MLB's 3,000-strikeout club

16 members make up the exclusive group

July 5th, 2018

The 3,000-strikeout club is one of the most exclusive in baseball history, with only 16 members. Here's a look at each of them, as well as how they achieved the rare feat:

John Smoltz: April 22, 2008

Career total: 3,084

All-time rank: 16th

Years played: 1988-2009

In just his third full Major League season, Smoltz pitched in one of the greatest World Series games in memory, going 7 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 7 of the 1991 Fall Classic against the Twins, only to be outdueled by Jack Morris in a 1-0 Minnesota victory. That was when Smoltz became a household name, but the then-25-year-old right-hander would gain much more notariety over the next 18 years, being selected to eight All-Star teams, winning the 1996 National League Cy Young Award and helping Atlanta win their elusive World Series title in 1995. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015.

Through it all, Smoltz was also a strikeout savant, tallying 3,084 in his illustrious career, including a third-inning strikeout of the Nationals' Felipe Lopez on April 22, 2008 at Turner Field for the 3,000th of his career. Overall, Smoltz went 213-155 with a 3.33 ERA in 723 career games (481 starts), becoming an elite reliever in the later years of his 21-season career. He led the NL in strikeouts with 215 in 1992, and led the Majors with 276 in '96. In 41 career postseason appearances (27 starts), Smoltz had a 2.67 ERA, and was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1992 NL Championship Series against the Pirates.

Pedro Martinez: Sept. 3, 2007

Career total: 3,154

All-time rank: 13th

Years played: 1992-2009

Martinez was the American League's most dominant and overpowering starting pitcher at the turn of the century. From 1997 to 2003, at the height of one of the highest run-scoring eras in baseball history, Martinez posted a 2.20 ERA and struck out 32 percent of the batters he faced. In all, the diminutive right-hander won three AL Cy Young Awards in a four-year span from 1997-2000, and was an eight-time All-Star. 

Martinez led the AL in strikeouts three times, topping the league in 1999 (313), 2000 (284) and 2002 (239). He recorded his 3,000th career strikeout on Sept. 3, 2007, on a strikeout of counterpart Aaron Harang to end the second inning at Great American Ball Park for the Mets. He finished his 18-year career with a record of 219-100, with a 2.93 ERA, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in the same class as Smoltz, in 2015.

Curt Schilling: Aug. 30, 2006

Career total: 3,116

All-time rank: 15th

Years played: 1988-2007

Schilling struck out 300 or more batters three times in his career, including 1997 (319) and '98 (300), when he led the NL while pitching for the Phillies. The right-hander was a six-time All-Star and finished runner-up in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2001 and '02, finishing behind D-backs teammate Randy Johnson. The pair were named co-MVPs of the 2001 World Series, which Arizona won in a thrilling Game 7 victory over the defending champion Yankees. Schilling made three starts, including in Game 7, posting a 1.69 ERA with 26 strikeouts and two walks in 21 1/3 innings.

Schilling also finished runner-up in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2004, the year he helped the Red Sox win their first World Series title in 86 years. In Game 6 of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees that October, Schilling pitched despite having a torn tendon sutured to his right ankle -- he gave up just one run over seven strong innings in a 4-2 Boston victory.

Schilling's 3,000th strikeout came against the A's at the Oakland Coliseum on Aug. 30, 2006, when he fanned Nick Swisher swinging in the first inning.

Greg Maddux: July 26, 2005

Career total: 3,371

All-time rank: 10th

Years played: 1986-2008

Maddux was arguably the best starting pitcher of the 1990s, winning four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards from 1992-95. When he joined the Braves following the '92 season, he became the anchor of one of the greatest starting rotations ever assembled, making Atlanta a perennial postseason participant and winner of the 1995 World Series over the Indians.

Maddux didn't overmatch opposing hitters with velocity, but with pinpoint command and great movement. Though he never led the league in strikeouts, he was the game's most dominant hurler from 1992-98, posting a 2.15 ERA while leading the league in ERA four times in that span, as well as innings pitched four times. In all, he went 355-227 with a 3.16 ERA over 23 seasons, picking up his 3,000th strikeout by getting the Giants' Omar Vizquel looking on July 26, 2005 at Wrigley Field while pitching for the Cubs, the organization with which he began his Major League career. Maddux was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

Randy Johnson: Sept. 10, 2000

Career total: 4,875

All-time rank: 2nd

Years played: 1988-2009

Johnson, known as the Big Unit during his days on the mound due to his 6-foot-11 frame, is the all-time record holder for strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher (4,875). Johnson's blazing fastball and devastating slider led to him leading the Majors in strikeouts nine times over a 22-year career in which he won 303 games. He won five Cy Young Awards, one in the AL with the Mariners in 1995, and four straight from 1999-2002 with the D-backs.

In 2001, he was co-MVP along with Curt Schilling of the World Series, a seven-game Arizona victory over the Yankees. In three appearanes (two starts) during the Fall Classic, which included a relief appearance in Game 7 after he had started and tossed seven innings in Game 6 the night before, Johnson posted a 1.04 ERA over 17 1/3 innings, striking out 19 and walking three.

Johnson recorded strikeout No. 3,000 by fanning the Marlins' Mike Lowell on Sept. 10, 2000 -- his 37th birthday -- at Pro Player Stadium. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.

Roger Clemens: July 5, 1998

Career total: 4,672

All-time rank: 3rd

Years played: 1984-2007

Clemens was a seven-time AL Cy Young Award winner and 11-time All-Star who was named the 1986 AL MVP in just his third Major League season. The hard-throwing right-hander won 354 games, and is third all-time in strikeouts behind Ryan and Johnson. He also holds the record, along with Johnson, former Cubs right-hander Kerry Wood and Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game -- 20 -- which he totaled twice (April 29, 1986 vs. the Mariners, and Sept. 18, 1996 vs. the Tigers). 

Clemens recorded his 3,000th career strikeout on July 5, 1998 while with the Blue Jays. Facing Tampa Bay, he struck out Randy Winn in the third inning at SkyDome to become the 11th pitcher in history to accomplish the feat.

Bert Blyleven: Aug. 1, 1986

Career total: 3,701

All-time rank: 5th

Years played: 1970-1992

Blyleven was as steady as they come over a 22-season Major League career, posting a 3.31 ERA in just shy of 5,000 career innings. He was a World Series champion twice, once with the Pirates in 1979, and once with the Twins in 1987. He struck out 200 or more batters eight times, including in six consecutive seasons from 1971-76. Over that span, he posted a 2.76 ERA with 110 complete games.

The right-hander picked up his 3,000th career strikeout by fanning the Athletics' Mike Davis at the Metrodome in the fifth inning on Aug. 1, 1986. Blyleven was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Phil Niekro: July 4, 1984

Career total: 3,342

All-time rank: 11th

Years played: 1964-1987

Niekro was a five-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner who used a knuckleball to confound hitters over a 24-year career spent primarily with the Braves (1964-83), but also with the Yankees and Indians toward the end of his career. The right-hander struck out more than 200 batters in each season from 1977-79, leading the NL in '77. In all, he won 318 games.

Niekro's 3,000th strikeout came on July 4, 1984, when he fanned the Rangers' Lance Parrish, who, perhaps aptly considering Niekro was a knuckleballer, reached first base after the ball got by catcher Butch Wynegar. Niekro would pitch another three seasons before retiring, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.

Don Sutton: June 24, 1983

Career total: 3,574

All-time rank: 7th

Years played: 1966-1988

Sutton was a four-time All-Star and led the NL with a 2.20 ERA in 1980, as part of a 23-year career over which he posted a 3.26 ERA and won 324 games. He was as consistent as they come, never missing his turn in the rotation while pitching for the Dodgers (1966-80, '88), Astros (1981-82), Brewers (1982-84), Athletics (1985) and Angels (1985-87).

The right-hander notched his 3,000th career strikeout on June 24, 1983 against the Indians, when he struck out Al Bannister in the eighth inning. Sutton was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998.

Fergie Jenkins: May 25, 1982

Career total: 3,192

All-time rank: 12th

Years played: 1965-1983

Jenkins was the 1971 NL Cy Young Award winner for the Cubs, and finished in the top three in Cy Young voting on three other occasions. He was also a three-time All-Star and struck out more than 200 batters in a season six times, including five straight seasons from 1967-71. Overall, he finished with a 3.34 ERA over a 19-year MLB career spent with the Phillies (1965-66), Cubs (1966-73, '82-83), Rangers (1974-75, '78-81) and Red Sox (1976-77).

Strikeout No. 3,000 for Jenkins came against the Padres on May 25, 1982, when he struck out Garry Templeton swinging in the third inning at San Diego. Jenkins was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Steve Carlton: April 29, 1981

Career total: 4,136

All-time rank: 4th

Years played: 1965-1988

Carlton is one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in baseball history, amassing four Cy Young Awards, 10 All-Star selections and 329 wins during his 24-year Major League career. He led the Majors in strikeouts three times -- in 1980, '82 and '83 -- and the NL twice (1972 and '74). Though he also pitched for the Cardinals, Giants, White Sox, Indians and Twins in his career, Carlton's finest stretch came during his 15-year run with the Phillies -- he won the NL Cy Young Award in 1972 (when he posted a 1.97 ERA over 346 1/3 innings), '77, '80 and '82.

Carlton's 3,000th strikeout came on April 29, 1981, when he pitched for the Phillies against the Expos at Veterans Stadium, and fanned Tim Wallach in the first inning. In striking out Wallach, Carlton became the first left-hander in the 3,000-strikeout club, and only one other southpaw has joined him since then -- Randy Johnson in 2000.

Tom Seaver: April 18, 1981

Career total: 3,640

All-time rank: 6th

Years played: 1967-1986

Seaver's resume includes three Cy Young Awards, 311 wins, 12 All-Star selections, a World Series championship with the 1969 "Miracle Mets" and a 1992 induction into the Hall of Fame following a Major League career spanning two decades. The right-hander won his first NL Cy Young Award just two seasons after being named the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year. He was also runner-up in NL MVP voting in 1969 along with the Cy Young honor. He would win the award again in 1973 and '75 for the Mets. 

Seaver's 3,000th strikeout came just 11 days before Carlton accomplished the feat, making the instance by far the shortest time period between two pitchers each reaching the 3,000-strikeout mark. He fanned the Cardinals' Keith Hernandez in the fourth inning on April 18, 1981 to achieve the feat. Seaver led the NL in strikeouts five times from 1970-76. Following his stellar tenure with the Mets, he went on to play for the Reds (1977-82), returned to New York for a season (1983), then to the White Sox (1984-86) and Red Sox (1986).

Nolan Ryan: July 4, 1980

Career total: 5,714

All-time rank: 1st

Years played: 1966-1993

Ryan, the all-time strikeout king, is one of two pitchers (along with Phil Niekro in 1984) to reach the 3,000-strikeout milestone on July 4. Though he would fan 2,714 more batters during his legendary career, Ryan's 3,000th strikeout victim was the Reds' Cesar Geronimo at Riverfront Stadium in an 8-1 Astros loss. 

Ryan's blazing fastball, umatched in his era, overpowered hitters in parts of four different decades while he pitched for the Mets (1966-71), Angels (1972-79), Astros (1980-88) and Rangers (1989-93). Though he incredibly never won a Cy Young Award during his career, Ryan led the Majors in strikeouts seven times, and his league four times. He set a modern-era record by fanning 383 batters for the Angels in 1973, one more than the previous record-holder, Sandy Koufax (382 in 1965).

Ryan also led the NL in ERA twice (1981 and 1987 for Houston), was a member of the 1969 World Series champion Mets, won 324 games and was an eight-time All-Star. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

Gaylord Perry: Oct. 1, 1978

Career total: 3,534

All-time rank: 8th

Years played: 1962-1983

Perry was a two-time Cy Young Award winner (1972 for the Indians, and 1978 for the Padres) and a five-time All-Star over a 22-year Hall of Fame career. The crafty right-hander won 314 games and posted a career 3.11 ERA while playing for the Giants, Indians, Rangers, Padres, Yankees, Braves, Mariners and Royals. 

Perry's 3,000th strikeout came on Oct. 1, 1978 -- his final start that season -- when he fanned the Dodgers' Joe Simpson in the eighth inning of a 4-3 Padres victory. Perry was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Bob Gibson: July 17, 1974

Career total: 3,117

All-time rank: 14th

Years played: 1959-1975

Gibson was an intimidating presence on the mound, overpowering hitters during the decade of the 1960s with a fastball he wasn't afraid to throw inside. The right-hander was a legendary postseason hurler, winning two World Series MVP awards with the Cardinals (1964 and '67). In nine career World Series starts (three vs. Yankees in 1964, three vs. the Red Sox in '67, and three vs. the Tigers in '68), Gibson's ERA was 1.89.

Overall, Gibson posted a 2.91 ERA in a 17-year Major League career, winning two NL Cy Young Awards (1968 and '70) and being selected to nine All-Star teams. In '68, he turned in one of the greatest seasons by a starting pitcher in baseball history en route to being named the NL MVP, posting a 1.12 ERA with 268 strikeouts in 34 starts. He was also an excellent fielder at his position, winning nine Gold Glove Awards.

Cesar Geronimo of the Reds, who would become the 3,000th strikeout in Nolan Ryan's career six years later, was Gibson's 3,000th as well. The strikeout -- which made Gibson the second member of the 3,000-K club and first in 51 years, came in the second inning on July 17, 1974 at Busch Stadium. Gibson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.

Walter Johnson: July 22, 1923

Career total: 3,508

All-time rank: 9th

Years played: 1907-1927

Johnson became the inaugural member of the 3,000-strikeout club on July 22, 1923, when he reached the milestone against the Indians in Cleveland. The right-hander was a member of the first Hall of Fame class inducted in 1936, along with Ty Cobb, Christy Matthewson, Honus Wagner and Babe Ruth. 

Spending his entire 21-year career with the Washington Senators, Johnson's fastball was dominant for two decades, resulting in the right-hander leading the Majors in strikeouts seven times, and the AL five times. Pitching before the Cy Young Award existed, Johnson was a two-time AL MVP, winning the honor in 1913 (1.14 ERA, 11 shutouts) and 1924 (2.72 ERA, six shutouts), when he helped lead the Senators to a World Series title. He also had the lowest ERA in the Majors five times, and the lowest in the AL in 1924.