Many pitchers in the history of organized baseball have struck out a lot of hitters in one game but Ron Necciai struck out 27 batters one night 57 years ago.
The date was May 13, 1952 when Necciai started the game in the Class-D Appalachian League game feeling sickly. He was pitching for the Bristol Twins against the Welch Miners in Bristol, VA.
At this time May 13 was known for being the birthday of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis in 1914 near Lafayette, Alabama. Others born on this date were Bea Arthur of Maude and Golden Girls fame in 1923, Stevie Wonder in 1950 and Dennis Rodman in 1961.
During the game Necciai complained about feeling sick so the manager sent for some cottage cheese to settle his stomach down. In fact, Necciai had been sent to Bristol to rehab from ulcers problems he had experienced at spring training.
He was so dominating that by the fourth inning the Welch batters started trying to bunt for base hits but that didn’t work either when they could only foul off the pitches.
One batter was retired on a groundout early in the game but when the catcher was charged with a passed ball on a third strike in the ninth inning Necciai struck out a fourth batter in the inning to give him a chance to strike out 27.
He had thrown a no-hitter but the game was far from perfect since he hit a batter, one reached on an error, he walked one batter and and the other though a strikeout victim reached first on a passed ball.
The catcher Harry Dunlop dropped a foul ball on purpose so Necciai would have a chance for 27 strikeouts. After dropping the ball per the instructions from the fans Necciai struck out the batter.
Still he recorded 27 strikeouts in the game a feat which had never been done before in professional baseball and has not been done again since that night 57 years ago.
Before this night he had already had games of 20 and 19 strikeouts so the 27 strikeout game was not a fluke.
In fact after the 27 strikeout no-hitter he would strikeout 24 in his next start limiting the opponent to two hits. He struck out five batters in one inning in this contest. His 51 strikeouts in two games is another feat that is unlikely to be repeated.
Branch Rickey who had seen a lot of baseball pitchers during his time in baseball paid Necciai the ultimate compliment. He said Necciai was one the three best pitchers he had ever seen. The other two were Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Dizzy Dean.
Necciai pitched his first major league game for the Pittsburgh Pirates in August of 1952. He was 1-6 with a 7.08 ERA. He struck out 31 in 54 innings but walked 32.
The Pirates had twenty pitchers who pitched during the 1952 season and none of them had a winning record in their 42-112 record.
By the next month Necciai’s major league career was over because he had a career ending rotator cuff injury.
He would hang on in the minor leagues hoping his arm would be healthy until 1955 when a doctor told him he needed to get a job at a gas station. The same doctor had seen the arm of Dizzy Dean when he had a career ending arm injury and saw that Necciai had the same exact injury.
He will be 77 on June 18 and was a successful businessman and said there would be no benefits ever held for him.
Necciai may only have had one major league win but for one night in May in 1952 he was the best pitcher in baseball when he struck out 27 batters.