You know how I like strange but true sports stories. This story is strange and true and pretty much the only thing this player is remembered for. The question is a simple one and goes as follows:
Which pitcher has the Major League record for most strikeouts thrown in a game?
Seems like a simple enough question, names like Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Kerry Wood pop up. However it’s none of those men. It was done by a little known player named Tom Cheney.
No one should remember Tom Cheney, although he pitched in the major leagues for eight seasons, he only had one special day in his entire career. It was the kind of day that pitchers dream of. A day when everything goes right. It was September 12, 1962, Cheney was pitching for the Washington Senators against the Baltimore Orioles. Prior to that game Cheney had started just under 30 games and that was over the course of five seasons. He was always a sub-0.500 pitcher and not a regular in the rotation.
That day though, he entered the hallowed hall of one game wonders. Never really known for being a strikeout artist, he did average about 6.5 K/9 innings for his career. The Orioles were coming off of back to back one run wins versus the Angels and Red Sox. They had no idea they were about to enter the Cheney Zone.
Tom Cheney would go on to strikeout 21 hitters that afternoon. Just that alone would be a hell of a great story, but what makes this story even more unreal is that he did it by pitching 16 innings. Yes you read that right, almost two complete games. The best quote from Cheney would be when he told his manager, “I started this damn game. I’m finishing it!” after his manager tried to pull him out in the 8th inning.
As you can imagine, Cheney went on to have significant arm problems after that game. He would go on to pitch well in 1963 for the Senators but only pitched half the season due to arm trouble. He did however put up career highs in nearly every pitching category prior to the injury. He ould go on to pitch two more seasons for the Senators (1964 and 1966), but the arm trouble became too much and eventually forced him to retire at the age of 31. His daughter would have the best quote regarding that game and his career, “He was angry that he had such a great career one day and the next day it was gone. He pretty much blames that (record-breaking) game for the decline of this arm. When he pitched, he pitched hard.”
Cheney past away in 2001, he died knowing that he still had that record. With a career that spanned eight major league seasons, he does have quite a few baseball cards. His cards go for between $2 – $10 and there is even a cut autograph card of his in the 2011 UD Legendary Black set. I have seen those cards sell for about $10. His card might not be a must own in most personal collections, but you have to admit, it’s a great trivia question.