Memories abound as another homestand starts

There are certain dates that stick out in Red Sox history. April 29, 1986 falls into that category.

That was 25 years ago tonight, against the same opponent that is at Fenway tonight. That was the night Roger Clemens became the Rocket. It was the night a Red Sox team that was projected to be mediocre began to take on the feel of something special.

The 20-strikeout performance was one of the most breathtaking performances in history. I remember watching it on TV. I was 14 at the time and completely mesmerized by what I was watching. The Red Sox had never had a pitcher like this in my lifetime, or maybe anyone’s life time.

Not only was Clemens striking the Mariners out, he was simply blowing the ball by all of them. They weren’t even coming close.

The Celtics were playing the Hawks at the Garden that night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semis, so there was just a modest crowd of 13,444 that filed into Fenway.

But by the late innings, the place began to sound electric, even from TV.

Do you remember the Red Sox actually trailed that game 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh? Mike Moore was nasty that night for Seattle. But Dwight Evans took care of him with a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh, and the night’s focus turned to the history that was unfolding.

Do you remember Don Baylor dropping the foul popup at first base? If he hadn’t dropped it, Clemens only strikes out 19.

Do you remember how young and thin Clemens was back then? It seemed like he would accomplish just about anything he wanted to in his career. Of course, there have been several twists and turns since then, but that’s not worth going into now.

That was a night that will live on, no matter what happened after. On the night of April 29, 1986, the two athletes that owned Boston were Larry Bird and Clemens. More people went to the Garden to watch Larry that night, but on that occasion, the big story unfolded at Fenway.

Here is the strikeout breakdown:

Phil Bradley whiffed four times; Ken Phelps, Ivan Calderon and Dave Henderson (remember him?) all K’d three times. Spike Owen and Jim Presley both struck out twice.  Gorman Thomas, Danny Tartabull and Steve Yeager each went down once.

2 Comments

This is a great story. I love how you wrote it. I like the use of questions to set up the important parts of the game. It makes me want to see this game right now. Baseball is such a unique sport.

You were 14, I was 17. I remember it the same way. The Red Sox were not really on my mind much with the dominant Celtics also having a playoff game that night. Still, fans of the Red Sox were given plenty of notice Clemens might become a very special player, so my family switched to that game now and then. As the night went on, the Celtics seemed in control of that game. Meanwhile we could tell Clemens was the guy worth focusing on more closely. Just as you said, the Celtics game ended and Clemens was mowing them down in the 7th inning. I hadn’t been so excited about a Red Sox game in so long! What I saw captured my imagination. Clemens went 24-4 that year and won the Cy Young award. I’d seen the Red Sox have decent starters in my lifetime, but never one who controlled the game like Roger. I was too young to appreciate Luis Tiant, and Pedro Martinez hadn’t come along yet. While I recalled the 1978 team (who should have won it all), this night was the first night in 1986 I had hope there might be a second chance.

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