No, not this game of 10 years ago. Anybody can strike out 20 batters in a game. Or at least people named Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson. And Tom Cheney if you give him enough time.
But 40 years ago today, the Detroit Tigers, en route to a World Series title, tied a major league record by recording only 23 at bats while batting nine times in a game.
The game was played at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Dave Leonhard started for the Orioles against Joe Sparma of the Tigers. Leonhard threw a complete game one-hitter, but he also walked seven batters and hit two others. But the Tigers never came close to scoring and did just about everything possible to keep themselves from scoring as the Orioles won 4-0.
Inning 1 - Dick McAuliffe leads off with a walk and steals a second. Mickey Stanley comes up and hits into a fielder's choice as McAuliffe is thrown out at third. Stanley tries to steal second, but Curt Blefary throws him out. Al Kaline flies out. 2 AB
Inning 2 - Willie Horton leads off with a fly out. Bill Freehan walks. Jim Northrup grounds into a force out. Northrup then tries to steal second and is thrown out to end the inning. 2 AB
Inning 3 - Don Wert is hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and the next three batters strike out. 3 AB
Inning 4 - Stanley strikes out. Kaline walks. Horton strikes out and Kaline is thrown out trying to steal for a DP. 2 AB.
Inning 5 - Freehan is hit by a pitch. Northrup grounds into a DP. Wert flies out. 2 AB
Inning 6 - Dick Tracewski flies out. Pinch hitter Tom Matchick walks. McAuliffe grounds out and Matchick moves up. Stanley lines out. 3 AB.
Inning 7 - Kaline leads off with a walk and moves on to second on a passed ball by Blefary. Horton strikes out. Freehan flies out. Northrup singles to break up the no-hitter and Kaline goes to third. Wert grounds out. 4 AB.
Inning 8 - Eddie Mathews pinch hits and flies out. Norm Cash pinch hits and walks. McAuliffe flies out and Stanley hits into a force play to end the inning. 3 AB.
Going to the ninth, the Tigers are at 21 ABs. The chance of tying the mark of 23 will require some doing.
Inning 9 - Kaline grounds out. But, Leonhard delivers and he walks Horton. All that's left is for Freehan to hit into a DP and he complies 6-4-3. 2 AB.
Two other teams have managed to have just 23 ABs in a game. Cleveland did it on May 9, 1961 in a 4-2 loss at Chicago. The Indians drew six walks, had three sacrifices, and two sacrifice flies. They had no runners caught stealing, nor did they hit into a DP.
The other 23 AB game was in the AL and it occurred on May 6 as well, but back in 1917. In the second game of a doubleheader, the Chicago White Sox lost to the St. Louis Browns 3-0. Bob Groom of the Browns threw a no-hitter and walked three and hit a batter. The boxscore I found was incomplete, but the story mentioned that Groom faced only 28 batters. The White Sox hit into one double play and had one sacrifice. Caught stealings weren't an official stat then, so that would likely account for the missing ABs. Groom had also pitched the last 1 1/3 innings of the first game against the White Sox and didn't give up any hits then either.
Two brief asides: on May 5, 1917, Ernie Koob of the Browns had also thrown a no-hitter against the White Sox. And on May 2, 1917 Fred Toney of Cincinnati threw 10 no-hit innings to beat Hippo Vaughn of the Cubs who had thrown 9 no-hit innings before losing on a hit in the 10th.
The last team to make a run at the fewest AB record was on June 13, 2003 when the Pirates managed just 24 at bats in a 7-1 loss at Tampa Bay.