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A great performance nobody remembers

9/12/2012

Who holds the record for most strikeouts in a game?

You're probably thinking of Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Kerry Wood, each of whom fanned 20 in a game (Clemens did it twice). But Tom Cheney of the Washington Senators struck out 21 Orioles on this date in 1962. Yes, it took him 16 innings to do it, but it's still the record -- even if it's one that remains largely forgotten.

Doug Williams of ESPN Playbook revisits Cheney's once-in-a-lifetime game on its 50th anniversary:

      Boog Powell remembers Cheney’s curveball that night as the best he’s ever seen. Though Powell ranks Bert Blyleven’s curve as consistently the greatest, he says Cheney’s that one night had been magically transformed. It was even bigger and sharper than Blyleven’s curve. For one game, Cheney’s No. 2 was No. 1.

"It was a bigger breaker than Blyleven’s," says Powell, 71. "It was a 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock, and I mean he used all of it. It was a big breaker and it was hard. He had it going."

Of course, it was a different era back then and Cheney reportedly threw 228 pitches in the game. It's probably no surprise that he hurt his arm in 1963 and would win just 10 games in the majors after his historic performance. Here's the box score of the game, which the Senators won 2-1.