This day in 1936: Bob Feller records his age in strikeouts
On September 13, 1936, 17-year-old Bob Feller struck out ... 17 and in doing so made history.
On Sept. 13, 1936, Bob Feller, the Indians 17-year-old rookie supernova, put up the following line in his start against Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics ...
The walks are about what you would expect from a pitcher so absurdly young and so absurdly hard-throwing, but mostly note that young Mr. Feller recorded a strikeout for every one of his years on this Earth. As you might imagine, that's an incredibly rare feat.
In fact, thanks to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, we learn that since 1916 -- the back end of available play-by-play data -- only one other pitcher has "struck out his age" in a game: Kerry Wood of the Cubs on May 6, 1998. Wood, of course, whiffed 20 at the age of 20. Just two others have come especially close to this particular feat: Bob Feller (16 Ks at age 18) and, well, Bob Feller (18 Ks at age 19). Oh, and 20 days before this particular effort, Feller struck out 15 St. Louis Browns at, of course, the age of 17.
Also of note is that Feller's 17 strikeouts broke Rube Waddell's AL mark that had stood for 28 years and tied the MLB record of Dizzy Dean, which he set in 1933. To boot, Feller struck out at least one batter in eight of the nine innings he pitched, and he whiffed the side in the first and sixth innings. Here's how the United Press headlined it on the morning of Sept. 14, 1936:
And here's a sub-header that makes Feller's afternoon sound a bit like a criminal act ...
Those youth today, striking out innocent men!
And now, news-reel footage featuring some Hollywood-grade line-reading from Bob Feller and George Uhle ...
It bears re-emphasizing that Feller pulled this off when he should have been toiling for hometown varsity nine. Nothing hammered home that fact quite like what happened the following May, when Feller returned home to Van Meter, Iowa for his high schoool graduation.
This, though, was no ordinary passing out of sheepskins, as Feller's graduation was broadcast nationally by NBC Radio. Of course, that's what happens when you strike out your age, and your age is 17.
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