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The Natural: MLB legend recalls his 27-strikeout game

Salena Zito on

BELLE VERNON, Pennsylvania -- As Ron Necciai recalls, the first two batters both went down in strikes. The third guy got lucky -- sort of. The ball got away from the catcher, who quickly got the batter out at first.

It was May 13, 1952, a cold, damp Tuesday night for 1,100 people at Shaw Stadium in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Necciai was pitching for the Bristol Twins, a Pittsburgh Pirate-affiliated Appalachian League farm team, against the Welch Miners.

The gangly 19-year-old from Gallatin, Pennsylvania, had no idea he would not leave the mound again that night. Nor did he know that his name and what he did in that game would be forever etched in baseball history books.

"The thing is, the game didn't really stand out in any way when I was on the mound. I mean, I hit a guy, had a couple of walks and an error or two," he told the Washington Examiner from his home, just eight miles south of the house he grew up in.

What the right-hander from a smoky coal town along the Monongahela River did not point out until prodded was that he struck out 27 batters in nine innings.

"I didn't realize that 27 guys had struck out until after the game was over," he recalled. "George Detore, who was the manager, came up to me and said, 'Do you realize what you did?' I said, 'No. No. Why?' And then he said, 'Well, you struck out 27 batters.' And always being a wise guy, I said, 'So what? They've been playing this game for a hundred years. Somebody else did, too.' Come to find nobody else ever did before or after."

 

"I guess I lived a lifetime of baseball in one night," said Necciai.

The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues called the 27-strikeout game "the greatest individual performance in the history of baseball."

And he did it while battling a bleeding ulcer that had him throwing up blood in the dugout before the game and drinking glasses of milk between innings to drown the heat that was burning his insides.

It is a record that has never been broken.

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