New York Mets fans knew that it would happen. So did St. Louis Cardinals fans.
The Mets were involved in what was becoming the greatest miracle in sports history, so when they struck out 19 times yet won, it was exciting but not surprising.
Steve Carlton started against Gary Gentry. Everyone at Busch Stadium could see that Carlton was overpowering that night.
He started out by striking out Bud Harrelson swinging and Amos Otis on a called third strike, but Tommie Agee reached on second baseman Julian Javier's error and Donn Clendenon singled.
Carlton then struck out Ron Swoboda swinging to end the threat.
In the second inning, Carlton struck out Ed Charles, Jerry Grote and Gentry.
The Cardinals scored a run in the third inning to take a 1-0 lead but, in the fourth, Clendenon led off with a walk and Swoboda hit a home run into the left field seats for a 2-1 Mets' lead. After the home run, Carlton struck out the next three batters.
With the Cardinals again leading, this time 3-2 in the eighth inning, Swoboda, who had struck out after hitting his home run, came to the plate with one out and Agee on first. The result was another Swoboda home run to left field and another one-run Mets lead.
This time, the Mets held on behind Tug McGraw for a 4-3 win.
In 1969, no one realized that the Mets had just proved that a strikeout is just another out.
After the tough defeat, Carlton spoke.
"It was the best stuff I ever had," said Carlton. "When I had nine strike-outs, I decided to go all the way. But it cost me the game because I started to challenge every batter."
Carlton wanted to set a new single game strikeout mark so badly that he was willing to the lose the game to achieve it. He reached his goal, but it was bittersweet.
"It's irritating, it's frustrating,'' Carlton said."It's part of baseball."
Going to the ninth inning, 16 Mets had struck out. Carlton had to strike out the side for the fourth time to break the record held jointly by Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax and Don Wilson.
Tug McGraw led off the ninth. Carlton struck him out. Bud Harrelson was next. Carlton struck him out on a called third strike. Amos Otis, who had struck out three times, did it again to become Carlton's 19th strikeout victim.
If the game were played in 2012, under the same conditions, Carlton would never have come close to the record. There were two rain delays. He came back to pitch after each one.
Does anyone think that a 24-year-old pitcher would be allowed to do that today?