Radcliffe’s strikeout feat likely unmatched

sports@macon.comApril 22, 2013 

Friday marked the 65th anniversary of one of the greatest pitching performances in Georgia high school baseball history -- and the entire nation, as well.

Hugh Frank Radcliffe of Robert E. Lee Institute in Thomaston struck out 28 Lanier batters at the Silvertown Ball Park in a 10-0 Rebels win in a nine-inning game.

Twenty-eight strikeouts in a nine-inning game? Isn’t that one too many? Follow along:

In that performance, Radcliffe, who was an all-state performer in basketball, football and track and field in addition to baseball, saw just four Poets batters reach base. Two reached on Lee errors, while another got on with a base hit.

The fourth runner to reach base? A passed ball on a third strike, which accounted for the extra strikeout.

Lanier made contact with just 10 of his pitches. In addition to the base hit and two errors, Radcliffe also had seven pitches fouled off.

That Lanier team was no slouch, either. The Poets were runners-up in the GHSA Class AA playoffs later that season. They featured Inman “Coot” Veal, who went on to enjoy six years in the big leagues, playing for the Tigers, Senators sand Pirates.

Radcliffe, who led Thomaston to the American Legion state and regional titles in 1946, had two seven-inning no-hitters as a senior. In his final year at Lee, in which he went 9-0, he struck out 210 batters in 81-2/3 innings and allowed just 16 base hits. In three nine-inning games, he averaged 24-plus strikeouts and allowed only three earned runs.

As would be expected, major league teams took notice of Radcliffe, and he was signed to a $40,000 bonus by the Philadelphia Phillies. That is roughly equivalent to $400,000 in today’s dollars when factoring in inflation.

Unfortunately, Radcliffe never experienced the success in pro ball that he had in high school.

He began his professional career with the Phillies’ Wilmington, Del., Class B minor-league team replacing Robin Roberts, who had been promoted to the majors the same day Radcliffe was called up. Radcliffe posted a 7-3 record with a 4.12 era in 16 games with Wilmington.

Radcliffe bounced around the minor leagues for seven seasons, playing with eight different teams at every level above Class D, but he never advanced to the majors. In those seven seasons, he compiled a 46-42 mark while posting winning records just two times.

Radcliffe’s mark, to the best of my knowledge, has never been matched. But Ron Necciai came close in 1952, pitching for the Bristol Twins in the Class D Appalachian State League. He struck out 27 Welch Miners batters while pitching a no-hitter. But that game was far from perfect, as he hit a batter, walked one, one reached on an error and another on a strikeout-passed ball.

Necciai had 24 strikeouts in his next outing.

Unlike Radcliffe, Necciai did make it to the major leagues, pitching for the Pirates for one season and compiling a 1-6 record with a 7.08 ERA, recording 31 strikeouts and allowing 32 walks in 54 innings pitched.

The all-time record for strikeouts in a major league game is held by Georgia native Tom Cheney of Morgan, who struck out 21 Baltimore Orioles in a 16-inning performance in 1962.

The nine-inning record of 20 is shared by Kerry Wood of the Cubs and Roger Clemens of the Red Sox. Clemens did it twice against the Mariners in 1986 and the Tigers in 1996, while Wood struck out 20 Houston Astros in 1998.

Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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