30th Anniversary of Clemens 20 K's

mauidano

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Will this ever happen again? And to think Roger did it twice! Were any of the SoSH family there that night and what do you remember?
 

Kliq

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My dad was at the game, has the ticket and the front page of the Globe hanging up in our basement. IIRC, the game didn't get that much publicity because it took place on the same night as the legendary Bird/Nique duel.

Edit: Nevermind. There was a Celtics playoff game that night but not the Bird/Nique game.
 

pedro1918

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I was a senior is high school. I was watching with my father. It was apparent pretty quickly that something special was happening that night. The first 20K game was so much better than the second. In 1986, he was just blowing guys away. 10 years later, while still great, it seemed like hitters were getting fooled by his splitter in the dirt.

I went to more games at Fenway that summer than any other summer. Bleacher seats were three bucks and my brother and I went almost every night. Good times.
 

Just a bit outside

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I remember listening to the game on the radio on the way home from my own game, I was 15, and getting home around the seventh inning. I ran inside to watch the game hoping it was on channel 38. Unfortunately it was on NESN which was a premium channel that my parents would not purchase. I sat down and watched the game through the scrambled signal. Maybe the only time I did that except for porn. Kids today have all the advantages.
 

grimshaw

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I was listening to Joe Castig and Ken Coleman at the kitchen table with an old transistor radio.
My parents got NESN later that year because of how must see TV he had become.
Ya, finally having Nickelodeon was fine and all, but I became a lifetime fan that year.
I was so disappointed when he fell to 14-1.
 

Dan Murfman

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I was at UConn at the time and went to the bar to watch Whalers/Habs game 7 but started focusing on Clemens as it was apparent he was doing something special.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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The Clemens game was pretty amazing, I remember walking into middle school the next day and more kids were talking about that than the Celtics playoff game that occurred on the same night. Even my Spanish teacher was a buzz about Clemens (I think that she had a crush on him). From there Clemens' popularity rocketed (pun INTENDED!). After that, every Clemens game was an event and when he dominated the All-Star game and got to 14-0, he was probably the biggest Boston sports star of that year. Which is saying something considering Wade Boggs and Jim Rice were his teammates, Ray Bourque was entering his peak years on the Bruins, the Pats had just gone to the Super Bowl and Larry Bird was leading the Celtics to another championship.

People forget that Don Baylor's misplay at first gave Clemens another shot at a strike out, which got him the record and that Dewey hit a three-run bomb.

And that 1986 Seattle Mariners team is my favorite crappy baseball team of all time: Hendu, Danny Tartabull, Spike Owen, Gorman Thomas, Phil Bradley, Jim Pressley, Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds. In the pre-Internet days, they were that mysterious Pacific Northwest team that I barely knew anything about except that they all swung out of their shoes.
 

ifmanis5

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Didn't have NESN so I listened on the radio. Don't remember it as well as I usually remember things. I produced his other 20 K game vs. the Tigers for SportsCenter. Linda gave it a good read.

1986 had more epic Boston sports ups and downs than any other year. Just two months earlier Hagler KO'd Mugabi to retain his belt, yet just two months later Len Bias was drafted (and it looked like the Celtics would never lose again) then sadly two days later he died and it felt like the world had ended. That was only a prelude to the roller coaster Angels and Mets series. Best of times, worst of times.
 

brandonchristensen

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Boy he really doesn't come to the set when he's pitching with someone on.

I was at the game when he got 2000 I THINK. Any way to find out which game that was? I was in Boston summer of '93 with my dad and brother and we saw 4 games and they lost all of them. I think 2-3 of them were Yankees (definitely yanks because Bernie threw a ball to me and my bro and it bounced off my brothers hand and some douche bag took it...from two kids).
 

SoxInTheMist

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I was flipping through the channels at the time. I think it was in between commercials for the Celtics playoff game but I could be wrong. Anyway, when I flipped to the Red Sox game Roger had just struck someone out and the crowd was going crazy. I immediately knew there was something different going on about this game. I could tell just by the crowd reaction that there was something special going on. And it was only mid-game at that point. Needless to say, the channel didn't flip back to the Celtics until #20 was in the books.
 

BaseballJones

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Will this ever happen again? And to think Roger did it twice! Were any of the SoSH family there that night and what do you remember?
Never, ever came to a set.

Absolutely painting the outside corner with both the fastball and the curve.

I wish we had radar guns and speed displays back then. How hard was he throwing? Probably 94-96 maybe? I'm pretty sure he didn't get it up to 97. All I know is that they weren't touching him at whatever velocity he had that night.
 

Philip Jeff Frye

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I still have this issue somewhere. Stole it from my brother's collection. He's a Yankee fan, so fuck him. IIRC, Harold Reynolds was # 20.
Still have that copy of SI and I have a VHS tape of the game from a NESN rebroadcast of the telecast during the All Star Break that year. Of course, I no longer have a VCR...
 

snowmanny

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I was in school in NYC. They didn't believe that he was going to be better than Gooden. Oh the told you sos one never gets to tell.
 

Dan Murfman

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I was in school in NYC. They didn't believe that he was going to be better than Gooden. Oh the told you sos one never gets to tell.
I went to the Stadium mid June on a Friday night that year and Clemens pitched a complete game 4 hitter to get to 12-0. We were leaving chanting Dwight who?
 

8slim

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My father had gotten a deal from the cable company for NESN, so we subscribed for the first time that season. I was 12 and just happened to score the game that night, so I was keenly aware as the Ks started piling up.

My bedtime was 9:30pm back then and my father was very strict about it, so I pleaded with him to let me listen to the end of the game in bed on my Walkman radio. I vividly remember fist pumping when Dewey hit the homer to take the lead -- there was a real fear that Clemens would lose a historic game 1-0!

I was a big Sox fan at that point but the '86 team pushed me from fan to obsessed. What a great ride that year was, and the Clemens game was really when it began.
 

Marbleheader

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I remember my brother and I rifling through our 1985 Topps cards to see how many Clemens cards we had. I was sure they were going to pay for my first car. They still haven't appreciated in value in the 30 years since.
 

Ramon AC

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What?
I never noticed the coming set thing before. Pretty sure he balked his way through the game. Was this not enforced back then?
Not until the rule was clarified in 1988, the Year of the Balk. The rule was changed back and the number of balks per year normalized after 1988, but I think pitcher behavior changed and sets became more deliberate and the pause more pronounced.
 

StuckOnYouk

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I was at UConn at the time and went to the bar to watch Whalers/Habs game 7 but started focusing on Clemens as it was apparent he was doing something special.
I was devastated when the Whale lost that night - went to OT if I remember in game 7 and then Montreal won it all after that. if the Whale wins that game maybe they win the stanley cup championship and never leave Hartford!

Anyway the Clemens 20K game made the night a lot better. I was flipping back and forth and was watching one of those two games through the lines, can't remember if it was the Whale on sportschannel or Clemens on NESN.
 

joyofsox

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Boy he really doesn't come to the set when he's pitching with someone on.

I was at the game when he got 2000 I THINK. Any way to find out which game that was? I was in Boston summer of '93 with my dad and brother and we saw 4 games and they lost all of them. I think 2-3 of them were Yankees (definitely yanks because Bernie threw a ball to me and my bro and it bounced off my brothers hand and some douche bag took it...from two kids).
He struck out 2,033 batters from 1984 through 1993.

Counting backwards through his 1993 starts, I think he got #2,000 on August 11, 1993 at Fenway. Red Sox lost, 8-3.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS199308110.shtml
 

strek1

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I was devastated when the Whale lost that night - went to OT if I remember in game 7 and then Montreal won it all after that. if the Whale wins that game maybe they win the stanley cup championship and never leave Hartford!

Anyway the Clemens 20K game made the night a lot better. I was flipping back and forth and was watching one of those two games through the lines, can't remember if it was the Whale on sportschannel or Clemens on NESN.
I was never a hockey fan and was pissed when WTIC broadcast the Whalers instead of the Sox. NESN wasn't an option on our cable at the time so radio was all I had. Glad that NESN ended up re-broadcasting it in a edited version later that the local TV picked up. I video taped it and I still have it.
 

HriniakPosterChild

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I never noticed the coming set thing before. Pretty sure he balked his way through the game. Was this not enforced back then?
It was an AL thing, and Whitey Herzog about blew a gasket when his Cardinals played (and lost to) the Twins in the World Series in 1987. Some "reporter" asked him in a postgame if he thought the lack of a discernible stop was harder on the batter or the runner. Herzog replied that he didn't have to answer stupid questions.

In 1988 after the rule change, Clemens balked three times on Opening Day. On that day, he threw a mere 135 pitches through 9 innings, so he must have gotten good and stretched out in the Grapefruit League. Those were different times.

Gordon Edes recalls the 20K game here.

“People are texting me, saying, ‘Do you remember what you were doing 30 years ago tonight?’’ Clemens said.

“I say, ‘Yeah, I was in full panic mode on Storrow Drive, stuck in traffic.’’

Unlike some pitchers, who arrive hours before their scheduled start, Clemens preferred a different routine. He was one of the first pitchers to keep a notebook on opposing hitters, so he’d already done his advance study long before coming to the park. On days he pitched, Clemens liked to arrive a little later at the clubhouse, grab his clothes, and head back to the trainers’ room.

Only this night, trouble. Traffic was at a standstill on Storrow Drive. Clemens believes there was a concert in the vicinity. The Celts were also hosting Atlanta in a playoff game at the Garden. Cars were inching forward a length or two every 10 minutes. Clemens said he was still a mile, mile and a half away from the ballpark. “I could see the Citgo sign,’’ he said, “but we weren’t moving.’’

Clemens, dressed in jeans, T-shirt and cowboy boots, got out of his car. He popped the trunk to fetch his running shoes. “I was going to jog to the park,’’ he said.

Then, serendipity. A motorcycle cop came by, saw the trunk was open, assumed the car had broken down. Then he spotted the driver.

“He said, ‘Aren’t you…?’’’ Clemens said. “With his help, we got to the ballpark. I rolled into the clubhouse around 6:55 (a little more than half an hour before first pitch). “Fish said he was ready to scratch me from the start.

“I ran down to the bullpen, and I don’t think I threw a strike. I had a temple headache, too. I had about a minute and a half of peace and quiet during the anthem. Until then I was just flying around.’’
I had never been any kind of a baseball fan before that night, but the news in the next day's Globe that there was a man my age in my town who was rewriting the AL record book got my attention. When the Sox got the lead in extras in Game 6, I was delighted that on my first year as a Red Sox fan, I was going to see them win a World Series, and not once, but three times (because of the ghosts in the OTA TV reception in my Back Bay apartment). I've repressed the rest of it.
 
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brandonchristensen

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jaytftwofive

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I was watching Celtics-Hawks game 2. Celtics blew a big lead and I think the Hawks cut it to 6 or 4. My friend calls me up and tells me Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters. When the Celtic game was secure my dad and I switched to Sports Center. I live in the Philly area but I am a native of Mass. That game started one of the most fun years in Red Sox history. Most of the experts had the Sox no better then 4th or 5th. We all forget how much fun the summer of 86 was. They took over first on May 15th and never gave it up. We know the nightmare ending at Shea but any Sox fan will tell you how we loved that team.We survived Injuries to Hurst and Nipper. Boyd's suspension for 2 or 3 weeks. And we still won the East. That may have been my favorite Red Sox summer.
 

JimD

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Clemens 20-K game marked the reawakening of my Red Sox fandom. Sullivan and LeRoux had really turned me off of being a Red Sox fan after casually destroying those great 1970's teams. Between work, getting married and college, I'd had tuned those blah early-80's Sox teams out. To the extent I paid attention to sports, it was the Big Three Celtics teams that I followed. My buddy at work had talked about Clemens before then but he was coming back from injury and I was all 'Yeah, whatever, must be something wrong with him if the Sox got him'. That game woke me up and got me following the team again on a daily basis. Everyone these days mostly thinks of Game 6 when they think of that '86 team but that was a heck of a ride and I've been on the bandwagon through thick and thin ever since (although the Butch Hobson era surely tested me).
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

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And that 1986 Seattle Mariners team is my favorite crappy baseball team of all time: Hendu, Danny Tartabull, Spike Owen, Gorman Thomas, Phil Bradley, Jim Pressley, Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds. In the pre-Internet days, they were that mysterious Pacific Northwest team that I barely knew anything about except that they all swung out of their shoes.
During the Clemens/Nipper drunken interview with Lobel after they clinched the AL East they were showing a clip of the strikeout pitches for the 20 guys with Nipper commenting with each one with "sit down", "see ya", etc. When they showed either a Owen or Hendu K (or both) he said something along the lines of "hey, he plays for us". I'm most likely butchering the line since it's 30 years ago and I was sitting in a dorm room a few drinks in myself but it was pretty amusing.

Speaking of that interview, I can't find a video of it anywhere. Does anyone know if it exists out on the interwebs?
 

gryoung

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I was in town for the Celts playoff game that night and met my buddy at the Penalty Box on Causeway Street (remember that place?). The Sox game was on the TV and we watched for a while before heading into the gahden. What a night for local sports.

I'm pretty sure Whitey was a known guy at the PB. Lots of funky stuff seemed to go on behind the bar.
 

lexrageorge

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I was in college in upstate New York at the time; generally painful to be a Boston sports fan at that time. The Bruins, after a fine regular season with Pete Peters in net, had been eliminated from the playoffs by the Islanders 3 years prior, and were annual fodder for the Canadiens, including a 3 game sweep earlier that April. The Pats went from laughing stock to appearing in the Super Bowl then back to laughing stock after getting crushed in a game that was not nearly as close as the 46-10 score would indicate. And the Red Sox had not been relevant since 1982, when they were tied for first place as late as August 2nd before eventually falling to the Brewers.

Since then, it had been all downhill: Yaz had retired; Eck, Lynn and Fisk were long gone, leaving only Rice, Evans and closer Bob Stanley from the "almost great" teams of the mid-to-late 1970's. Every promising young pitcher that the Red Sox had brought up through the organization seemed to have flamed out or been traded away: John Tudor had pitched the Cardinals to the World Series the prior season; Bobby Ojeda had been flipped for young Mets prospects after 5 mostly underwhelming seasons, and would go on to win 18 games for the Mets in 1986. Bruce Hurst was still around, and slated to be the team's #1 starter that season. And while he had shown flashes and even stretches of brilliance, over the prior couple of seasons, noone was really sure he would ever overcome his control issues that had once led to an infamous confrontation with Don Zimmer.

When Seattle came to town in April of 1986, it would have been hard to find a more under the radar team than the 1986 Red Sox. The Sox were 9-8 and 3 games behind a New York Yankees team was appeared to be running away with the division after a white hot 13-6 start. The Sox lineup looked like it would be OK: the Red Sox were 3rd in runs scored the prior season, and returned most of the same lineup. Wade Boggs was one of the league's best hitters and in the prime of his Hall of Fame career. Jim Rice was no longer the "most feared hitter", but was consistently good for an 0.800 OPS. Dwight Evans was in the middle of his late career offensive prime, and was an obvious plus defender in RF. Rich Gedman was firmly established as the Sox catcher, and was coming off his first All Star appearance. Bill Buckner had just become the 4th player all time to reach the 200 hit milestone in both leagues. And, to take advantage of the LF in Fenway, the Sox traded popular DH Mike Easler for the right handed Don Baylor in one of the few trades between the Red Sox and Yankees. But the pitching staff was a big question mark. Besides Hurst and Clemens, the rotation consisted of the combustible Oil Can Boyd, a big unknown despite winning 15 games the prior season; Al Nipper, a one time promising right hander who slumped in 1985; and Mike Brown, another one time promising youngster who had been rushed from AA to the major league team in 1982 and had since struggled. The bullpen had been revamped somewhat. Former closer Mark Clear the Bases had long since exhausted the patience of fans and the manager with his propensity to walk batter after batter, and had been traded to Milwaukee for utility infielder Ed Romero. Bruce Kison, famous around town for a memorable confrontation with Toronto's George Bell after Bell was hit by a pitch, had retired. Young shortstop Jackie Guitierrez, after 2 poor seasons both at the plate and in the field, was traded for Sammy Stewart. Lefty Joe Sambito was signed as a free agent after having been released by the Mets. And it was hoped that at least one of the young pitchers acquired from the Mets would be able to help out later that season. Meanwhile, across town, the region's one true bright spot in the sports radar, the Boston Celtics, coming off a 67 win season after acquiring Bill Walton, were playing the Atlanta Hawks in an opening round playoff series widely expected to be a formality.

The Red Sox had come off a split of a 2 game series in Kansas City, a perennial house of horrors for the Sox. Al Nipper had just outdueled World Series hero and defending Cy Young winner Brett Saberhagen to bring his ERA down to 2.14. The lineup was off to a somewhat slow start: Rice has struggling at the plate despite 3 HR's. Evans had only 1 home run, that one being the first at bat of the season. Buckner was off to a slow start and dealing with ankle issues. And CF Tony Armas was terrible. On the bright side, Baylor had 4 HR's, including a grand slam; Gedman looked to be headed for a 2nd All Star appearance; and Boggs was Boggs. Both Boyd and Hurst had been inconsistent; Bob Stanley had blown a save against the Tigers in Detroit. An early 4 game winning streak was halted by the Tigers. After Clemens won his 3rd start in a row, the Sox would lose to the Tigers, once again haunted by long time nemesis Frank Tanana. After a listless 6-0 loss in Kansas City, the Sox were once again at 0.500. The game following the aforementioned win against Saberhagen was rained out, and so the Sox had a rare 2 days off when the resumed play in Fenway on April 29th against the Mariners.

Even Clemens was under the radar going into that game. He was certainly highly touted when he appeared as a 21 year old rookie in 1984, but experienced the typical rookie adjustments and inconsistencies. He raised some eyebrows when he struck out 15 and 11 in back to back games in August, before being shut down for the month of September after experience shoulder discomfort. After a promising start in 1985, he spent time on and off the DL, striking out only 15 batters in his final 38 innings. Turns out the was dealing with an undiagnosed torn labrum, which required season ending surgery from little known Dr. James Andrews that August. Clemens was ramped up slowly in spring training, and was #4 starter after Hurst, Oil Can Boyd, and Al Nipper. He walked 5 batters in his first start, a win against the White Sox. He had then won his following 2 starts, including one against the Tigers where he had struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings. So, while the 3-0 start was promising, noone really knew what to expect from Clemens going forward.

That game would end up as the 2nd game of a stretch where the Sox would win 12 of 14 to take over first place. They would take over first place for good on May 16th. Clemens would win 14 of his first 15 starts, and would pitch 3 hitless innings in the All Star game, which would also feature his first major league at bat. He would only pitch once against the Yankees that season, a 10-1 victory against Sox nemesis Ron Guidry in a key series in the old Yankee Stadium that would end in a Red Sox sweep. And the rest of the story of that team has been well chronicled elsewhere.
 

Harry Hooper

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Even Clemens was under the radar going into that game. He was certainly highly touted when he appeared as a 21 year old rookie in 1984, but experienced the typical rookie adjustments and inconsistencies. He raised some eyebrows when he struck out 15 and 11 in back to back games in August, before being shut down for the month of September after experience shoulder discomfort. After a promising start in 1985, he spent time on and off the DL, striking out only 15 batters in his final 38 innings. Turns out the was dealing with an undiagnosed torn labrum, which required season ending surgery from little known Dr. James Andrews that August. Clemens was ramped up slowly in spring training, and was #4 starter after Hurst, Oil Can Boyd, and Al Nipper. He walked 5 batters in his first start, a win against the White Sox. He had then won his following 2 starts, including one against the Tigers where he had struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings. So, while the 3-0 start was promising, noone really knew what to expect from Clemens going forward.
Yeah, Roger's 1985 injury and shutdown had put him into an odd status with the team. Once very highly-touted, he had gone from the next great Red Sox starter to a man in limbo. As he proceeded to lay waste to the AL in 1986, it was as if the bulk of Sox fans finally took notice of his talents: he was voted the 10th Player Award for that season.

Listening on radio to that game, as someone mentioned above one of the most prominent memories was worrying that he was going to get the L since the Sox trailed most of the way.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Yeah, Roger's 1985 injury and shutdown had put him into an odd status with the team. Once very highly-touted, he had gone from the next great Red Sox starter to a man in limbo. As he proceeded to lay waste to the AL in 1986, it was as if the bulk of Sox fans finally took notice of his talents: he was voted the 10th Player Award for that season.

Listening on radio to that game, as someone mentioned above one of the most prominent memories was worrying that he was going to get the L since the Sox trailed most of the way.
It was a 0-0 game into the seventh. Clemens gave up a solo shot to Gorman Thomas in the top of the inning, then Dewey hit a three-run shot in the bottom of the inning accounting for all the scoring in the game. Clemens afterwards credited the close score of the game with him racking up the Ks, acknowledging he'd have been pitching differently had he been up by five runs early.
 

Harry Hooper

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It was a 0-0 game into the seventh. Clemens gave up a solo shot to Gorman Thomas in the top of the inning, then Dewey hit a three-run shot in the bottom of the inning accounting for all the scoring in the game. Clemens afterwards credited the close score of the game with him racking up the Ks, acknowledging he'd have been pitching differently had he been up by five runs early.
Whoops, I did remember it was Gorman Thomas who had homered. Clemens won 14 straight that year, but it took him quite a while to get a shutout as he gave up a homer in virtually every start for a while.
 

drbretto

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I was too young to see it live, but I've seen the game on ESPN Classic a few times. It's the most dominant pitching performance I've ever seen, and I did see Pedro's 17k game. I'll let your guys argue which one was more technically impressive (1999 Yankees were definitely a tougher opponent than the 1986 Seattle Mariners), but this was the biggest Man vs. Boys performance I've ever seen. They never had a chance and they knew it early.
 

EllisTheRimMan

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I went to the home start right before his 20 K game. Nobody was there so we got down to 1st row 1B by the 2nd inning. I think the game was against Detroit and he struck at 10 that night which had the stadium and town buzzing that he might as good as advertised.

For the 20K night I was in my apt on beacon street and listened on the radio either because I had a term paper due the next day or cause the game wasn't on 38. Anyway, as he got to the 17th or 18th K, I turned the radio way down, opened the window and even though I was several blocks away from Fenway I could hear the crowd roar on his 18th or 19th K.

I thought about going down to the park to try and get in but I hadn't started my paper due the next day until around 7/8 pm even though it was assigned in January... So... Yeah I was pulling an all nighter already and not knowing whether that was going to be enough time as is. That season in Boston was magical, until the end.
 

glasspusher

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Mi hermano mayor moved from NJ to the Boston area in Dec 1985, and was at that game. There was a Celtics playoff game that night, thus low attendance. I didn't listen to the game back in NJ, but he woke me from a sound sleep when he got back to tell me about it. I'll never forget. Even half awake, I asked "how many walks?" Zero. Ah, back when I liked Roger...