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Tom Cheney, 67; Pitcher Struck Out 21 for Record

November 03, 2001|From Associated Press

ROME, Ga. — Tom Cheney, who set the major league record with 21 strikeouts in a 16-inning game, has died. He was 67.

Cheney died Thursday at Floyd Medical Center in Rome, said a hospital spokeswoman, who had no details on the cause of death.

Before a sparse crowd of 4,098 fans at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore on Sept. 12, 1962, Cheney pitched a complete game for the Washington Senators, striking out 21 Orioles in a 2-1 victory.

His record was nearly broken this May when Arizona's Randy Johnson struck out 20 in nine innings against Cincinnati.

"I didn't really realize how many I had until they announced it on the loudspeaker after the game," Cheney said the week Johnson came within one of his mark. "I was just trying to win the game."

Cheney had 13 strikeouts through nine innings. Senators manager Mickey Vernon later wanted to make a change, "but I told him I didn't want to come out," Cheney said. "Back in those days, you finished what you started."

When Arizona's game against the Reds on May 8 went to extra innings, Johnson was pulled and the Diamondbacks won 4-3 in 11 innings.

Cheney wound up pitching eight straight hitless innings near the end. With his 228th and final pitch, he slipped a called third strike past pinch-hitter Dick Williams, who went on to become a successful major league manager. Cheney's pitch total for the game is astonishing. By today's standards, many pitchers are usually through after 120 pitches.

Cheney, who was 7-9 with a 3.17 earned-run average that season, posed for photographers after the game, holding up a ball that had "21" written on it. "But I never boasted about it," he said. "I didn't really want any publicity. I just wanted to do my job."

Cheney, a native of Morgan, Ga., who began his big league career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1957, pitched in the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Sold to the Senators in 1961, Cheney gave up Roger Maris' 54th home run in that record season. A few years later, Cheney's career was cut short when he tore muscles in his right forearm.

He finished in 1966 with a career record of 19-29, including eight shutouts. Overall, he struck out 345 in 466 innings.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

'I didn't really want any publicity. I just wanted to do my job.'

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