Baseball historians will now debate whether former Lake Elsinore Storm pitcher, Reiss Knehr, is the most recent pitcher to start both games of a doubleheader.
Knehr, who pitched for the Storm in 2019 and for the San Diego Padres during part of 2021, started the Padres’ game July 21 in Atlanta. That game was suspended due to unsuitable weather and continued before the Padres’ regularly scheduled Sept. 24 home game against Atlanta. Knehr was the starting pitcher for the second game as well as for the first game which was completed that day.
It is thus disputed whether Knehr actually started both games of a doubleheader. If he is credited with such a feat, he became the first major league pitcher to do so since Wilbur Wood, who was with the Chicago White Sox in 1973. On July 20 of that year Wood allowed the first six New York Yankees batters to reach base in the first game and was pulled for a reliever. Since he threw only 26 pitches White Sox manager Chuck Tanner used Wood as the starting pitcher for the second game.
The last National League pitcher before Knehr to start both games of a doubleheader also wore a Padres uniform. Preston Gomez was the manager of the Padres May 26, 1971, and with the Houston Astros placing left-handed hitters in the lineup Gomez had right-handed Al Santorini pitch to one batter before replacing him with left-hander Dave Roberts (before the Padres needed middle initials for each of the three players named Dave Roberts they’ve had). Santorini also started the second game and threw six innings.
Burt Shotton was the Dodgers’ manager Sept. 6, 1950, when Don Newcombe threw a shutout in the first game of the doubleheader. Shotton decided that Newcombe’s success in the first game merited him starting the nightcap. Newcombe threw seven innings in the second game before being lifted for a pinch-hitter.
Negro Leagues pitchers likely threw two complete games in a doubleheader, but the last American League or National League pitcher to do so was Jake Scott in 1927. Scott was with the Phillies and the doubleheader was played in Cincinnati. Because the Reds won the second game, there was no bottom of the ninth inning and Scott threw 17 innings that day. The last pitcher to throw two nine-inning complete games as well as the last starting pitcher to win both games of a doubleheader was Dutch Levsen, who was pitching for the Indians in 1926.
Knehr would be the 104th pitcher, not including Negro League hurlers, to start both games of a major league doubleheader since the American League became a major league in 1901. National League or American League pitchers started both games of a doubleheader 29 times between 1901 and 1909. The Federal League was a major league in 1914 and 1915, and the same pitcher started both ends of a doubleheader 15 times from 1910 to 1915. Another 28 doubleheaders from 1916 to 1919 had the same starting pitcher. The feat occurred 20 times from 1920 through 1929, five times during the 1930s, and twice during the 1940s. In 1950 right-handed Giants pitcher Monte Kennedy, who was the last pitcher before Newcombe to start both games of a doubleheader, threw to one batter in the first game and pitched all nine innings in the second game.
The Padres selected Knehr in the 20th round of the 2018 draft, and in the minor leagues that year he started one game and relieved in 19. He spent 2019 with the Storm, appearing in 12 games as a starter and five as a reliever. His record with the Storm was 3-5 with one save. In 66-1/3 innings he compiled a 5.42 earned run average and struck out 83 opponents while walking 28 and hitting three others.
Knehr made his major league debut July 9 in San Diego, when he started and threw 3-2/3 innings against the Colorado Rockies. He was returned to the minors the following day but recalled July 21 when he threw 1-2/3 innings against the Braves. Knehr had one start and six relief appearances in August. The Sept. 24 full game against the Braves was Knehr’s 10th career major league appearance and fourth career start, and the four innings he pitched became a major league high for him.
Joe Naiman can be reached by email at email@example.com.