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The progression of the Dodgers all-time strikeout record

Kershaw topped the list on April 30, 2022

Sandy Koufax broke the Dodgers strikeout record in 1965, and former teammate Don Drysdale passed him three years later.
Sandy Koufax broke the Dodgers strikeout record in 1965, and former teammate Don Drysdale passed him three years later.

Clayton Kershaw on Saturday against Detroit broke the Dodgers’ all-time strikeout record. passing Don Sutton’s franchise mark that has stood for over 42 years.

Sutton held the belt longer than anyone in franchise history, but there are only a very small number of pitchers who have held the club’s career strikeout record.

Dodgers all-time strikeout leaders

Pitcher Years pitched Passing date Batter Passing number Final number
Pitcher Years pitched Passing date Batter Passing number Final number
Sam Kimber 1884 unknown (1884) unknown 1? 122
Adonis Terry 1884-1891 unknown (1884) unknown unknown 1,200
Nap Rucker 1907-1916 9/29/1915 Fred Herbert (Giants P) 1,201 1,217
Dazzy Vance 1922-32, 1935 6/23/1928 Eddie Brown (Braves CF) 1,218 1,918
Sandy Koufax 1955-1966 7/24/1965 Ted Savage (Cardinals RF) 1,919 2,396
Don Drysdale 1956-1969 6/22/1968 Cleon Jones (Mets RF) 2,397 2,486
Don Sutton 1966-80, 1988 8/5/1979 Greg Johnston (Giants RF) 2,487 2,696
Clayton Kershaw 2008-present 4/30/2022 Spencer Torkelson (Tigers 1B) 2,697 TBD
Sam Kimber started the first game in Brooklyn franchise history, on May 1, 1984. It’s unknown when his first strikeout came.

I’m not entirely sure of the exact timeline of the Dodgers’ first season, in 1884 in the American Association. But the club, then named the Brooklyn Atlantics, only used five total pitchers all season. Nineteen-year-old Adonis Terry started over half the games, pitched over half the innings, and his 230 strikeouts that season accounted for nearly 61 percent of the team’s total (378).

Three of those pitchers — Terry, Sam Kimber, Jack Corcoran — appeared Brooklyn’s first game that year on May 1, all making their major league debut that day, per Retrosheet. Terry played some games in the outfield that season. Corcoran was mostly a catcher, shortstop, second baseman, and outfielder, and only pitched once. Kimber, however, only pitched, and since his 41 games were all pitching, and since he completed all 41 starts, he was very clearly the only pitcher for Brooklyn’s first game as a franchise.

Kimber finished that season with 122 strikeouts, a distant second to Terry. It’s unknown exactly when those strikeouts came since game logs are unavailable, but there’s a good chance he was the first Brooklyn pitcher to record a strikeout. That was Kimber’s only season in Brooklyn, and that October 4 pitched a 10-inning no-hitter that ended in a tie, with Corcoran catching him.

At some point in that first season of 1884, Terry became the Dodgers career strikeout leader, and in his eight years with Brooklyn – including the club’s move to the National League in 1890 – the right-hander struck out 1,200 batters.

Terry’s time atop the club strikeout list lasted until 1915, when ninth-year left-hander Nap Rucker finally passed him. Rucker got the record strikeout at the Polo Grounds against the New York Giants on September 29, a little more than seven months after Terry died of pneumonia.

Rucker didn’t pitch much after breaking the strikeout mark, and ended his 10-year career with 1,217 strikeouts, all with the Dodgers.

Dazzy Vance came to the Dodgers at age 31, and led the National League in strikeouts in each of his first seven seasons in Brooklyn, including leading the majors six times. In 1924, Vance won the pitching triple crown with 28 wins, a 2.16 ERA, and a career-best 262 strikeouts, winning the NL MVP.

The last year Vance led the league in strikeouts was 1928, and midway through that season he broke Rucker’s career mark. Against the Braves in Boston on June 23, Vance struck out centerfielder Eddie Brown in the second inning to set a new franchise record.

Dazzy Vance Wind Up 1
Dazzy Vance led the National League in strikeouts in each of his first seven seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1922-1928). He held the franchise all-time strikeout record for 37 years.

Vance’s Dodgers record stood for 37 years until Sandy Koufax broke it against the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium on July 24, 1965. Koufax struck out Ted Savage for the second out of the ninth inning for his 1,919th strikeout. Koufax left the game tied after nine innings, and St. Louis won in the 10th.

Koufax allowed two runs in the game, the first of which came off a fifth-inning home run from Bob Uecker. It was the only career home run against Koufax for the catcher, who hit .200/.293/.287 in his six years in the majors, long before becoming a Hall of Fame announcer. Uecker hit 14 career home runs, and three were off Hall of Fame pitchers — Koufax, Gaylord Perry, and Ferguson Jenkins.

“I apologize to Sandy Koufax to this day,” Uecker joked to Bob Costas in 2020, for Bally Sports Wisconsin. “I always thought that might keep him out of the Hall of Fame.”

Koufax was in the middle of his best strikeout season. Entering 1965, Koufax already had the two highest strikeout years in the modern era of National League history – 269 in 1961, and 306 in 1963 – but in this season he fanned 382 batters, a major league record that has only been topped once since.

Just two weeks after Don Drysdale’s record streak of 58 consecutive scoreless innings was snapped, the right-hander was working on another shutout of his own at Shea Stadium until Mets leftfielder Art Shamsky homered in the sixth. But three innings earlier, Drysdale caught Cleon Jones looking for his 2,397th career strikeout, passing his former teammate for the club high mark.

“The way Don Drysdale keeps ripping them out, the pitching pages in the Dodgers record book must be perforated,” wrote George Lederer in the Long Beach Independent.

Drysdale at this point held Dodgers career records in games pitched, starts, innings, wins, strikeouts, and shutouts. The win over the Mets was his 199th career victory, but the final seven outs were secured by the pitcher who would break all of those records.

Don Sutton passed Drysdale in career strikeouts in a home win over the Giants on August 5, 1979.

“I think the chase was more fun than the record,” Sutton told United Press International. “Having the other guys out in front of me gave me the incentive. Had it been someone other than Drysdale, who I played with, it wouldn’t have meant so much. I thought about the record until the fourth strikeout, then I figured the next one would come.

“The shutout record is the one that really eluded me and I really wanted that one today.”

Sutton was sitting on 49 career shutouts during this start, tied with Drysdale atop the Dodgers record book. Sutton hadn’t pitched a shutout all season but was leading 8-0 in the eighth inning when first baseman Mike Ivie homered over the centerfield wall at Dodger Stadium. Sutton struck out the next batter, rightfielder Greg Johnston, to pass Drysdale in strikeouts.

But Sutton didn’t have to wait long for the shutout record. He blanked the Giants five days later at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Sutton’s 52 shutouts with the Dodgers remain the franchise record.

Sutton never led the league in strikeouts, but neither did Kimber, Terry, nor Rucker. Vance led the NL in strikeouts seven times, Koufax did four times, Drysdale and Kershaw three times each. None of Kimber, Terry or Rucker made the Hall of Fame, but the last four pitchers to hold the Dodgers all-time strikeout record did. One day Kershaw will join them. It’s good company to be in.