Stirrup-Wearing Roger Clemens Strikes Out 20 Batters: This Day in Sports History

Kyle Koster
SPX/Diamond Images/Getty Images
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Roger Clemens showed flashes of brilliance during his first two Major League seasons, compiling a 16-7 record and 3.88 ERA. The 22-year-old won his first three starts in 1986 and took the hill full of confidence 34 years ago tonight against a woeful Seattle Mariners club. It would prove to be the first of many explosive launches for Rocket.

Clemens fanned the side in order in the first and picked up two more in the second and one in the fourth. Then he ripped off a stretch where eight consecutive outs came via the strikeout, moving his in-game total to 14 through six innings.

With the MLB record of 19 firmly in reach, the fireballer notched two each in the seventh and eighth with impossibly unhittable stuff.

Clemens tied the mark by dusting Spike Owen and broke it by getting Phil Bradley looking for his historic 20th. His shot at 21 was thwarted by Ken Phelps, who grounded out, which turned out to be a seminal moment as it would impress George Steinbrenner enough to pull the trigger on a Jay Buhner trade that, to this day, haunts George Costanza.

As if accomplishing the 20-strikeout feat once wasn't impressive enough, Clemens would add another outing like this 10 years later against the Detroit Tigers. Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, and Max Scherzer are the only other pitchers to do it.

Consider that. Consider there have only ever been five 20-strikeout games in MLB history. There have been 18 four-homer games and 23 perfect games. Even in today's age where there's no shame in going down swinging or looking, it just doesn't happen.

Clemens would ride the momentum from his historic night to a Cy Young and an MVP that year, going 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA and 0.969 WHIP. He'd play 24 Major League seasons in total, winning 354 games and amassing an absurd 4,672 strikeouts.

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