Believe It Or Not – 42 Strikeouts in 23 Innings Essay

Robert L. Ripley, in his syndicated “Believe It Or Not” of September 5, 1931, informed the world of former big leaguer Hugh Bedient’s feat of striking out 42 men in one game. But, this was not the first national recognition of this event.

The Jamestown Evening Journal of Monday, July 27, 1908, ran the headline: “BROKE ALL RECORDS. BEDIENT OF FALCONER STRUCK OUT 42 MEN.”

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The Corry Journal of Corry, Pennsylvania, stated, “CORRY AND FALCONER MAKE WORLD’S RECORD.” The Buffalo News exclaimed, “STRUCK OUT 42 MEN IN ONE GAME. WESTERN NEW YORK PITCHER MAKES WORLD’S RECORD IN GAME.” The wire services picked up these articles, offers started to pour in, and Hugh Bedient’s life was forever changed.

In July, 1908, Hugh Bedient, a recently graduated high school star, spent his summer days playing semi-pro ball with the Falconer Independents. (Falconer is a suburb of Jamestown, New York, in the southwest corner of the State). The Independents played teams from nearby Jamestown and Chautauqua, New York, and Youngsville and Corry, Pennsylvania. In a game in mid-July, Bedient struck out seventeen men in a nine-inning game against Youngsville, winning, 7-3. However, all eyes were on the upcoming games with Corry, with whom Falconer had developed an intense interstate rivalry. The New York team won the first game, played at home, 2-1. The second game, played at Corry, was a fifteen-inning tie.

The July 23 Jamestown Evening Journal stated: “A hair-raising game is expected to take place next Saturday when Falconer goes to Corry for the third game with the team of that place. A large number of Falconer fans will accompany the team.” Falconer arrived on the afternoon train from Jamestown accompanied by over a hundred supporters. The Corry Journal of July 27 covered the event: “As was expected, the game drew a thousand people to the grounds, who, as the battle progressed, became a frenzied, excited mass of humanity.”

This wasn’t just a ball game. It was also an economic adventure. “The Corry fans had some money to bet and backed the home boys believing that the visitors would be overcome. All bets offered were covered, although a few backed up, and a large amount of money changed hands on the game.”

There was a great deal of confidence, and “rumor had it that the home team was loaded for the fray.” Three outfielders–fine fielders and batsmen–had been secured from Erie, Pennsylvania, to play for the Corry team. In its game report, the Journal reported, “They were the former but could not hit. They claimed to never have faced such a pitcher as Bedient, which shows just what invincible ball the visiting twirler was pitching.”

Corry scored first in the bottom of the seventh inning, with Falconer matching the run in the top of the eighth. Thereafter, Bedient limited Corry to only six hits during the twenty-three innings, struck out the astonishing 42, and, amazingly, allowed only a single walk. His counterpart, Charles Bickford, struck out 16 men, allowed 13 hits and gave up two walks.

Both teams had opportunities to win in extra innings, but Falconer finally took the lead for good in the top of the twenty-third inning when the bases were loaded with two outs. A grounder was sent to the third baseman who, instead of throwing to first for the final out, threw wildly to home plate and two runs came in. Bedient, with adrenalin flowing, fanned all three batters in the bottom of the twenty-third. The line score showed Falconer: 3-9-5 and Corry: 1-6-6. Bedient struck out 42 of the sixty-nine men he faced.

After the wire services picked up the story of Bedient, offers poured in–nineteen in all–from clubs from Maine to California. Ultimately, Hugh signed a professional contract and found his way to Boston in 1912. His 20-9 record made him a Sox favorite, and he performed heroically in the World Series against the New York Giants, beating the great Christy Mathewson, 2-1, in Game 5, and pitching Matty even for seven innings in the decisive Game 8, (one game ended in a tie) in a ten-inning game won by the Red Sox.

Bedient jumped from Boston to Buffalo in the Federal League in 1915. His major league record was 59-53, with 420 strikeouts, 236 walks and a 3.08 ERA. After the Federal League collapsed, he played in Toledo in 1917, where he developed a sore arm. He came back to Jamestown to rest and to register for the draft. Both Connie Mack and Miller Huggins sught his services, and he tried out for the Yankees in 1919. But his arm troubles kept him our of the majors. He played again for Toledo in 1921, 1922, and 1923. He went to Portland, Oregon, in 1924. He ended his professional career in 1925 with Atlanta of the Southern Association. The end came on an unusual note. He had a 2-0 record on Decoration Day when he took the mound against the Memphis Chicks. Irked by an umpire’s decision, Memphis fans showered the field with pop bottles, cushions, fruit, and programs. The game was forfeited to Atlanta and Bedient’s professional career closed on a three-game winning streak. According to the Jamestown Journal, “He returned home to Falconer during the summer in answer to an exceptionally good offer from local interests that were striving to build a top semipro team.”

Bediant himself later said, “It looked more like security-guarantees of a job and all–than anything Triple-A ball could offer.”

Bedient played semipro ball with the Jamestown Spiders. He and former Washington Senators pitcher “Swat” Erickson faced various barnstorming teams, including Babe Ruth’s All-Stars, the Homestead Grays, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, the House of David, and various touring major league teams. When his pitching days were over, he worked for various local manufacturers and owned a garage. Upon retirement, Hugh could be seen attending local ball games and encouraging his grandson. Hugh Bedient died on July 21, 1965.

Frank Hyde, sports editor of the Jamestown Post Journal for over forty years, tried to discover if there had ever been a comparable strikeout feat. In 1951, he wrote a letter to George Trautman, the president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, inquiring whether this was a world record. Trautman wrote back as follows: “Thank you for calling my attention to the 42 strikeouts of Hugh Bedient in 1908. As far as all records available show, this is a world record for any type of baseball.” To check the amateur ranks, Hyde inquired of the National Baseball Congress, which listed a 36-strikeout caper by a pitcher during a twenty-inning state tournament game in Oklahoma. He concluded that Hugh Bedient’s 42 whiffs was indeed a record.

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