Friday, June 20, 2014
Remembering Roger Clemens' 20-Strikeout Game: April 29th,1986
Roger Clemens shows off the ball he used in his 20-strikeout game.
On the night of Tuesday, April 29, 1986, 23-year-old righthander Roger Clemens took the mound at Fenway Park to little fanfare. It was just the 18th game of the season, and a mere 13,414 fans were sprinkled throughout the ballpark.
They had no idea that they were about to witness history. Nor did anyone else.
In fact, there was just one photographer stationed in the photographers' well on the first base side to record what was about to unfold.
There was good reason that no one was expecting anything special from Clemens that night; he was making just his fourth start since having arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder only eight months earlier.
The right-hander's torn labrum had healed quite well, but no one knew it at the time.
Midway through the 1985 season, Clemens's career was in danger of being derailed. His shoulder was hurting so much that he could barely lift his pitching arm, which limited him to pitching in just 15 games that season.
In August, Dr. James Andrews was enlisted to remove cartilage near Clemens' rotator cuff via arthroscopic surgery, which was a relatively new procedure at the time.
No one knew what would become of Clemens when the 1986 season rolled around.
But on this night, it was immediately clear that Clemens' shoulder was healthy and fully healed.
The hurler struck out the first three Mariners he faced, all swinging, and then fanned two of the three in the second inning.
Bob Costas recounts that magical evening here.
When it was all said and done, Clemens threw a complete game, allowing just one run on three hits.
But the main thing all 13, 414 fans in attendance would remember was that Clemens blew away the Mariners' hitters all night long.
The right hander made history that night, becoming the first pitcher in Major League history to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game.
Watch Clemens recount his history-making performance here.
But the fans weren't the only ones who were impressed that evening. Even the officials were amazed.
"Home plate umpire (Vic) Voltaggio told a batboy after the seventh inning, 'This is the best pitching performance I've ever seen,'" wrote Columnist Leigh Montville in Sports Illustrated.
Kerry Wood and Randy Johnson are the only other pitchers to strike out 20 batters in nine innings. But Clemens was the first, and he also accomplished the feat twice.
More than 10 years after his 20-strikeout mastery of Seattle, Clemens matched his legendary accomplishment on September 18, 1996 against Detroit, at Tiger Stadium.
This second 20-strikeout performance occurred in Clemens third-to-last game as a member of the Red Sox.