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The 18 Strikeouts of Bob Feller
Maury Allen
May 08, 1961
Hank Greenberg was expected to top a home run record that day, but it became a pitcher's game
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May 08, 1961

The 18 Strikeouts Of Bob Feller

Hank Greenberg was expected to top a home run record that day, but it became a pitcher's game

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The Cleveland pitcher walked Cullenbine and Greenberg in the eighth. Tebbetts sacrificed, but Laabs obliged by striking out for the fourth time (No. 16 for Feller). Piet walked, and Christ-man hit a curve for a single and two runs, after Feller had two strikes on him.

Bob then committed the cardinal sin for pitchers: he walked the opposing pitcher. McCoy followed with a line drive, which was caught to end the inning. Feller's chances for the record appeared slim.

In the bottom of the eighth Frank Pytlak hit a slow curve for a single. It was the first hit off Eisenstat.

Now the drama focused on Feller, alone, as he stood on the mound in the top of the ninth in the dark, cold, cavernous stadium.

"I felt strained and tired," Feller recalls. "I wouldn't have bet much on my chances."

Fox struck out on three pitches to start the last inning as Feller bore down. This tied his own mark; he needed just one more. Cullenbine, who hadn't struck out once, singled to right. The crowd groaned. Greenberg, hanging grimly to his fading hopes, hit a long fly to center field. Weatherly was able to back up and catch it. Greenberg was out, but Feller needed another strikeout. The next batter was Tebbetts. The Detroit catcher hadn't struck out and was two for two against Feller. Tebbetts walked on four balls.

"I didn't walk him intentionally," said Feller later with a grin, "but I knew Laabs was coming up next."

Feller vs. Laabs

Laabs had struck out four times against Feller's fast ball. He was almost desperate with shame as he studied the pitcher. Feller threw a fast ball, good for a strike. Then a ball, and then a curve was good for strike two.

With Cullenbine on second and Tebbetts on first, Feller disregarded the runners and went into his pumping motion. He kicked high and fired a hard fast ball. It was on the inside corner of the plate, and Umpire Cal Hubbard looked for an instant, jerked his right hand to the sky and boomed, "Three!"

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