You Learn Something New About This Game Every day! How Many of You Know What An “Immaculate Inning” Is?

You Learn Something New About This Game Every day! How Many of You Know What An “Immaculate Inning” Is?

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You Learn Something New About This Game Every day! How Many of You Know What An “Immaculate Inning” Is?

While watching the Cubs / Nationals game yesterday, I decided to look up some information on Max Scherzer’s career. Among other things, I found out that in the 2017 season, he threw what’s called an “Immaculate Inning.” I have to admit that as long as I’ve been following this game, I had never heard of an “Immaculate Inning.” With many years of Catholic education under my belt, I was of course familiar with the term, “Immaculate Conception,” but an Immaculate Inning? What gives here? Was it something to do with the Pope…or Holy Water? And how could I have missed it after all these years?

Well, with a little research, “my prayers were answered,” so to speak. I found that an Immaculate Inning is one in which “a pitcher in a half-inning of play throws only nine pitches, each of which is a strike and thus strikes out three consecutive batters.” It’s rarer than hitting for a cycle, triple plays, no-hitters, and many other baseball rarities.

I also found out that in all of baseball history, only 84 different pitchers have accomplished the feat, for a total of 89 innings. If someone is capable of doing the math and can come up with an approximate number of innings that have been played in all of major league baseball history (it’s beyond my pay grade!), then we can figure out how rare it actually is. My guess is that it’s in the .001% range of innings played.

Only four players in all of baseball history have thrown more than one: Lefty Grove (2), Nolan Ryan (2), Randy Johnson (2). Sandy Koufax only player in major league history to throw three. Come to think of it, with only four players having done it, multiple Immaculate Innings may be one of the rarest of all baseball feats.

Here’s a couple other tidbits of information about Immaculate Innings:

It comes as no surprise that Sandy Koufax is the only player in major league baseball history to have thrown three. So that gives me a chance to say a little about the career of this great Dodger lefty, edited from one of my earlier posts:

In his 12-season career, the seven-time All-Star had a 165–87 record (.654 winning percentage) with a 2.76 ERA, 2,396 strikeouts, 137 complete games, and 40 shutouts. Koufax’s 2,396 career strikeouts ranked 7th in history as of his retirement. Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan are the only two pitchers inducted into the Hall of Fame who had more strikeouts than innings pitched. He was the first pitcher to average fewer than seven hits allowed per nine innings pitched (6.79). He also became the second pitcher in history to have two games with 18 or more strikeouts; and the first to have eight games with 15 or more strikeouts. Over his last ten seasons, from 1957 to 1966, batters hit an anemic .203 against him, with an incredibly low .271 on-base-percentage and a .315 slugging average.

 Koufax’s amazing run from 1961 to 1966 remains a period of brilliance almost unmatched in baseball history. During this time Koufax won five straight ERA titles; four strikeout crowns; three Cy Young awards; a National League MVP award; three seasons with 25-plus wins; and four no-hitters, the last in 1965 being a perfect game against the Cubs.

If you’d like to see a list of the 84 pitchers who have thrown Immaculate Innings, here’s a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Major_League_Baseball_pitchers_who_have_thrown_an_immaculate_inning.

Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Immaculate Inning Wikipedia page.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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