Today in 1986, Roger Clemens struck out 20 Seattle Mariners for a 3-1 victory. Going into that evening, Boston fans were focusing more on the Larry Bird and the Celtics, who were on their way to their 16th NBA title, and facing the “Human Highlight Film” Dominique Wilkins and the Atlanta Hawks.
But, Clemens struck out the first 3 batters he faced. Then he struck out 2 in the next inning. He went on to be the first pitcher in Major League Baseball to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game. He broke Steve Carlton, of the St. Louis Cardinals, record of 19 strikeouts in a nine-inning game, which was set in 1969 and duplicated by the Mets’ Tom Seaver in 1970 and the California Angels’ Nolan Ryan in 1974.
Future Red Sox player, Spike Owen was strikeout victim number nineteen and Phil Bradley was number twenty. Boston Red Sox trainer Charlie Moss said in the dugout after those two historic Ks to starter Bruce Hurst, “We should get the ball to save it.” Hurst replied, “You don’t have to, that ball ain’t going anywhere” and he was correct as Ken Phelps grounded out to end this legendary game. Kerry Wood and Randy Johnson each recorded 20-strikeout games after Clemens. However, Clemens repeated the feat 10 years later on September 18, 1996, in a game against the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium.
However, Roger Clemens’ reputation is now tainted since his name came up in the Mitchell Report, which alleged he used performance-enhancing drugs during the 1998-2001 seasons.
Reference: Baseball Almanac