Clemens did it with control
Walking no batters was an equally striking accomplishment
Five days later, the numbers still cause the eye to blink in disbelief: 20 strikeouts; no walks.
Roger Clemens' historic performance at Fenway Park Tuesday forever will be part of diamond lore. The event has inspired wonder and awe throughout the baseball world.
It won't go away. In the days and years to come, there will be thousands of discussions and arguments about where Clemens' feat ranks in baseball and sports history.
Is 20 strikeouts against the Seattle Mariners on an April evening better than Bob Gibson's 17 strikeouts in the daylight against the soon-to-be world champion Tigers in the first game of the 1968 World Series? What about Harvey Haddix' 12-inning perfect game? You can go on and on.
Those who wish to canonize Clemens will note that he did not hurl against any pitchers (Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver did in their 19-strikeout games), and that he broke the record without walking anyone.
Where the performance rates will always be debatable, but clearly, the chances of topping Clemens' feat are slim.
When you separate the conditions, the climate and the competition factors, it's easy to see why Clemens' numbers will be tough to beat.
The math is simple and staggering. The maximum number of strikeouts in a nine-inning game is 27 (unless we really want to get carried away and start talking about dropped third strikes). It took 111 years and almost 150,000 major league games to reach the 20 barrier. And Clemens got his 20 without sacrificing control. Millions of trees have fallen in the crush to record Clemens' deed, but not enough ink has been splashed to celebrate the zero walks that accompanied the 20 strikeouts.
While Clemens' Fan Festival will fuel hot stoves forever, the accomplishment has some immediate impact as well.
Boston's right-handed rocketman takes his 4-0 record and his 1.62 ERA to the mound this afternoon against the Oakland A's. It's Cap Day and Clemens Day, and the Red Sox are expecting a huge gate. Clemens needs 13 strikeouts to
break the two-game record held by Luis Tiant, Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden.
It would be appropriate if Clemens breaks a Gooden record today. Tuesday's outing brought national notoriety to Clemens, and the Sox hope he'll become the American League's answer to Dr. K. Dare we speculate on the chances of Clemens and Gooden starting the All-Star Game in Houston this summer?
Don't expect too much today. But when it's over, find a friend who subscribes to NESN, and at 8 p.m. tonight you can see Clemens set the record all over again. Store 24 sells blank videocassettes on Sunday.
Blustering Yankees owner George Steinbrenner cracked the whip on pitching coach Sammy Ellis after the Yanks lost a pair to the Indians last weekend. ''Sammy Ellis better get the bullpen going," said the Boss. "He'd better get it straightened out." Steinbrenner also ridiculed trusty relievers Dave Righetti and Brian Fisher. "Maybe Fisher and Righetti should go out with the vendors so no one can see them," the Boss said after Sunday's loss to Cleveland. "George doesn't realize what effect he has on us," said Righetti. ''That was a farce. The bullpen doesn't need to hear that. To get ripped like that for one game -- yeah, it bothers me." Is 42-year-old Tommy John the answer? John was a one-man taxi squad before he rejoined the Yanks Friday. After the end of spring training, John worked out in Fort Lauderdale and Columbus while the Yankees paid his expenses. John pitched in a simulated game against the Yanks Tuesday and got his once and future teammates out with ease. ''There's no question he can pitch," manager Lou Piniella said. Three days later, he was on the mound in Yankee Stadium . . . Don't be surprised if Reggie Jackson winds up his career with the Yankees next season. "Next year is it," says Reggie. "New York? It enters my mind, because I'll always be part of the Yankees." The 39-year-old Angel will be a free agent at the end of this season.
There's more trouble in Tigertown. The Detroit staff is on a pace that would yield 237 home runs. The 1964 Kansas City A's hold the American League record with 220 gopher balls. Since last July 3, Dan Petry is 6-7 with a 4.18 ERA. Going into his Friday start, Jack Morris was 9-7 with a 4.21 ERA since July 30. "I told Roger (Craig, former pitching coach) that all those fork balls might cause Petry and Morris to lose some of their velocity," said manager Sparky Anderson. The Tigers figure Morris and Petry will snap out of it, but they get especially nervous when Willie Hernandez gives up four hits and four earned runs in a third of an inning as he did against the Royals. Prior to last Aug. 5, Hernandez' Detroit career consisted of 53 saves in 58 save opportunities, a 15-7 record and a 1.91 ERA. Since Aug. 5 he's 3-7 with a 5.01 ERA and has 15 saves in 22 opportunities. He's blown his last two save opportunities. "We don't have anybody else," said Anderson. "I don't want to throw those kids out there into save situations and (Bill) Campbell has a bad elbow." Frank Tanana has been Detroit's savior. He's given up only three runs (no homers) in his last 26 innings, including Tuesday's 2-1 complete-game victory over the Royals. Tanana had a 6-20 lifetime mark vs. KC, but Anderson said, "What was was was and what is is is." It was Tanana's 150th career victory. "You can call it junk," said Tanana. "You can call it anything you want, as long as you call it a win.". . . The Twins have big problems in the bullpen. In 31 innings, Minnesota relievers allowed 49 hits and 21 walks while compiling a 1-6 record. "We might have overrated some of our pitchers," admitted Twin pitching coach Dick Such.
Angel shortstop Rick Burleson last week hit his first home run since 1981. Burleson had 13 hits in 27 at bats. "So I missed a couple of years," said the Rooster. "Now, I'm as good as anyone.". . . The White Sox will regret letting Roland Hemond go. Sent out to pasture by owner Eddie Einhorn, Hemond took a job in the commissioner's office this week. The next expansion team would do well to get Hemond as its general manager. Meanwhile, look for Hemond to bring the umpires together. Hemond doesn't like the idea of two sets of umpires (American and National League), and the day may come when a crew goes
from Wrigley Field to Fenway Park . . . Former White Sox outfielder Rudy Law figured to prosper when he moved to Kansas City to play on turf, but says, ''To tell the truth, I like grass better, because I played more aggressive defense on the grass. You don't have to worry about the ball getting by you.". . . Attendance is down 55,000 in Baltimore, and that's not going to sit well with impatient owner Edward Bennett Williams . . . Attendance is also down in Milwaukee, and who can blame the Rhinelanders? Harry Dalton dumped Moose Haas to get rid of a big salary, and Haas is 5-0 with Oakland. Haas' fifth victory was a 7-2 win over the Brewers Thursday . . . Play of the week was in Toronto when Burleson scored while Toronto pitcher Mark Eichhorn argued with first base umpire Al Clark . . . The San Francisco Examiner is running a ''Rookie Watch," comparing the statistics of Oakland's Jose Canseco and the Giants' Will Clark." Down in Anaheim, they're touting Angel rookie first baseman Wally Joyner, who already has more homers (6) than predecessor Rod Carew had in the 1984 and '85 seasons. Joyner also has 16 RBIs. Carew knocked in 39 last year. Angels manager Gene Mauch is still surprised the Braves let go of Terry Forster. "If they'd seen what we've seen, there's no way they'd have let him go," said Mauch. Forster has a book coming out, but he doesn't want the publisher to call it "Tub of Goo." . . . Wondering where the Mariners found righty pitcher Edwin Nunez? They looked in the washroom. "He came over from Puerto Rico with Ivan Calderon and some of our other players," says Sox GM Lou Gorman, who used to work for the Mariners. "He was working as a clubhouse kid washing the dirty uniforms. He was about 15 years old, and one day Calderon said to me, 'You see that kid? He can pitch.' "
The Braves are anxious about Bruce Sutter's shoulder. Five months after surgery, Sutter might be headed for the disabled list. Atlanta's bullpen is 1-4 with a 5.21 ERA. It has lost four games in which the Braves led entering the seventh inning. Gene Garber might have to be the new closer, but he issued nine hits to the first 19 batters he faced . . . Dale Murphy's surprise appearance Wednesday was only a little shy of Willis Reed's emotional return to Madison Square Garden during a championship final series. After suffering a nine-stitch cut in his right hand, Murph was ruled out of Wednesday's game against the Mets. His 675-consecutive-game streak was due to end. But he took some secret batting practice in a hitting cage, then crushed a first-pitch, pinch homer off Gooden in the fifth inning. Murphy's streak is the 13th longest in baseball history. He passed Pete Rose (678) yesterday . . . Like Big Ten football teams, the Braves have trouble coming from behind. They're 1-12 in games in which they fell behind . . . Padres closer Rich Gossage took the heat when manager Steve Boros made excuses for the Goose after a poor outing. Gossage stormed into Boros' office and said, "Did you tell these guys (reporters) I was tired? I thought I threw better than I did yesterday. I'll let everyone know when I'm tired -- including you."
When Pete Rose looked at his morning paper Friday, Cincinnati had the worst record in baseball. The Reds won one home game in April (1-7), and Rose had the first hitless (0 for 10) month of his career, and his first losing month as a manager. Going into the weekend, Cincinnati's starters had given up 43 hits (10 homers) and 28 earned runs while lasting only 21 1/3 innings in six home starts. "I've been sitting here for a week and a half and I can't make any more excuses," said Rose. The hitters have been worse (see chart). "We stink; even I stink," admitted Dave Parker. Dave Concepcion tried to turn things around by showering with his clothes on after Wednesday's loss . . . The Dodgers now have six Dominicans on their 40-man roster . . . LA infielder Steve Sax homered last week -- his first since last season when he broke third base coach Joe Amalfitano's thumb while high-fiving around third. Amalfitano kept his distance this time and Sax said, "Based on the circumstances, who could blame him?"
You forget what a real box score looks like when you watch a lot of American League baseball. The Giants (21) and Pirates (20) employed 41 players in San Francisco's 6-5, 12-inning victory Wednesday. That means that 85.4 percent of the available manpower was employed . . . What does it say about the drawing power of the Pittsburgh Pirates when they have to cancel an exhibition in Nashua against their Double-A team? The Nashua Pirates were supposed to play Joe Orsulak & Co. May 12, but sold only 150 advance tickets . . . The Brett boys still want Bruce Kison to help out with their Tri-Cities farm club, but Kison has been noncommittal thus far . . . Did you notice that Cleveland's Jim Kern won his first game in two seasons? Meanwhile, Kern was the first pitcher to hit Texas rookie Pete Incaviglia. Incaviglia had threatened to "destroy mankind" if pitchers threw at him, but he didn't bother Kern . . . You'll all be happy to learn that the Astros will abandon their rainbow uniforms, effective next season. "That's been coming for a long time," says former Astro Joe Sambito. "Mrs. McMullen (wife of owner Dr. John J. McMullen) doesn't like orange, and they've been getting more blue in the uniforms for the last few years." The Braves are also in for a change of
dress. Atlanta will revert to the old Milwaukee Brave uniforms next year.
Boston's 11-8 April was the best since 1982 when the Sox went 13-7 in the cruelest month. The Sox 2.93 ERA in April was the team's lowest since 1967 (2.92) . . . A long-time Sox watcher points out that the Red Sox are the only team in baseball with five home-grown starters . . . Clemens' 20- strikeout game Tuesday brought back a few memories for Sammy Stewart. In his first big league game (Sept. 1, 1978 vs. Chicago), Stewart struck out seven straight batters. "I might have kept going, but I saw it flashed on the scoreboard that I'd set a record and I started getting all nervous about it," says Stewart . . . Dwight Evans game-winning homer was lost in the strikeout shuffle. "It's happened before," said an unperturbed Evans. Dewey hit a ninth-inning, game-tying two-run homer in the third game of the 1975 World Series, but no one remembers because it happened before the Ed Armbrister/ Carlton Fisk bunt/interference calamity . . . When did Evans forget how to slide? . . . When Steve Sheppard and Karin Ganga married at St. Mary's Our Lady of the Isle Church in Nantucket April 19, they concluded their wedding vows with " . . . till death do us part -- or until the Red Sox win the World Series." . . . Happy 30th birthday, Ken Oberkfell.