Tom Cheney - Strikeout King
February 16, 2011
by William Szczepanek
Tom Cheney pitched during the 1950s and 1960s, back when men were men and women were women and starting pitchers finished what they started. The 5' 11' right-hander is most remembered for striking out 21 batters in a single game. He did this on September 12, 1962 while pitching for the Washington Senators against the Baltimore Orioles in a 2-1 victory. Cheney scattered ten hits over the 16 innings and had 13 strikeouts after 9 innings.
Cheney told manager Mickey Vernon in the 12th that he wanted to stay in and win it or lose it. He allowed 10 hits but didn't give up any from the ninth to the 15th. He threw 228 pitches and said he could have gone longer. The game was won in the 16th by a home run by Bud Zipfel and probably would have been called for curfew in the next inning.
It is doubtful that we will ever see another performance like that. Pitchers just aren't allowed to stay in that long. Nolan Ryan had a 13 inning, 19 strikeout game in which he totaled 235 pitches, but that was in 1974. Nolan Ryan regularly finished games with pitch counts over 140.
Cheney pitched for the Cardinals, Pirates and Senators from 1957 to 1966. He had a lifetime record of 19-29. In 1962, and a 3.17 ERA, but still was 7- 9 for the lowly Senators. Cheney finished second in the American League in 1962 in both strikeout/ 9 innings and hits allowed/ 9 innings.
Cheney pitched for the Pirates in their 1960 Championship year. He was 2-2 with a 3.98 ERA and served as a relief pitcher in the World Series pitching four innings in three games, giving up 4 hits and 2 earned runs while walking one batter and striking out six.
Cheney performed well in 1963. He pitched in a total of 23 games, starting 21. He posted an 8-9 record, a 2.71 ERA with 7 complete games and 4 shutouts. Tom gave up just 99 hits in 136 innings. In July 1963, Cheney suffered a severe elbow injury just when it appeared he was becoming one of the premier pitchers in the American League.
You can check out Cheney's stats at Baseball-Reference.com.