The Rocket continues to blaze
Roger Clemens' career statistics
Tuesday, July 5, 2005
Clemens' 20 Ks in 1986 set MLB record
By Bob Carter
Special to ESPN.com
April 29, 1986 - Roger Clemens accomplished what no strikeout pitcher had ever done before. Not Walter Johnson, not Bob Feller, not Sandy Koufax, not Nolan Ryan. The flame-throwing Boston Red Sox righthander became the first to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game.
Clemens had fanned 18 Seattle Mariners going into the ninth. Then he whiffed Spike Owen before striking out Phil Bradley for the fourth time to break the record of 19 set by Steve Carlton (1969) and matched by Tom Seaver (1970) and Ryan (1974). Boston's 3-1 victory ended with Clemens retiring Ken Phelps on a grounder.
"The Rocket" also tied the American League record of eight consecutive strikeouts (aided by first baseman Don Baylor's error on a foul pop during the streak). Amazingly, Clemens didn't walk a batter. He allowed only three hits, with Seattle's run coming on a Gorman Thomas homer. It was the 20th career victory for the 23-year-old Clemens, who was in his third season with Boston.
Clemens will duplicate his 20-strikeout, no-walk performance 10 years later, this time against the Detroit Tigers. It will be his 192nd, and last, victory for Boston.
Odds 'n' Ends
An all-state baseball player at Spring Woods High School, Clemens also lettered in football (defensive end) and basketball (center).
After an outstanding season at San Jacinto JC in 1981, Clemens was drafted by the Mets. He almost signed with them, finally rejecting their offer of about $30,000 and accepting a scholarship to Texas.
Clemens was an All-American at Texas, going 25-7 over two seasons. Calvin Schiraldi, who became a Boston teammate, was also in the Longhorns' pitching rotation and was named Baseball America's College Pitcher of the Year in 1983.
Clemens struck out 95 batters in 81 minor-league innings in 1983, spending time at Class A and AA. He fanned 50 in 39 innings the next year at AAA Pawtucket before being called up to the Red Sox.
In his first big-league start, on May 15, 1984 in Cleveland, Clemens gave up five early runs and got a no-decision in a 7-5 Boston loss. He won his next start, 5-4, in Minnesota, allowing four runs in seven innings.
Clemens, known as a strong family man, got married in November 1984, after his rookie season.
His wife Debbie, whom he had known since high school, once tried out for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. They have four sons - Koby, Kory, Kacy and Kody.
Hank Aaron didn't think Clemens should have won the AL's 1986 MVP, saying pitchers didn't deserve such an award. "I wish he were still playing," Clemens said. "I'd probably crack his head open to show him how valuable I was."
Clemens' seven shutouts led the AL in 1987 and a 16-3 finish helped him to a 20-9 record and a consecutive Cy Young Award.
He struck out 291 batters in 1988, setting a Red Sox record. Two years later he became the team's all-time strikeout leader, passing Cy Young.
Despite a 21-6 record and a major league-best 1.93 ERA, Clemens lost the 1990 Cy Young Award to Oakland's Bob Welch, a 27-game winner. He won his third Cy Young the next season, going 18-10, 2.62, leading the majors in innings pitched (271 1/3) and tying for the strikeout lead (241).
In 1993, he became the first Texas alumnus to have his number (21) retired.
Clemens, who had poor run support in his final Boston season of 1996, went 10-13, 3.63 despite a 6-2, 2.09 performance over his final 10 starts.
A free agent, he signed a three-year contract for $24 million with the Blue Jays. He led the majors in wins in both of his Toronto seasons, 21 in 1997 and 20 the next season.
He exercised an unusual out-clause in his contract to force a trade from Toronto before the 1999 season, believing the Jays weren't committed strongly enough to winning. The commissioner's office ruled the clause to be illegal.
But the Blue Jays dealt him anyway - to the Yankees for pitchers David Wells and Graeme Lloyd and infielder Homer Bush in February 1999.
The Mets beat Clemens and the Yankees 7-2 on June 6, 1999, ending his 20-game winning streak over two seasons.
On May 6, 2000, he beat Baltimore 3-1 to become the 39th pitcher to reach 250 victories.
Clemens beat the White Sox 6-3 on Sept. 19, 2001 in Chicago to become the first major league pitcher to start a season 20-1. He allowed five hits and two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings and got career victory No. 280.
Clemens is the only pitcher to start four Game 7s in the postseason. With Boston, he defeated the Angels in the 1986 ALCS; he was not involved in decisions in the 2001 World Series (Yankees lost to Arizona) and the 2003 ALCS (Yankees defeated Boston); and with the Astros, he lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS.
When Clemens signed an $18 million contract with Houston for 2005, it made him the highest paid pitcher for the fifth time, following deals with Boston in 1989 ($2.5 million average) and in 1991 ($5.38 million), with Toronto in December 1996 ($8.25 million) and with the Yankees in August 2000 ($15.45 million).
The pitcher has been involved in charity programs, especially those involving children, for almost his entire major league career. He was active in the creation of the "K for Kids" program while with the Blue Jays.
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