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South Jersey Baseball History:
All Time Strikeout Pitchers The Gunfighters Of The Diamond

Monday, April 9, 2001

By Charlie Schick
South Jersey Baseball Historical Society

Opening day at Yankee Stadium, April 2, 2001, saw New York's Roger Clemens tie or break, depending on which historical stats you accept, Walter Johnson's American League all-time strikeout record. The uncertainty of Clemens accomplishment occurred because the record book states Johnson's total strikeouts is 3508, whereas Total Baseball Encyclopedia reports his mark as 3,509. So, the only thing certain right now is that Roger will establish the American League record on his next starting assignment.

On his journey to overtake Johnson's record, Clemens distinguished himself by leading the American League in strikeouts no less than five times. His best effort occurred in 1997 while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays, when he fanned 292 batters, led the league in wins and posted a 21 and 7 record.

Although Roger Clemens will never reach Nolan Ryan's all-time big league career strikeout record of 5,714, he will most definitely go down in history as one of the game's greatest strikeout artist. And of course some day take his rightful place at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

In trying to search out South Jersey's scholastic baseball strikeout specialists, we researched the 20th century records from cover to cover. One fact quickly became clear from the very start, in high school competition, the number of games scheduled or played was going to effect strikeout totals to the point of making comparisons quite difficult.

With the above in mind, our findings pertaining to the South Jersey scholastic strikeout kings will have tow yardstick measuring categories - (1) total strikeouts per person and (2) strikeouts per inning pitched. Over the years our strikeouts per inning pitched totals will, in all likelihood, become the most realistic to compare, because poor weather conditions allowed inning pitched due to state rules or 10-run rule stoppages can not influence their effectiveness. Whereas, season strikeout totals could be greatly altered by a prevalence or combination of any of the before mentioned.

Early on in the 20th century, a number of high school hurlers established themselves as dominate pitcher and consistent winners for their respective teams. Probably the most prominent of these were two right-handers Joe Esposito of Hammonton High and Olden Stewart of Holy Spirit High. Esposito posted a perfect 10-0 record in 1910 and Stewart amazingly pitched over 90% of the team's games to register a 13 and 1 slate in the 1916 season.

The first prolific strikeout machine, however, did not surface until the mid-1940's, when a fabulous southpaw by the name of Fran Dale of Holy Spirit High came on the scene. Consistently registering game strikeout totals in the high teens and low twenties, he racked up numbers never before seen at the scholastic level. All-State hurler Dale tossed numerous no-hitters and pitched South Jersey's first perfect game, but none of these achievements were more impressive that his 1945 strikeout average of 2.2 per innings worked.

Although a few scholastic great chuckers in history have challenged Dale's amazing average, only one, Sam Simpkins of Wildwood High has joined him in the 2 strikeouts per inning club. Right-hander Simpkins recorded his 2.0 strikeout average in 1988 on his way to the All County All Star squad.

When switching our attentions to the best ever single season strikeout totals, we did not see anyone reaching the 150 benchmark for strikeouts until the late 1960's. Finally in 1968 it was Highland High's hard-throwing All State Group II left-hander Dave Watson who rose to the occasion by blazing his way to 151 three-strike punch outs to shatter all previous records.

Almost ten years later, another southpaw power-pitcher Bob Brickner of Florence High astonished the New Jersey scholastic baseball community when he racked up an unbelievable 186 strikeout in 1977 and set the area's all time mark. Brickner finished his fantastic record breaking season with a 24 strikeout performance in the New Jersey State Group I championship game. Sadly, however, he lost the title game by the heartbreaking score of 1-0 in 13 innings.

Here are the top strikeout scholastic pitchers of the 20th century.

Single Season Strikeout Per Inning Leaders
Fran Dale LHP Holy Spirit
Sam Simpkins RHP Wildwood
Sal Ingemi LHP St. Joseph's (Hammonton)
Bill Benson RHP Gateway
Bob Brickner LHP Florence
Howard Evans RHP Merchantville

Single Season Strikeout Leaders
Bob Brickner LHP Florence
Mickey Lozanoff LHP Audubon
Bob Chadwick LHP Lower Cape May
Steve Worrell LHP Lower Cape May
Ed Lex RHP Atlantic City
Mickey McCoy RHP St. James

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