Let’s address the elephant in the room with this card. It is a 1986 Donruss Card. It says so in the upper left hand corner.
And yet this is a record that was set in 1986. This must be an update set from the end of the year. OTHERWISE Donruss had the incredible ability to predict records when they issued their cards at the start of the year.
One thing is certain. NOBODY could have predicted this record.
The 1986 Astros had the greatest strikeout artist in history, Nolan Ryan, on their roster. Mike Scott struck out 306 batters that year en route to the Cy Young Award. Veteran Bob Knepper also was on the squad.
But 26 year old Jim Deshaies set an unusual strikeout record down the stretch in their near pennant season.
Deshaies was from upstate New York and came up in the Yankees organization. But because he was a prospect during the 1980’s for the Yankees, he needed to be traded for an aging veteran. So he was packaged to the Astros for ageless Joe Niekro in 1984.
In 1986, he was still technically a rookie and he blossomed with the Astros. He made 26 starts, posting a 12-5 record and a 3.25 ERA over 144 innings. He had a few dazzling starts, including taking a shutout to 2 outs in the 9th inning with 9 strikeouts against the Pirates before getting relief help to nail the 1-0 win.
Then came the game of his life.
On September 23, 1986, he faced the defending NL West champion Dodgers who were struggling through a disappointing season. The games was at the Astrodome.
He struck out Steve Sax, Reggie Williams and Enos Cabell to start the game.
The Astros scored two runs in the bottom of the first to give Deshaies a 2-0 lead.
In the second, Deshaies struck out Pedro Guerrero, Alex Trevino and Jeff Hamilton.
In the third, Dave Anderson and Jose Gonzalez struck out to make it 8 men up, 8 men struck out. Pitcher Dennis Powell was up next to make number 9 a snap. Instead, Dodger manager Tom Lasorda went to his bench early and Larry See came up as a pinch hitter. He popped up, but actually put the ball in play. The strikeout streak was over.
In the end, he threw a complete game 2 hit shutout for the 4-0 victory. He struck out 10 Dodgers in all for his 10th win.
The 8 batters struck out to start a game was a Major League record, and earned him a Topps and evidently a Donruss Card to honor the feat.
He pitched through October but did not pitch in the post season. I do not know why. They would have used him in the 16 inning marathon Game 6 against the Mets. Maybe he was hurt.
Either way, Deshaies stayed with Houston for the next 5 seasons, peaking in 1989 with 15 wins and a 2.91 ERA over 225 2/3 innings.
After bouncing between the Twins, Giants and Phillies between 1992 and 1995, he called it a career.
Deshaies has had a successful broadcasting career. He was in the Houston booth and now calls games for the Cubs.
I wonder if Lasorda knew that Deshaies had already set the strikeout record when he made the pinch hitting decision. I wonder if it would have gone on to double digits.
Either way, Deshaies is in the record book, pinch hitter or none.