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30 years ago, Roger Clemens made history by striking out 20 Mariners

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On April 29, 1986, a 23-year-old hurler by the name of Roger Clemens took the mound at Fenway Park and did something nobody had ever done before: Strike out 20 batters in one game.

Clemens' opponents that evening were the Seattle Mariners -- specifically the following players who probably had no idea what they were in for:

  1. Spike Owen
  2. Phil Bradley
  3. Ken Phelps
  4. Gorman Thomas
  5. Jim Presley
  6. Ivan Calderon
  7. Danny Tartabull
  8. Dave Henderson
  9. Steve Yeager

Looking back, this game meant a lot for the narrative surrounding Clemens at the time. After going 16-9 with a 3.88 ERA over his first two seasons with the Sox in 1984 and 1985, Clemens underwent shoulder surgery and was very much a question mark as he looked to earn a long-term place in Boston.

Faced with some uncertainty regarding his future, Clemens' outing that night was simply brilliant. He did allow three hits and one earned run in a game Boston won, 3-1, but that's not really the lasting memory of the night.

Instead, all anyone remembers are images such as this, over and over and over all night long:

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For his efforts, Clemens made history as the only pitcher to strike out 20 hitters in a nine-inning game.

It'd happen again in the future, of course, by Clemens himself a decade later during his final year with the Red Sox:

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Cubs rookie Kerry Wood is the only non-Clemens pitcher credited with a 20-strikeout nine-inning game, having done it on May 6, 1998, against the Astros at just 20 years of age. It's still a mystery to most physicists just how Wood managed to get the baseball do to this all afternoon at Wrigley Field, much to Houston's chagrin: 

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As for the impact of Clemens' big night in '86, he went on to help the Sox reach the World Series by going 24-4, winning the first of his seven Cy Young awards and being named American League MVP.

So far this season, Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez has set the bar for pitchers with a thoroughly impressive 16-strikeout effort against the Padres. Will there be another 20-strikeout game in the future?

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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