You can read about this 20-strikeout game by Roger Clemens in his impressive 1986 season at length here, in a Boston Globe retrospective 20 years later. In the aftermath, Clemens said something that sounds funny now, with his position as a Hall of Famer in quite a bit of doubt: “I’m in the Hall of Fame,” the 23-year-old Red Sox pitcher said yesterday in his soft Texas accent, again and again. “That’s something nobody can take away from me now.”
Clemens gave an interesting description, especially considering what happened with him and Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series, of the dream he had about the drunk man who ran across the field in the fourth inning of the 20-strikeout game: “I dreamed the guy came after me and I decked him. Then after the game the police came and took me away for taking his head off.”
Clemens said this too, about Nolan Ryan, who’d sent him a congratulatory telegram: “I’ve always loved the feel of a strikeout and always admired hard throwers. I remember the sound Ryan’s fastball made when it hit the glove. But the thing that stayed with me as well is how he would concentrate on using his legs to drive the ball across the plate and how he would try to use his breaking ball to set up a hitter.”
In the midst of the glow of media attention after his game, which pretty much launched him into full stardom, Clemens said of the attention: “It’s really no more pressure than I put on myself. I’ve always been hard on myself. I’ve always been a disciplined worker. I’ve always felt that if I ever became satisfied, I’d be a loser. I’ve always wanted to have it all on the line, to savor the moment. If I start to feel pressure, I go out and run to the point where I’m so physically and mentally tired that I fall into bed and can’t think of anything else.”
Meanwhile, Mariner Manager Chuck Cottier, who’d seen his team set a few records for striking out in the young season already, said: “I’m getting awful tired of history. Not Big Cy (Young), not Big Walter (Johnson), not anyone ever struck out 20 men in nine innings. Just one guy, only one. Tonight. Against us.”
Boston Manager John McNamara said: “I nearly had a heart attack. We are trying to be careful with Roger after his shoulder surgery last year. But I saw Catfish Hunter and Mike Witt throw their perfect games and I can tell you this is the most awesome performance of pitching I have ever seen.”
The funny thing is that in his account of the game, Bob Finnigan with the Seattle Times said of Clemens’ record: “It may not stand past tonight. Seattle faces Red Sox left-hander Bruce Hurst. Hurst was second in the league with 33 strikeouts in 27 innings, six behind [Jose] Rijo who got 30 of his 39 against, yep, the Mariners.” Hurst had 16 strikeouts in that game, and the Mariners’ 36 Ks in back-to-back games set another major league record. Read about Clemens’ rookie year, 1984, here.