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South Jersey Baseball History:
The 20 Something Strikeout Artists

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

By Charlie Schick
South Jersey Baseball Historical Society

On Tuesday night, May 8, 2001, a 6'10" flame-thrower by the name of Randy Johnson used his slider and blazing fastball to register 20 strikeouts against the Cincinnati Reds. Thus, the Arizona Diamondbacks ace southpaw became the third major league hurler and first left-hander to strike out 20 batters in nine innings. He will, however, not go into the record books as doing so, because he left the contest tied 1 to 1 after 9 innings and since the Diamondbacks won the game 4 to 3 in 11 innings, his totals will be imprisoned in the extra innings records.

In case your wondering, the major league extra inning single game strikeout record is held by Washington Senators right-hander Tom Cheney, who fanned 21 Baltimore Orioles in 16 innings way back on September 12, 1962. Oh by the way, Cheney pitched 8 years in the big show and struck out a total of 345 batters. Randy Johnson, on the other hand struck out 347 overmatched players in the year 200 alone.

Turning our attention to the 20 strikeout 9 inning record holders, we find that they are currently still adding to their big league career strikeout totals; they are Roger Clemens of the New York Yankees and Kerry Woods of the Chicago Cubs. Clemens blazed his way into the strikeout record books while hurling for the Boston Red Sox. He turned the trick twice, setting the all-time record on April 29, 1986 against the Seattle Mariners and then tying his own mark on September 18, 1996 against the Detroit Tigers. Woods fired his way into 20 K elite fraternity in 1998, when he completely dominated the Houston Astros batters on May 6.

Currently, everyone who follows or has played our great game would have to agree that the numbers listed above are extremely impressive and somewhat unbelievable considering the level of competition. But if you want unbelievable, we found a semi-pro pitcher that has to take the one game honor of all-time. Way back on August 6, 1901, right-hander Harold Piercy pitching for the semi-pro Buffalo Indians struck out all 27 outs in a league contest. And if that wasn't enough, good old Harold went 6-for-6 at the plate. Not a bad day's work in any man's league.

In reviewing South Jersey scholastic pitching history, we find our young hurlers have done quite a bit better than the big leaguers in racking up 20 something strikeouts in a single game. In fact, our search turned up 20 scholastic pitchers who collected 20 or more Ks in an individual contest; - 16 more than the four major leaguers mentioned above.

The first of our high school dominators, Max Manning of Pleasantville High set the area record for total strikeouts in a game, when the big right-hander fanned 22 in losing to Atlantic City High by the count of 3 to 2 in 9 innings on May 18, 1937. Manning went on to star in the Negro Leagues of the day, and held his scholastic record until 1958. It was then, on May 28, that Pemberton High's right-hander Larry Lavelle stepped up and punched out 28 Highstown batters in a 14-inning 5 to 4 losing effort. The following season, Millville High's ace southpaw Bill Forester broke Manning's 9-inning record on May 7, 1959, when he overpowered 23 Bridgeton High players on his way to a 6-1 victory. Just over eight years later, May 24, 1967, Middle Township High's George Schwartz equaled Forester's all-time 9-inning total when he put down 23 batters via strikes against Hammonton High in a 4 to 1 winning decision.

Due to the fact that at the scholastic level of competition a 7-inning game is now and has been agreed to, at times, in the past as an official game, we have search out and assigned strikeout records for this category. The 7-inning high water mark was set way back in 1945 by one of the greatest strikeout pitchers in scholastic baseball history. His name was Franny Dale of Holy Spirit High and he constantly produced double digit strikeout single game totals. In fact, Mr. Dale averaged 2.2 strikeout per inning in 1945, the all-time South Jersey record. On May 9, 1945, however, the southpaw did a little better than that when he fanned 19 Hammonton batters in a 7-inning 3 to 0 shutout.

Although Dale's record was tied a number of times over the years, it was not broken until 1988, when a tall left-hander from Lower Cape May High terrorized the Cape Atlantic League with his blazing fastballs. It was the Cape's Steve Worrell who produced the record on June 4, 1988 in the first game of a doubleheader against Wildwood's batters in his 15 to 0 victory while running his career strikeout total to 406.

Finally, we wondered if any young pitcher had ever registered 20 K's in less than 7-innings of work on the mound. Well believe it or not it did in fact happen on May 9, 1967 in a Delaware Valley League contest between Burlington Township and Jamesburg High. In the first inning with only one out, the bases loaded and one run in, Township's Dean Gilbert entered in the game in relief. He then proceeded to set down 20 Jamesburg players on strikes and win the contest 5 to 1. So in 6 2/3 innings, the super southpaw established his own category of total strikeouts in less than a complete game pitched.

Here's a look on how our scholastic pitchers compared to the big league strikeout record holders.

Major League High School
21 Tom Cheney, Washington Senators 28 Larry Lavelle, Pemberton
16 inning (9/12/62) vs Baltimore Orioles 14 innings (5/28/58) vs Highstown
20 Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox 23 Bill Forester, Millville
4/29/86 vs Seattle Mariners 5/7/59 vs Bridgeton
Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox George Schwartz, Middle Twp.
9/16/96 vs Detroit Tigers 5/24/67 vs Hammonton
Kerry Wood, Chicago Cubs
5/6/98 vs Houston Astros
20 Steve Worrell, Lower Cape May
6/4/88 vs Wildwood Catholic
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