Steve Carlton records 3,000th strikeout

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

The 3,000-strikeout club remains one of baseball's most exclusive fraternities, with only 16 pitchers having reached the mark.

But when Steve Carlton fanned Montreal's Tim Wallach on April 29, 1981, in Philadelphia, the Phillies left-hander established a category all to himself.

Carlton became the first left-hander – and just the sixth pitcher overall – to record 3,000 strikeouts in a career. Until that point, only right-handers Walter Johnson (1923), Bob Gibson (1974), Gaylord Perry (1978), Nolan Ryan (1980) and Tom Seaver (on April 18, 1981, just 11 days before Carlton) had reached the 3,000 barrier.

In that April 29 game against the Expos, Carlton allowed just two runs and struck out nine in a complete-game victory, improving his record on the season to 4-0. At the end of that strike-shortened season, Carlton had a 13-4 record and a National League-best 8.48 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

Carlton, who was 36 when he fanned Wallach, went on to pitch seven more big league seasons, winning the 1982 Cy Young Award (the fourth of his career) and finishing with 4,136 strikeouts. Only Ryan, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens have more. And among left-handers, only Johnson has joined Carlton in the 3,000-strikeout club.


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

Baseball used by Steve Carlton to record his 3000th strikeout of career, April 29, 1981 at Philadelphia vs. Tim Wallach of the Montreal Expos. - B-31-81 (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

3,000-strikeout club

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1. Nolan Ryan - 5,714
2. Randy Johnson - 4,875
3. Roger Clemens 4,672
4. Steve Carlton - 4,136
5. Bert Blyleven - 3,701
6. Tom Seaver - 3,640
7. Don Sutton - 3,574
8. Gaylord Perry - 3,534
9. Walter Johnson - 3,509
10. Greg Maddux - 3,371
11. Phil Niekro - 3,342
12. Fergie Jenkins - 3,192
13. Pedro Martinez - 3,154
14. Bob Gibson - 3,117
15. Curt Schilling - 3,116
16. John Smoltz - 3,084

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series