On September 21, 1981, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Steve Carlton strikes out the 3,118th batter of his career to break Bob Gibson’s National League record for career strikeouts. Even though Carlton had 10 shutout innings and 12 strikeouts, the Phillies lost the marathon game to the Montreal Expos in the 17th inning, 1-0.
Also today in 1981, the Phillies and Expos were engaged in a tight battle for the NL East title in a strike-shortened season. Carlton displayed his usual dominance, faltering only in the third inning when he allowed the Expos to load the bases before striking out Andre Dawson to retire the side. The strikeout was Carlton’s 3,118th, giving him the National League record for most career strikeouts. Carlton went on to strike out 10 more batters on the night, allowing no runs. The game was the longest in the majors that year.
Carlton won his fourth Cy Young Award in 1982, his 17th season in the majors. He retired in 1988 with 4,136 career strikeouts and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994, his first year of eligibility.