There have been some great strikeout pitchers in Phillies history, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton and Curt Schilling.
But the honor of having the biggest strikeout game in franchise history belongs to Art Mahaffey, who spent six seasons with the Phillies (1960–65). The right-hander from Cincinnati, OH, struck out 17 Chicago Cubs in the second game of a Sunday afternoon doubleheader at Connie Mack Stadium on April 23, 1961.
The 17 Ks matched the Major League record for most in a day game, set by Dizzy Dean of the St. Louis Cardinals against the Cubs, July 30, 1933.
Mahaffey, 23, threw 146 pitches that afternoon, of which only 48 were called balls.
“I had an unbelievable fastball and curve ball,” he recalled. “I threw mostly fastballs, particularly in the late innings. Earlier, I got maybe five or six strikeouts with my curve.” Mahaffey had 15 strikeouts through seven innings. He struck out only one in each of the last two innings. “I had two strikes on the last four hitters but only got one strikeout. I came so close to having more than 17.”
He fanned Don Zimmer, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Frank Thomas three times each. One batter who didn’t was ex-Phil Richie Ashburn. He pinch-hit in the eighth inning. “Whitey was tough to strike out. I remember he hit a line drive to Johnny Callison in right field,” said Mahaffey, an All-Star in both 1961 and 1962.
“I remember everything about it,” said Mahaffey. “Matter of fact, I was at a golf tournament with Frank Thomas one time and he was telling me I didn’t strike him out that day. He was wrong. He was 3-for-3, three Ks. Early in the game Pancho Herrera dropped a foul pop-up hit by Thomas. I struck Frank out on the next pitch.“
“It is amazing how many fans remember this game. There’s a photo of Connie Mack Stadium from that day and I’ve signed many an autograph, always including 4/23/61.”
One other note about the day, Frank Sullivan, a 6-foot-6 right-hander, blanked the Cubs, 1–0, in the first game. It marked the last time the Phillies had two shutouts in a doubleheader.
Prior to Mahaffey’s big day, the Phillies record for strikeouts in a game was 13 shared by three pitchers: Ray Benge, June 16, 1929; Robin Roberts, May 2, 1957 and Jack Sanford, June 7, 1957. Oddly, the opponent in each case was the Cubs.
Four Phillies pitchers have come close to Mahaffey’s record, falling one short: Steve Carlton, June 9, 1982 (Cubs); Curt Schilling, September 9, 1997 (New York Yankees); Cliff Lee, May 6, 2011 (Atlanta Braves) and Vince Velasquez, April 14, 2016 (San Diego Padres).
Chris Short did fan 18 on October 2, 1965 at the New York Mets, but that game went 18 innings.
Text originally published at Phillies Insider on March 24, 2020 as “Phillies strikeout king” and republished here by permission of the author.