This article was written by Emil Rothe
This article was published in the 1976 Baseball Research Journal
In 100 years of major league baseball and well over 100,000 games played, only 14 pitchers have registered four strike outs in an inning. Reflecting on the need to chalk up an extra out after a pitcher has achieved pitching perfection for a single inning with three strike outs, one wonders if the gift of that fourth out in an inning ever resulted in the run that cost the pitcher the ball game? Yes, it happened once, but only once.
That unlucky hurler was Rinold George Duren, for the most of his ten years in the big show a relief pitcher. Ryne possessed a fast ball which he made more effective by throwing very wild warm-up pitches that banged, resoundingly, off the backstop screen. That gimmick, added to the fact that he wore glasses with very thick lenses, suggested to the waiting batter that he was about to face a hard-throwing adversary, only 60½ feet distant, who lacked control and who might not even be able to discern a form in the batter’s box, let alone home plate.
On the night of May 18, 1961 the Chicago White Sox were playing the Angels in Los Angeles. The Sox jumped out to a two-run lead in the first inning, but the Angels evened the score in the bottom of the second. Earl Averill walked and came in when Del Rice lofted a homer into the seats in right center.
The Sox regained the lead in the third by scoring two more on successive singles by Sievers, Landis, and J. C. Martin. The Angels knotted the count as they rallied in the sixth. Billy Pierce walked the first man of the inning, Averill, and was lifted in favor of Frank Baumann. He was greeted by Rice’s double off the wall in right, Averill stopping at third. Both scored as Rocky Bridges singled past a sprawling Nellie Fox. Ken Hamlin, sent in to bat for starting pitcher Ron Kline, ended the rally by forcing Bridges.
Ryne Duren was called in by manager Bill Rigney to start the seventh. He fanned Minnie Monoso, the first of the Sox to face him. Roy Sievers, next up, swung at strike three but when the pitch eluded catcher Del Rice, Roy reached first. Jim Landis hit a long triple to send Roy across with the lead run which also proved to be the winning run. J. C. Martin fanned for what would have been out number three (with no score and Landis left on third). Sherm Lollar added to the damage when his single scored Landis with run number six. Duren then got his fourth strike out of the inning with Sam Esposito the victim. The game ended with the score still 6-4 and Ryne was the losing pitcher. The headline on Richard Dozer’s story in The Chicago Tribune the next morning proclaimed – SOX WIN ON STRIKE OUT, 6-4.
The record books reveal that Robert Mathews, pitching for Philadelphia of the American Association, was the first to get four strike outs in a single inning. Ironically, two of the batters he fanned got on base. That occurred September 30, 1885, as Mathews beat Pittsburgh.
Three years later, Ed Crane, pitching for the New York Nationals, struck out four of Anson’s Colts, consecutively, in the fifth inning October 4, 1888. His victims were Fred Pfeffer, Ned Williamson, Tom Burns, and John Tener. Cannonball Crane won handily. In fact, Chicago managed only one hit, a single by Jimmy Ryan in the eighth.
George Wiltse of the New York Giants was the first to equal the record in this century. He got four Cincinnati Reds, consecutively, in the fifth inning May 15, 1906. Wiltse fanned 12 in all; getting three in the fourth inning and then four more in the fifth. Jim Delahanty was first to bat in the fifth inning and struck out but catcher Roger Bresnahan lost the third strike and Delahanty wound up on first. Wiltse then cut down Tommy Corcoran, “Admiral” Schlei, and Chick Fraser on strikes. The Giants won, 4-1.
On April 15, 1911 Walter Johnson lost to the Boston Red Sox by a 6-2 score. He struck out eight of the Boston batters, four in the fifth when Eddie Ainsmith let a third strike get away. That runner scored for the first run in a scoreless pitching duel but Boston added three more in the sixth and one each in the seventh and ninth. Hence, that fifth inning “gift” was not responsible for the Washington loss.
In a night game on April 12, 1962, a rookie southpaw, Pete Richert, was summoned from the bullpen by manager Walt Alston of the Los Angeles Dodgers to replace starter Stan Williams in the second inning. In this, his very first major league appearance, Pete struck out seven of the Cincinnati Reds, six of them in succession. That effort tied the record of six consecutive strike outs by a pitcher in his first major league game. Pete struck out the first man he faced to end a four run Cincinnati explosion. He got four in a row in the third when Johnny
Roseboro dropped a third strike and then he fanned the first man to bat in the fourth to complete the remarkable feat of striking out the first six batters he faced in his major league debut. The Dodgers rallied for seven in the fifth on five hits, three walks, and four Cincinnati errors to give Richert credit for an 11-7 victory.
Don Drysdale struck out four Phillies in succession in a night game April 17, 1965. Wes Covington, first up in the Philadelphia second, reached on John Roseboro’s passed ball on strike three. Don then fanned Tony Gonzalez, Dick Stuart, and Clay Dalrymple, and, of course, Covington did not score. Don lost the game, 3-2, on a two run, inside-the-park home run by Johnny Callison in the sixth. For catcher Roseboro it was the second time he was involved in a four-strikeout inning.
On June 7, 1966, Bob Gibson just wasn’t himself when he, uncharacteristically, was knocked out of the box and lost 9-1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was touched for 11 hits and 5 runs in the seven plus innings he worked. But, in the fourth inning, at least, he was the strike out pitcher who is second only to Walter Johnson for most strike outs in a career. In that inning he set down Jerry Lynch and Jim Pagliaroni via strike outs. Donn Clendenon walked and stole second while Bill Mazeroski was at bat. Maz swung at a wild pitch for strike three and reached safely but Gibson then fanned Don Cardwell.
There follows a list of those 14 hurlers who fanned four batters in one inning. The catcher, who was usually closely involved, is also included, as are the four victims. The ones who got on base and made it possible for a fourth strikeout are indicated by asterisks.
Sep. 30, 1885 – Mathews & Milligan, Phil. vs. Pitt. AA
7th, Eden, Whitney* Mann, Ringo*
Oct. 4, 1888 – Ed Crane & B. Brown, N.Y. vs. Chi. NL
5th, Pfeffer, Williamson, Burns* Tener
May 15, 1906 – Geo. Wiltse & Bresnahan, N.Y. vs. Cin. NL
5th, J. Delahanty* Corcoran, Schlei, Fraser
Apr. 15, 1911 – Johnson & Ainsmith, Wash. vs. Bos. AL
5th, Collins, Gardner* Hooper, Lewis
June 11, 1916 – Morton & S. O’Neill, Clev. vs. Phil. AL
6th, W. Witt* C. Pick, Lajoie, Mclnnis
May 27, 1956 – Jim Davis & Landrith, Chi. vs. St. L. NL
6th, H. Smith, Brandt, McDaniel* Blasingame
Aug. 11, 1959 – Nuxhall & Dotterer, Cin. vs. Mil. NL
6th, Mathews, Adcock, Crandall* Logan
Apr. 12, 1962 – Richert & Roseboro, L.A. vs. Cin. NL
3rd, F. Robinson, Coleman* Post, Edwards
May 18, 1961 – R. Duren & Del Rice, Cal. vs. Chi. AL
7th, Minoso, Sievers* J. Martin, Esposito
Sept. 2, 1964 – Lee Stange & Azcue, Clev. vs. Wash. AL
7th, D. Lock* Kirkland, Brumley, Zimmer
Apr. 17, 1965 – Drysdale & Roseboro, L.A. vs. Phil. NL
2nd, Covington* Gonzalez, Stuart, Dalrymple
June 7, 1966 – Gibson & McCarver, St. L. vs. Pitt. NL
4th, Lynch, Pagliaroni, Mazeroski* Cardwell
May 29, 1970 – Cuellar & Hendricks, Bait. vs. Cal. AL
4th.A. Johnson* McMullen, Reynolds, Spencer
July 31, 1974- Bonham & Stelmaszek, Chi. vs. Mont. NL
2nd, M. Torrez* Hunt, Foli, W. Davis