One Man, One Game, 27 Strikeouts

Ron Necciai, who went to high school in the same town, Monongahela, Pa., as standout NFL kicker Fred Cox and Hall of Fame legend Joe Montana, struck out more men in a single professional game than any pitcher ever. Pitching for Class D Bristol in the minor leagues on May 13, 1952, he went the distance, firing a no-hitter and accounting for 27 outs on strikeouts (with 17 batters going down swinging). However, in this oddity, there were more than 27 outs recorded–for example, after one strikeout, the batter reached first safely when the catcher couldn’t come up with the ball cleanly. Only 1,183 fans were in attendance.

In his two starts before his historic 27 K outing, Necciai had set (briefly) a club record with 20 whiffs then followed that up with 19 more. Still on a roll, in his first start after the 27 strikeout performance, 24 more batters went down on strikes for an incredible 51 strikeouts over two games, or 22 1/2 K’s per game. This would be his final start at Bristol and it resulted in his third shutout over his last four starts.

Not only that, but between the 19 and the 27 strikeout showings (which, by the way, was just his 21st game as a pro), he relieved once, retiring 11 of the 12 men he faced via whiffs. He accomplished all this at the age of 19! His record, seven K’s more than the major league record for a nine inning game, still stands even though decades have since passed.

Actually, his very first game after the 27 K contest featured him coming out of the bullpen–this time he fanned all eight men he faced. He truly was a strikeout machine.

MISC.  In the record setting outing, Necciai allowed one walk, hit a batter, and saw one opponent reach via an error…The 6′ 5″, 185 pound Necciai felt sick when he took to the mound that historic night, but clearly overcame that issue…He posted an ERA of 0.42 and he recorded 128 outs with an incredible 109 coming via strikeouts at Bristol…Arguably, only control problems and health issues kept him from being a big league star.

Pirates G.M. Branch Rickey heaped praise on Necciai. One quick quote–  “The greatest all around pitcher I ever saw never was a major league regular.” Necciai once reflected, “There are has-beens and never-wases. I’m a might-have-been. I lived a lifetime in one night.” For more on what Rickey said, including his evaluation of Necciai’s blazing fastball, and more on Necciai in general, go to:  https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/ron-necciai/

The sources for the above paragraph were a story by Paul Jayes, “A Moment of Glory He’ll Never Forget,” from the April 19, 1983, issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and SABR, an excellent organization and resource for avid baseball fans.

Despite Necciai’s terrific 27 strikeout achievement, one he is reminded of by fans and friends almost daily, and one he says he does not tire of discussing, he has remained modest. In an interview I conducted with him about four years ago, he joked that at the major league level he had nothing to do with the reporters. “I was too lowly—they wouldn’t speak to a scrub-beanie like me when there were so many other guys in that league who were great.” Maybe so, but great is a fitting word to describe what Necciai accomplished with his untouchable all-time record.

WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? I wonder how many readers of this blog put either a) a lot  b) some  c) very little OR  d) no stock in the WAR statistic? If you locate my blog from March 7, 2020, you might be tempted to, based on one glaring instance, place no credence in the stat. Briefly, Jim Leyland pointed out that an obscure player, Darwin Barney, had a higher WAR than Miguel Cabrera the year the Tiger slugger won the Triple Crown!

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