Carlton strikes out a record 19 batters in a nine-inning game

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Written by: Chris Blake

The Cardinals put more runs on the board in the fifth, but Swoboda belted another two-run home run to make it a 4-3 game. Through eight innings Carlton had racked up 16 strikeouts, a number he reached in a 1967 game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I didn’t know until I saw on the message board that I’d tied my record,” Carlton said. “I didn’t think I had struck out that many. Then I decided to go for it.”

In the ninth inning Carlton struck out pitcher Tug McGraw, shortstop Bud Harrelson and Otis to break the record.

Nine of Carlton’s strikeouts were swinging and 10 were called; 12 came on fastballs, five on sliders and two on curveballs. He threw 152 pitches in the game, 106 for strikes.

Swoboda said Carlton’s performance awed him, but not so much that he would forget that it also set a record for strikeouts by a losing pitcher.

“I’m going to go home, sleep and forget it because I can’t believe it,” Swoboda said. “That record is going to stand a long time.”

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The record fell 17 years later when Boston’s Roger Clemens struck out 20 Seattle Mariners on April 29, 1986. Clemens duplicated the feat the in 1996 against Detroit and the Chicago Cubs’ Kerry Wood matched it against Houston in 1998. The Diamondbacks Randy Johnson (2001) and the Nationals' Max Scherzer (2016) have struck out 20 batters in a nine-inning game, with Johnson becoming the only left-hander to top Carlton's mark of 19.

The Cardinals traded Carlton to Philadelphia before the 1972 season for pitcher Rick Wise, and Carlton promptly had the best season of his Hall of Fame career.

He made 41 starts and went 27-10 with 1.97 ERA on a team that won only 59 games all season. Carlton also led the league with 310 strikeouts and 30 complete games, winning the first of four career Cy Young Awards.

Carlton retired second on the all-time strikeout list to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan with 4,136, and his 329 wins rank second among left-handed pitchers, trailing another Hall of Famer, Warren Spahn.

He was a member of two World Series champion teams, with the Cardinals in 1967 and with the Phillies in 1980.

Carlton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 in his first year of eligibility.


Chris Blake was the 2010 publications intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series