positive? At least the Fenway faithful took pity on the youngster. The crowd gave him an "ovation" when Connie Mack pulled him from the game.

Worst control: Bruno Haas, A's -- June 23, 1915

Line: 9 IP, 13 H, 16 BB, 15 R (8 ER)

There is truly nothing more wretched than watching -- or even standing in the field and playing -- when a pitcher can't find the plate. That's certainly what happened on this day for Haas, who was making his Major League debut in the second game of a doubleheader against the Yankees.

Manager Connie Mack had signed Haas to his pitching-starved club on the recommendation of his son, Roy, following Haas' perfect record at Worcester Academy. Four days later, Haas made his big league debut and quickly joined the record books for issuing the most walks in a single game.

While Haas couldn't find the plate -- he also threw three wild pitches -- he wasn't the only reason the A's lost the game. Philadelphia committed seven errors in the field, perhaps giving Haas a reason to nibble at the plate.

Haas would pitch only 5 1/3 more big league innings in his career -- walking 12 more batters along the way -- and would play a little outfield, too, before he later joined the NFL in 1921.

Worst hitter debut: Ron Wright, Mariners -- April 14, 2002

Line: 0-for-3, 1 K, 1 GIDP, 1 triple play

If you thought Haas had a rough debut, meet Wright. Wright was a former top prospect known for his power bat, but a series of injuries changed his career trajectory. The only reason he even made it into this game was that Edgar Martínez was hurt and Jeff Cirillo suffered a freak injury during practice.

So, Wright took his place in the lineup and got to live out his dream of playing in a big league game. Unfortunately, from that point on, he ran into the very worst luck possible. Wright struck out in his first at-bat. He then hit into a slowly developing triple play in his second at-bat. Manager Lou Piniella said, "I could see it developing like a thunderstorm on the Gulf down home in Tampa."

In his final at-bat, Wright hit into a double play before Piniella lifted him from the ballgame. One game, six outs. Later in the week, when the Mariners needed fresh arms in the bullpen, Wright was optioned back to Triple-A and never saw the Majors again. Fortunately, the now-pharmacist doesn't regret the day.

“It’s fun to look back on. I wouldn’t really joke about it because it was sacred to me. I loved it," Wright said. "Of course, I wish it had gone better, but I'm glad I got into one game. I felt like a big leaguer for a lot of years, so it's nice to have that."

Worst day at the plate: Juan Rivera, Yankees -- June 1, 2003

Line: 0-for-6, 1 BB, 3 GIDP

Roger Clemens was trying to win his 300th game for the second time and he might have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for that meddling Rivera. Though the Yankees would finish with a 10-9 win over the Tigers in 17 innings, the game could have ended a lot sooner -- and Clemens may have picked up that "W" -- if not for Rivera's nightmare day at the plate.

Rivera hit into an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners in the top of the second. The Yankees had the bases loaded in the 10th when he grounded into another double play. Runners were on the corners again when Rivera grounded into his third double play in the 15th.

All told, Rivera's WPA (Win Probability Added) was -.820, meaning he was worth 82% of a win for the Tigers, whom he was, you know, playing against. It's the second-worst WPA ever recorded, with only Jewel Ens' 0-for-9 performance for the Pirates on July 7, 1922, doing worse.

Most runs allowed: Orioles vs. Rangers -- Aug. 22, 2007

Line: Orioles lose, 30-3

This game certainly didn't look like the Orioles would set a record for giving up the most runs in a game. In fact, Baltimore held a 3-0 lead going into the top of the fourth. Then all hell broke loose.

The Rangers scored five runs that inning against O's pitcher Daniel Cabrera on a series of bloopers and bleeders -- the exact kind of thing that would drive any fans to pull their hair out.

After that, the Rangers' bats exploded with a whole lot more. Texas scored nine in the sixth inning, 10 runs in the eighth and six more in the ninth. In the end, the Rangers had 29 hits, six home runs -- and even got a save from Wes Littleton, who pitched the final three innings.

"We were just out there shaking our heads," the Rangers' Marlon Byrd told MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan after the game. "No one has seen that before and you won't see it again. The whole offense was clicking. Things were just going our way. Everybody was just trying to get hits regardless. It's a pride thing. You're trying to get hits and score runs but you don't expect that."

The worst play: Tommy John, Yankees -- July 27, 1988

Line: Three errors on one play

John had a long and successful career. He won 288 games, went to four All-Star Games and his return from then-experimental surgery was so successful that it's now known by his name. But when facing the Brewers on July 27, everything that could possibly go wrong on one play did.

Milwaukee outfielder Jeffrey Leonard came to the plate with a runner on first and one out in the fourth inning. He tapped the ball back to the mound for what should have been the first out. Instead, John flubbed picking the ball up for error No. 1.

John then tried to rush the throw to first, sailing it over Don Mattingly's head for error No. 2.

Brewers second baseman Jim Gantner tried to score from first on the play, so John was called on to make another play when he cut off Dave Winfield's throw to the plate. He spun and ... threw wide of home plate. Error No. 3.

Worst defense: Giants at White Sox, World Series Game 5 -- Oct. 13, 1917

Line: Nine errors combined between both teams

Ah, the World Series, when the game's very best face off for the crispest, sharpest baseball possibl... what's this? These teams committed nine errors? In one game?

Yeah, though this wasn't a well-played game, it was a great one for fans. The Giants led the White Sox, 5-2, heading into the bottom of the seventh. That's thanks in part to the six errors that Chicago's fielders already committed -- including three from shortstop Buck Weaver.

Somehow, the Giants hadn't put Chicago away, though. That would be their downfall. The White Sox rattled off three runs in the seventh -- thanks in part to an error committed by Giants second baseman Buck Herzog -- and added three more runs in the eighth inning for an 8-5 victory.

That comeback meant that the stories in the newspapers the next day weren't about the sloppy play, but the amazing finish. Famed sportswriter Grantland Rice's story even featured a sub-headline calling this the "greatest game of all."

Worst World Series loss: Yankees at Giants, World Series Game 2 -- Oct. 2, 1936

Line: Giants lose, 18-4

This game may have only featured one error, but it was much tougher to watch -- especially if you were a Giants fan watching from the Polo Grounds. The Yankees set the record for the most runs scored in a World Series game this day as Bill Dickey and Tony Lazzeri led the way with five RBIs apiece, and the Giants set the record for the worst World Series loss. Hal Schumaker took the loss after giving up four earned runs in two innings, but a series of four relievers couldn't stop the bleeding, and the Yankees scored six in the ninth to set the record.

FDR was on hand for the game, and The New York Times seems to assume the President was a Yankees fan. The paper wrote that President Roosevelt cast "a keen, critical and, beyond question, an appreciative eye on the thoroughness of the spectacle."