Inside Pitch

May 29, 1971: The Mets’ Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver combine for 26 strikeouts in doubleheader sweep of Padres

 

BY craig muder
MAY 28, 2013

Nolan Ryan dominated hitters for an unparalleled 27 seasons on his way to 5,714 strikeouts, an all-time record. (PhotoFile/NBHOF Library)

By the end of their storied careers, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver had totaled 9,354 strikeouts between them.

And on one day in 1971, the two Mets teammates showed off their talent together by striking out 26 of the 54 Padres they retired in a doubleheader sweep.

Forty-two years ago this week – on May 29, 1971 – Seaver and Ryan were the Mets’ starting pitchers in a twinbill against San Diego – a team that hit just .233 that season, scoring a National League-low 486 runs. 

In the opener, Seaver allowed just seven hits and one run in nine innings, striking out 10 batters in New York’s 5-1 victory. The win improved Seaver’s record to 6-2 on the season – a year in which he would go 20-10 with a career-best 1.76 earned-run average and a career-high 289 strikeouts.

But the Mets’ pitchers were just getting started. In the nightcap, the San Diego fans were treated to a glimpse of the future when Nolan Ryan struck out 16 Padres in New York’s 2-1 victory. Ryan allowed only four hits and one unearned run while improving to 6-1 on the season.

For Ryan, 1971 was his final year with the Mets – going 10-14 while starting 26 games. He struck out 137 batters but walked 116 – and after the season was traded to the Angels. With California, Ryan began assembling his Hall of Fame credentials en route to a record 5,714 career strikeouts in 27 seasons.

“He was the only guy that could put fear in me,” said future Hall of Fame teammate Reggie Jackson. “Not because he could get me out, but because he could kill me. You just hoped to mix in a walk so you could have a good night and go 0-for-3.”

Seaver, who finished his 20-year big league career in 1986, fanned 3,640 batters.

“My job isn’t to strike guys out, it’s to get them out, sometimes by striking them out,” Seaver told the New York Times in 1976.

Both Seaver and Ryan were elected to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility: Seaver with a record 98.84 percent of the vote in 1992, Ryan with 98.79 percent in 1999 – the second-best percentage ever.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

 

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