by Steve Bogira
A week ago I thought he no longer could break the record; he simply had too few whiff opportunities remaining.
But you can never put anything past the Big Breeze, unless you're a pitcher. On Saturday, he began a torrid missing pace, going 0 for 3 with 2 Ks. Sunday, another 0 for 3, with 2 more Ks. Monday, 0 for 2, with 2 more Ks.
This put him within a whiff of Dave Nicholson's 1963 club record of 175.
He got that in his first at bat last night again the Blue Jays, when he was caught looking in the second inning. With seven Ks in his last nine official at bats, he was now tied with Nicholson.
And then he strode to the plate in the fourth. One more K and the record was all his.
Dunn took two balls, and fouled one off. He took another ball, then swung and missed. The count was three and two.
But home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom had lost track: he told Dunn the count was two and two. Dunn disagreed, admirably asserting his right to fan on three and two instead of two and two.
Normally, Cederstrom might have consulted with the other umps in his crew. But it was the fourth inning of a meaningless game in the last week of the season—and he wisely assumed they'd been daydreaming, too. Instead, he decided to use a lifeline: he walked to the Sox dugout and made a phone call. Who he called isn't clear. "This is unbelievable," Sox announcer Ken Harrelson said. "I have never seen this in all my years in this game."
It left Dunn standing at the plate, with 527 of the 528 strikes he had needed at the beginning of the season to break Nicholson's record.
A few minutes later, the sheepish Cederstrom returned to the plate and told Dunn he was right—the count was indeed 3-2.
The clip below doesn't show the denouement: Dunn fouled one off, then waved at strike 528. The record was his, at 176.
Until he returned to the plate in the seventh, and made it 177.