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Former Phillies pitcher Art Mahaffey reflects on the 50th Anniversary of his 17 strikeout performance

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If you would have to guess the Philadelphia Phillie that holds the team’s single game record for strikeouts by a pitcher, you wouldn’t necessarily think it was Art Mahaffey. Maybe Steve Carlton, Curt Schilling, Robin Roberts, Cole Hamels or Roy Halladay, but Mahaffey's name slips through the cracks. Art Mahaffey and friends at Chickie's and Pete's. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr.
 
Despite often not being mentioned with the above, Art Mahaffey was a two-time National League All-Star with the Fightins, won 19 games in 1962, and went 12-9 as a starter for the fabled 1964 Phillies.

The 1961 Phillies were not a good team. With a record of 47-107, the team still holds the National League record for consecutive losses with 23. There were however, some bright spots in the otherwise dismal season.

In fact, it was 50 years ago last weekend in 1961 that Mahaffey etched his name in Phillies folklore by striking out 17 Chicago Cubs in a 6-0 Phillies win. Despite pitching a four-hit shutout that day, Mahaffey says he didn’t feel very strong prior to the game.

“When I was warming up, I wasn’t throwing very well, but when I went out, I struck out the side in the first inning,” recalls Mahaffey, who was the featured guest on "The Bull Session" featuring Greg Luzinski and Phillies PA announcer Dan Baker Monday night at Chickie’s and Pete’s on the Boulevard.

“I had been timed a couple times at 100 and 101 miles per hour on the old machines, and that day I was throwing so hard it was unbelievable.  I don’t know how hard it was, but they just couldn’t hit me the whole day. It was unreal.”

The Cubs lineup was nothing to sneeze at. Although they only finished 64-90, the lineup that day included Ron Santo Art Mahaffey, greg Luzinski, and Dan Baker on "The Bull Session" at Chickie's and Pete's. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr.and Frank Thomas (no, not THAT Frank Thomas). Even Phillies legend Richie Ashburn had a pinch hitting appearance (he did not strikeout).

Future Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Lou Brock did not play that day, but future Hall of Famer Ernie Banks did. Banks hit Mahaffey particularly well during his rookie year in 1960, but Mahaffey handled him that afternoon with relative ease.

“Ernie Banks hit a couple home runs off me my rookie year, but I struck him out three times and he popped up once that day,” Mahaffey smiled.

The right-hander was aware of how many strikeouts he had as the game progressed, but he didn’t know who owned the team’s single-game strikeout record. Needless to say, he was taken by surprise when he learned he set it himself.

“The Phillies had Robin Roberts and all kinds of great pitchers, but they told me I even beat his record,” he said.

Mahaffey feels extremely lucky to hold such a distinguished record, considering that there have been many Hall of Fame pitchers that have taken the field for the Phillies in their long history.

“Oh it’s wonderful, and it was back before expansion, too. At the time, there were only 400 players in the big leagues and now there’s 800, so the lineups were twice as tough. I read an article and it said in 75 years, Sandy Koufax and Bob Feller had 18 strikeouts in a night gameand Dizzy Dean and I had 17 in a day game, and that was it. And after expansion, other teams started striking out more batters. It was a big deal back then.”

And considering no Phillie has yet to top Art Mahaffey’s 50-year old record, it’s still considered a big deal today.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photos: Joe Vallee Sr.