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Tom Cheney

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Thomas Edgar Cheney

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 180 lb.

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[edit] Biographical Information

Tom Cheney is remembered primarily for his performance in a single game: on September 12, 1962, he struck out 21 batters, a record that has stood since. He accomplished the feat in 16 innings while pitching for the Washington Senators. But he had 10 seasons of pitching to do before he arrived at this moment.

Cheney was signed as an amateur free agent by the St. Louis Cardinals before the 1952 season. The 17-year-old right-hander would be with the Albany Cardinals of the class D Georgia-Florida League where he appeared in one game, lost it, and watched the world go by for the rest of the year. He was with the same team in '53 and went 9-12 with a .429 ERA. He would earn his keep in the minors until he put two good years together with the Omaha Cardinals in 1956-57. Cheney opened the 1957 season with the 1957 Cardinals, making one relief appearance and starting three games. But he was optioned back to Omaha within the first month of the season after being plagued by wildness. In his four games, he was 0-1 with 15 walks in a total of 9 innings. Cheney had a fine season with the Omaha Cardinals in 1957 before missing the 1958 season due to service in the United States Army. He spent the 1959 season primarily with Omaha but also appeared in 11 games with the St. Louis Cardinals. Still plagued by wildness, Cheney was 0-1 with a 6.94 ERA for the 1959 Cardinals with 11 walks in 12 innings.

The Cardinals traded Cheney, along with Gino Cimoli on December 21, 1959 to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Ron Kline. Cheney opened the 1960 season with the AAA Columbus Jets, where he went 4-8 with a 3.16 ERA and with 47 walks and 115 strikeouts in 111 innings. He was promoted to the 1960 Pirates on June 27, 1960. Wildness remained a problem, as he walked 33 batters in 52 innings for the Pirates. But he compiled a record of 2-2 with an ERA of 3.98 in 11 appearances. He started 8 games and pitched a complete game shutout on July 17, 1960. That game also marked the first start of the season for Pirates' third-string catcher Bob Oldis, who would ultimately be the starting catcher for three of Cheney's eight starts that year.

In the World Series against the Yankees, Cheney appeared in each of the three games won by the New York Yankees. He pitched a total of four innings and fanned six Bronx Bombers. He gave up a run in one inning in game 2 and again in game 6. But in game 3, he pitched two scoreless innings, giving up only one hit, no walks, and striking out Elston Howard, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle.

Cheney opened the season with the Pirates in 1961 but appeared in only one game, giving up a home run and four walks in one inning without retiring a batter. He was then optioned to the Columbus Jets and was traded on June 29, 1961 to the Washington Senators for Tom Sturdivant. The manager of the Senators was Mickey Vernon, who had been a coach with Pittsburgh in 1960 while Cheney was pitching for the Pirates. Cheney joined former part-time 1960 Pirates Bennie Daniels, Harry Bright and R.C. Stevens on the Senators' roster. With Washington in 1961, he was 1-3 in 10 appearances. The expansion Senators finished last in the league with a 61-100 record.

In 1962, the Senators would finish last again, at 60-101. Cheney would finish the season at 7-9 with a 4.38 ERA but on September 12, Tom would etch his name deep into the records of baseball. Just before Cheney took the mound against the Orioles at Memorial Stadium, Senators pitching coach George Susce saw something he liked in the pitcher's warm-up throws. "Kid," he said as Cheney began to walk toward the field, "if you don't pitch a no-hitter tonight, it'll be your own fault."

Cheney didn't pitch a no-hitter. Instead he set a record that has never been matched, striking out 21 batters in a 16-inning game witnessed by 3,098 fans. He never got much publicity for his marathon effort, perhaps because it was an extra-inning affair. But consider this...42 pitchers have hurled at least 18 innings in a game and only eight have reached double figures in strikeouts. Tom had 13 strikeouts after nine innings. In the top of the 16th, Bud Zipfel homered to put Washington ahead 2-1. In the bottom of the inning, Cheney fanned Dick Williams to end the game. It was his 228th pitch and 21st strikeout.

Since being traded to Washington in 1961 Tom had won 15 games over the next two years with seven of those by shutout. Late in the '63 season, Tom was 8-9 with a 2.71 ERA and would incur a career ending arm injury and was sidelined, ironically in a game against the Orioles. Again the Senators would finish at the bottom of the ladder with a 56-106 record, 48.5 games back. Tom pitched in pain the following year, going 1-3. He entered the Mayo Clinic in search of help, but his tank was empty after appearing in three games in 1966 when he decided to leave baseball with a 19-29 and a 3.77 ERA as his major league record.

Cheney returned home to Georgia and managed the Cordelle Propane Gas Company in Albany. Tom would die on November 1, 2001 at age 67, in Rome, GA.

[edit] Notable Achievement

[edit] Records Held

  • Strikeouts, game (extra innings), 21, September 12, 1962

[edit] Sources

Baseball Players of the 1950s
Minors Page

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