Lights Out: Pete Richert Sets a Strikeout Record in His Major League Debut
When: April 12, 1962
Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
Game Time: 3:17
He made his major league debut in a game that was on the verge of getting away from the Los Angeles Dodgers. With two outs in the bottom of the second inning, the Cincinnati Reds had already scored four runs in the inning, with Cincinnati shortstop Eddie Kasko standing at second.
The next batter was Vada Pinson, the Cincinnati Reds center fielder who would bat .292 with 100 RBIs on the season after hitting .343 in 1961.
The inning ended with Pinson striking out swinging.
It was the first strikeout of Pete Richert’s major league career … on the first batter that the Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander faced in his major league debut.
But Richert wasn’t done.
In the third inning, Richert struck out the Reds … all four of them. (First baseman Gordy Coleman reached first on a passed ball after striking out.) In the top of the fourth, Richert struck out the first hitter – outfielder Tommy Harper – for his sixth consecutive strikeout … in what was, thus far, a 6-batter major league career.
No one before Pete Richert had opened his pitching career by striking out the first six major league batters he faced. And no one else has done it since.
On that day, Richert pitched a total of 3.1 hitless, scoreless innings, striking out seven Reds batters. His brilliant debut did not go to waste. The Dodgers scored seven runs in the bottom of the sixth, taking a 7-4 lead in a game Los Angeles would eventually win by a score of 11-7.
Richert’s rookie season in Los Angeles resulted in a 5-4 record with a 3.87 ERA. He struck out 75 batters in 81.1 innings. Richert would win only seven more games for the Dodgers over the next two seasons. Following the 1964 season, he was traded with Frank Howard, Ken McMullen and Phil Ortega to the Washington Senators for John Kennedy, Claude Osteen and $100,000. (First baseman Dick Nen was sent to the Senators as the player named later.) With Washington, Richert became the team’s ace starter, going 15-12 (with a 2.60 ERA) in 1965.
Early in the 1967 campaign, Richert was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Frank Bertaina and Mike Epstein. During his five-year stay in Baltimore, Richert became one of the American League’s best left-handed relievers. He also pitched for the Dodgers (again), as well as for the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies before retiring after the 1974 season.