Minor League Baseball is known for its rich history dating back more than 100 years. While much has been written about the best teams and top players who have graced the Minors, there remain many stories either untold or largely forgotten. Each week, MiLB.com will attempt to fill that gap and explore these historical oddities in our new feature, "Cracked Bats." Know of any stories to be considered for this feature in the future? Send an email and let us know.
One by one, they walked back to the home dugout that summer night nearly 45 years ago at the old War Memorial in Buffalo. Most offered some resistance to the blazing fastballs that were rocketing over the plate, but ultimately it was to no avail as Columbus' big Bob Veale humbled one batter after another.
And though Veale didn't come away with a victory against Buffalo on Aug. 10, 1962, he did earn a place in the record book, striking out 22 batters to set the International League standard. Veale's performance eclipsed the previous mark of 20 strikeouts in a game set by Buffalo's "Dauntless" Dave Danforth on Sept. 30, 1930 against Rochester. Though there has been an occasional run at the record over the last four decades -- Columbus' Randy Keisler fanned 18 against Buffalo in 2001 -- Veale's performance remains unmatched.
"It's soon to be broken I imagine," Veale, 71, said. "Really, records have never been anything I've dwelled on. It was just something else for them to use ink on in the paper, whether it was Veale did this or [Tom] Seaver did that or [Bob] Gibson did this. I think all the records should have asterisks because they're all going to be broken eventually.
"That's what competitive sports is all about. You leave it there [at the park] and never bring it home. It's for the fans and the historians and the people who cherish those wonderful moments. I enjoyed doing it, and that was my gift because I sure didn't get paid for it."
Veale didn't get a win, either, having departed after nine innings with the score knotted at 5-5. Future Major League journeyman Danny Cater connected off him for a two-out, two-strike homer in the ninth to send the game to extra innings, leaving Veale on the bench to watch as his Jets rallied for a 6-5 victory over the Bisons in 12 innings. Buffalo had rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the seventh off Veale, only to have the Jets re-take the lead, setting the stage for Cater's ninth-inning blast.
Veale told The Buffalo Evening News after the game that he was "disgusted with myself for not winning this one. I made a thoughtless pitch to Cater for that home run. I got the ball too far out over the plate. That's unforgivable."
Veale also told the paper that he felt strong enough to go three or four more innings and was disappointed that manager Larry Shepard gave him the hook in the 10th. As a result, Bob Priddy got credit for the win after pitching three shutout innings in relief. But Veale was the one who made all the headlines, dominating the sports pages the following day in Buffalo and Columbus.
The game was the nightcap of a twi-night doubleheader and Veale said he believes the shadows in the ballpark helped his effort, adding that the War Memorial Stadium was already a good pitchers' park even without the benefit of dusk.
"It was a good night and the candle power there wasn't all that great," said Veale, who would strike out 12 over 4 2/3 innings in the start following the record-setter for an eye-popping 34 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings. "The lights weren't very good but we all enjoyed pitching at that park. I was in good physical condition with a good arm, too. I was at the right place at the right time."
An understatement to say the least. Veale, who led the IL with 208 strikeouts in 1961, struck out the side in the first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth innings. Only four of the batters were caught looking, prompting Veale to quip, "I made them offerings they couldn't refuse."
But Veale couldn't close the game out. He struck out Bob Lipski for the first out of the ninth, tying Danforth's record, before making Bob Malkmus victim No. 21. Though he lost his chance at victory on Cater's blast, Veale quickly rebounded to whiff John Herrnstein to end the ninth.
"I remember that game," said Herrnstein, who would play parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues, and later gain a bit of notoriety by being part of the trade that would send Ferguson Jenkins from Philadelphia to the Cubs. "He was really on that night. I know he got me a number [four] of times. He was pretty awesome. We had faced him before and he was just an overpowering pitcher. If he put it all together on a given night, he was virtually unhittable.
"It was difficult at times to see there [at War Memorial] but you can't use that as an excuse. He was just an overpowering pitcher. He had it all, a blazing fastball and a really good curve. And I just remember everyone coming back to the dugout shaking their heads. I was a left-handed hitter and having to face Veale wasn't the most pleasant thing. But it didn't matter because he was getting everyone out, right-handed or left-handed."
Veale, who had made his Major League debut and appeared in eight early-season games for the Bucs in 1962 before returning to Columbus, was called back to Pittsburgh that September, never to see the Minor Leagues again. He finished the season going 8-5 for the Jets, posting a 3.09 ERA and striking out 179 batters in 134 innings.
The big southpaw would go on to pitch in the Major Leagues for 13 seasons, the bulk of which were spent in Pittsburgh. He went 120-95 with a 3.07 ERA, including going 6-0 out of the bullpen in 1971 while helping the Pirates to a World Series crown. Veale currently lives in Alabama and is recovering from hip replacement surgery.
"I wished I felt better," he said. "Getting a titanium hip is not too easy a thing. I'm trying to put the cane down, though, and rebuild my strength. In another month I'll be up and kicking, and ready to shut someone out in War Memorial again."