1960s Baseball
Celebrating the players and teams that helped make the 1960s “Baseball’s Real Golden Age.”
Top 10 Strikeout Pitchers of the 1960s

 

How do you make a man holding a wooden bat feel helpless?
These guys were experts at it.
 

Baseball has always worshipped the pitchers who could string together strikeouts. And as hitters have become less concerned with making contact and more concerned with reaching the fences (home runs always pay better than singles), strikeout ratios increased steadily with each decade throughout the Twentieth Century. The 1960s featured more great strikeout pitchers than any other baseball decade. The 10 best are recognized here.

The players who make up this list claimed their right to be here based on two criteria: total strikeouts during the 1960s, and average strikeouts per 9 innings during the 1960s. You won’t find any “flash in the pan” here. These strikeout artists proved their greatness against the only true test for greatness … the test of time.

Here’s my rundown of the top 10 strikeout pitchers of the 1960s.

  1. Sandy Koufax – The 1960s pitcher most likely to strike out any hitter was Sandy Koufax. The Dodger left-hander averaged 9.51 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched during the 1960s, the highest average among all major league starting pitchers that decade. He finished third in total strikeouts for the decade with 1,910, though he retired after the 1966 season. Koufax led the National League in strikeouts 4 times, and struck out more than 300 batters in a season 3 times.

  2. Bob Gibson – With a total of 2,071, Bob Gibson recorded more strikeouts during the 1960s than any other pitcher. He averaged 7.62 strikeouts per 9 innings, and struck out 200 or more batters in a season 7 times during the 1960s, leading the National League only once (1968). He was also the decade’s best strikeout pitcher in the World Series, fanning 92 batters in 81 innings, including a record 17 in the first game of the 1968 World Series.

  3. Sam McDowell – The American League’s most proficient strikeout pitcher during the 1960s, “Sudden” Sam McDowell finished just behind Koufax in average strikeouts per 9 innings with 9.41. He led the American League in strikeouts 4 times during the 1960s (as well as in 1970), and topped 300 strikeouts in a season twice. Altogether, McDowell struck out 1,663 batters for the Cleveland Indians in the 1960s, though he pitched for only 6 full seasons during that decade.

  4.  Jim Maloney – The Cincinnati Reds right-hander struck out 1,585 batters during the 1960s, averaging 7.92 strikeouts per 9 innings. From 1963 through 1966, Jim Maloney averaged 234 strikeouts per season while winning 78 games for the Reds.

  5. Bob Veale – This 6-6 southpaw won 100 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 1960s, including 18 victories in 1964, the year Bob Veale led the National League in strikeouts with 250. Veale struck out 1,428 batters during the 1960s, an average of 7.98 strikeouts per 9 innings (third best among all pitchers). Veale struck out 200 or more batters in a season 4 times, with a career-high of 276 in 1965.

  6. Jim BunningJim Bunning is the only member of this list to lead each league in strikeouts. As a member of the Detroit Tigers, he topped the American League with 201 in both 1959 and 1960, and with the Philadelphia Phillies, Bunning led the National League in strikeouts with 253 in 1967. Altogether, Bunning struck out 200 or more batters in a season 6 times in his career, and during the 1960s tallied 2,019 strikeouts, second only to Bob Gibson. He averaged 7.02 strikeouts per 9 innings during the 1960s.

  7. Don Drysdale – Dodger right-hander Don Drysdale led the National League in strikeouts twice in the 1960s (as well as in 1959), totaling 1,910 strikeouts for the decade to tie for third with teammate Sandy Koufax. Drysdale averaged 6.54 strikeouts per 9 innings during the 1960s, and had 6 seasons with 200 or more strikeouts in his career.

  8. Mickey Lolich – The all-time strikeout leader for the Detroit Tigers, Mickey Lolich registered a total of 1,336 strikeouts during the 1960s, averaging 7.87 strikeouts per 9 innings for the decade. In 1969, he averaged 8.69 strikeouts per 9 innings. Lolich struck out 200 or more batters in a season 7 times in his career (twice in the 1960s), with a career best of 308 in 1971, the only Tiger ever to reach the 300 mark.

  9. Juan Marichal – The pitcher with the most victories during the 1960s (191), Juan Marichal struck out 200 or more batters in a season 6 times, amassing a total of 1,840 strikeouts for the decade with an average of 6.49 strikeouts per 9 innings.

  10. Luis TiantLuis Tiant pitched only 6 seasons during the 1960s, all with the Cleveland Indians , and struck out only 1,041 batters during the decade. But he averaged 7.81 strikeouts per 9 innings, the sixth best average among major league pitchers in the 1960s. In both 1967 and 1968, Tiant averaged 9.2 strikeouts per 9 innings, both years fanning more than 200 batters.