The Most Produtive Strikeout Ever – Killer Fans, Twins Scamper

It was May 18, 1969 and the Twins were taking on the Tigers in Minnesota. In the third inning of that game, Twins’ slugger – and future Hall of Famer – Harmon Killebrew had what BBRT considers the most productive MLB strikeout ever. The Minnesota’s first baseman came to the plate with the Twins trailing 2-0 and runners on first and third with no one out.  The Killer struck out, yet during his at bat (without the aid of a passed ball, wild pitch, error, interference or balk), both runners scored, tying the game.   But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Starting for the Tigers was 1968 World Series MVP Mickey Lolich. Lolich had gone 17-9, 3.19 in 1968 and then 3-0, 1.67 with three complete games in the World Series.  For the 1969 season, he was 3-1, 4.41, Opposing him on the mound that day was the Twins’ Dave Boswell (10-13, 3.32 in 1968 and 4-3, 2.68 on the 1969 season.)  These two are only bit players, however, in the story of the most productive strikeout ever.

Boswell had given up two runs on six hits over the first three innings, while the Twins had gone scoreless, despite three hits and a walk in their first two innings on offense.  Then came the historic bottom of the third.

TovarTwins LF and leadoff hitter Cesar Tovar started the inning with a single. Then, with 2B (and future Hall of Famer) Rod Carew at the plate, Lolich balked on an attempted pickoff – sending Tovar to second. As Carew worked a base on balls, Tovar stole third.  That brought up the Twins’ big RBI man, Killebrew.  Lolich did bear down and fan “The Killer,” but in the course of the at bat:

  • The Twins pulled a double steal, Tovar swiping home and Carew taking second;
  • Carew stole third;
  • Carew stole home, tying the game.

So, during Killebrew’s strikeout, the Twins advanced four bases and scored two runs – without the aid of a passed ball, wild pitch, balk (that occurred in Carew’s at bat), interference or error.  In the process, they also tied the record for steals of                                                            home in an inning.

CArewI’d like to say it was surprising to see that bat taken out of the hands of the Twins most vaunted run producer as Tovar and Carew scampered around the bases.  This, however, was the era of Billy (Martin) Ball in Twinsville. That season, Tovar stole 45 bases; Rod Carew stole 19 bases, included home seven times; and even Killebrew had a career-high eight steals (as well as leading the league with 49 home runs and 140 RBI).

I’d also like to say the Twins won this contest, but they fell to the Tigers by a score of 8-2. Lolich picked up his fifth win (a complete game), lowering his ERA to 3.30; while Boswell dropped to 4-4, 3.42.

In 1969, The Twins won the AL West (lost to the Orioles in the ALCS) with a 97-65 record. They led the AL in runs scored with 790 – and were fourth in both home runs (163) and stolen bases (115). On the mound, they had the third-best team ERA at 3.24.

And, of course, they had the most productive strikeout ever.

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