Wednesday, July 06, 2011

#12 NL Strikeout Leaders: Bob Veale, Bob Gibson, and Don Drysdale

#12 NL Strikeout Leaders: Bob Veale, Bob Gibson, and Don Drysdale
When I opened up my queue last night to see which card was next, there were only 16 left to write up. I can't tell you how energizing that is; I thought I would never catch up! The next six cards all came from recurring character Ed, who I can't possibly thank enough for his help with this set. This card in particular is a favorite, with two Hall of Famers being dwarfed by the looming figure of the becspectacled and bevested Bob Veale.

1964 was Bob Veale's first full season as a starter, and also marked his only strikeout crown. He whiffed 250 batters in 279.2 innings spread over 40 games (38 starts). He had only 5 games with double-digit K's, but did have a high-water mark of 16 in 12.1 shutout innings against the Reds on September 30. 8 days prior, he turned in his best 9-inning effort by fanning 15 Braves in a hard-luck 2-0 loss. The 1964 race to the top with Bob Gibson was neck and neck. On September 26, Veale's 5 K's in 5 IP left him with 229 total. "Hoot" had 232, and added 4 more in 8 innings on the 28th to give him some breathing room. But Veale's next start was the 16-K game, and Gibson nabbed 7 in his final start on October 2. Interestingly, both men pitched in relief on October 4: working on 3 days' rest, Veale whiffed 5 in 2 innings. Gibson had only a day of rest and added just a pair of strikeouts in 4 innings to finish with 245. Though the Pirates southpaw never topped the league in punchouts again, he established a career high in 1965 with 276, finishing well behind Sandy Koufax's record-shattering 382 K's. Veale is still 32nd-best all-time with 7.96 K/9 IP.

No need to cry for Bob Gibson, who had better years to come. 1964 marked his third straight year with 200+ strikeouts, and he too set a new career best the following year with 270. He too hit double digits in K's 5 times in 1964, topping out at 12 thrice. In his dominant Cy Young season of 1968, he captured his only strikeout title with 268 to go along with a league-best 1.12 ERA and 13 shutouts. He fanned 269 the next year and a career-high 274 the year after that, and retired in 1975 with 3,117 K's - 14th-best all-time.

Don Drysdale already had 3 strikeout crowns to his name by 1964. He got the honors in 1959 (242), 1960 (246), and 1962 (2.32). His 251 whiffs in 1963 were actually his personal best, but that year he trailed both teammate Koufax (306) and Cincinnati's Jim Maloney (265). In '64, he racked up 4 double-digit strikeout games, peaking with a dozen in a 9-inning win over the Cardinals on August 31. Despite a relatively short 13.5-season career, his total of 2,486 K's is still 30th-most in MLB history.

Going on down the line, Topps lists the 51 "top" strikeout men in the National League for 1964. By the time they get down to double digits near the top of the second column it starts getting silly, but it did allow them to squeeze in 43-year-old Warren Spahn at the very bottom. Besides, some 9-year-old who was president of the Don Nottebart Fan Club was probably thrilled to see his hero make it onto a league leaders card.
#12 NL Strikeout Leaders: Bob Veale, Bob Gibson, and Don Drysdale (back)


  1. Man, guys really struck out a lot in 1965, didn't they? Striking out 276 and finishing over 100 strikeout behind the leader?

    In 1954, Koufax probably would have won if he hadn't missed time with an injury.

  2. Those guys were "gamers" back then. Maybe it was just the era that they were in, but lots of inns, CG's, etc. with 4-man rotations--good ol' hardball. Looking at the list, most of these guys had relatively long careers for pitchers, even compared to today.

  3. Marc - On an individual level, it seems like more players strike out today than ever. But with the decreased workload of even the best starters, you don't see 300+ strikeout totals any more.

    Deadbolt - True. No matter how much you limit innings and pitch counts, it seems like guys are going to get hurt.