Mahaffey's 17-strikeout gem stands test of time

Right-hander owns record for most K's in a game in franchise history

Mahaffey's 17-strikeout gem stands test of time

There have been some great strikeout pitchers in Phillies history: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton and Curt Schilling.

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 struck out 17 Chicago Cubs in the second game of a Sunday afternoon doubleheader at Connie Mack Stadium on April 23, 1961. Nine went down swinging.

After the game: Catching up with Phillies alumni

Mahaffey, 23, threw 146 pitches that afternoon, of which only 48 were called for balls. He fanned Don Zimmer, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Frank Thomas three times each in matching the Major League record for most strikeouts in a day game, set by Dizzy Dean of the St. Louis Cardinals against the Cubs on July 30, 1933.

"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 K's. Early in the game, Pancho [Herrera] dropped a foul popup hit by Thomas. I struck Frank out on the next pitch."

During those days, the Phillies and Blue Cross had a pitchometer built by Dr. I.M. Levitt of the Franklin Institute. The pitchometer was used throughout the city to test the throwing speed of young athletes. Mahaffey remembered hitting 100 mph on the machine one time.

"Against the Cubs that day, I had an unbelievable fastball and curveball," 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," Mahaffey said. "I came so close to having more than 17."

One batter who didn't fan that day 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 out to [Johnny] Callison in right field," said Mahaffey, an All-Star in both 1961 and '62. "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.'"

Prior to Mahaffey's big day, the Phillies record for strikeouts in a game was 13, and it was 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.

One more 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.

Three Phillies pitchers came close to Mahaffey's record, falling one K short: Carlton, June 9, 1982, vs. the Cubs; Schilling, Sept. 9, 1997, vs. the New York Yankees; and Cliff Lee, May 6, 2011, vs. the Atlanta Braves.

Chris Short did fan 18 on Oct. 2, 1965, at the New York Mets, but that game went 18 innings.

Larry Shenk is the Phillies team historian.