25th anniversary of a dominant pitching performance

Twenty-five years ago today, one of the greatest pitching performance in baseball history occurred: Roger Clemens set a record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game when he fanned 20 Mariners.

Clemens’ mark has since been tied three times, including once by Clemens himself, but it’s still an impressively long time to hold the record. Steve Carlton first struck out 19 batters in nine innings, a mark that lasted 17 years. Before that, Bob Feller’s 18-K game mark stood as the record for 31 years, but that’s the only one-game nine-inning record to outlast Clemens’ achievement.

(I should note, I keep having to say “in a nine-inning game” because in one of the great overlooked performances in history, Tom Cheney fanned 21 in 16 innings in 1962).

Clemens struck out the side “only” three teams but struck out at least one batter every inning and multiple batters in every inning except the third. He really hit his stride in the middle innings, striking out eight in a row from the fourth through the sixth. After a Spike Owen fly out ended that streak, Clemens two more Ks in a row, giving him 10 out of 11.

He dominated the game so completely that he hardly needed an infield: Seattle mustered only three groundouts all day long, and one of them was fielded by Clemens. Third baseman Wade Boggs didn’t have to do anything. Aside from fielding throws from his fellow infielders, first baseman Don Baylor had exactly one chance all game, a foul pop up that he muffed for an error. That said, even if Baylor fielded the play cleanly Clemens would’ve still had 20 Ks. The last out of the game was a grounder to short, the only ball hit to that position all day.

Clemens really needed to bear down in that game because his teammates didn’t give him much margin for error. It was scoreless through six innings, and Seattle got on the board first with a solo home run from veteran Gorman Thomas. Immediately afterward, Boston rallied back with three in the bottom of the seventh, which allowed for a 3-1 final.

He wasn’t quite perfect—he allowed three hits and a run—but he was incredibly dominant. His Game Score of 97 has been topped only once in a nine-inning game. Oddly enough, it was another Red Sox that did better: Pedro Martinez scored a 98 against the Yankees in 1999.

While that’s the most impressive event celebrating a nice round anniversary marker today, plenty of other baseball items of note celebrate anniversaries and “day-versaries” today. Here some are, with the better ones in bold.


5,000 days since Tom Glavine won his 150th game, giving him a career record of 150-98.

5,000 days since what might be the worst day Rickey Henderson ever had at the plate: 0-for-4 with 4 Ks. That ties his all-time high in Ks, and is the only time he did it in only four PA.

5,000 days since the first multi-home run game for Derek Jeter

5,000 days since the Dodgers signed Eddie Murray

8,000 days since Nolan Ryan allowed a leadoff single by Harold Reynolds in the first inning, and that was it for Seattle. On the day Ryan’s line was: 9 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K. Not bad

8,000 days since a never-ending Astros-Dodgers game. Well, it ended eventually, with Houston winning 5-4 in 22 frames. Along the way, the Astros threw 335 pitches, 218 for strikes, that’s the most known strikes by one team in one game. I’m sure some game from long ago tops it, but as I said, this is the known record. Among other things, ace Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser pitched seven innings of relief. He allowed no runs on only three hits, and according to WPA it was his best one-game performance ever (0.850 WPA).


1876 First extra inning game in the NL: Boston beats Hartford in 10

1879 Noodles Hahn, one of those great pitchers whose arm wasn’t strong enough to last long enough, born

1885 200-game winner Will White allows two inside the park homers in one game. Hit by Charlie Comiskey (yes, the future White Sox owner) and Curt Welch.

1888 Charlie Ferguson dies. He’s possibly the first great major league player to die. He was fantastic for Philadelphia, but then fell ill, dying barely past his 25th birthday.

1891 Amos Rusie allows a leadoff inside-the-park homer to Hub Collins. There are better ways to start the game

1897 Roger Connor, the all-time home run king before Babe Ruth, hits his final home run. It’s No. 138. For perspective, Ryan Braun already has 137 (and that’s only if he doesn’t hit another homer between the time I write this and you read it).

1898 Major league: Frank Chance

1902 John McGraw hit by pitch five times but the umpire refuses to let him take first. McGraw sits in the batter’s box in protest, for which he’ll be suspended five games. I don’t really know what’s going on here, but I assume the ump was a stickler for the rule saying the batter must make an effort to get out of the way of the pitch. It probably didn’t help McGraw that umpires hated him.

1905 Speaking of stories I’d love to hear the background for .. .on this day Christy Mathewson punches a kid selling lemonade in the stands. The kid had been heckling Mathewson. Ohhhh-kay. Doesn’t really jibe with Mathewson’s reputation as a gentleman.

1913 Reds come to Chicago to play the Cubs but there’s a problem: They left their uniforms in Cincinnati. So they wear White Sox road uniforms.

1918 Tris Speaker pulls off his sixthth career unassisted double play. It’s his second in less than two weeks

1919 Major league debut: Lefty O’Doul. He’s a pitcher, but will later convert to batting, where he’ll do well for himself.

1922 In Braves Field, the New York Giants leg out four inside-the-park homers. Two were by Highpockets Kelly and one each by Ross Youngs, and Dave Bancroft. All are now in Cooperstown. Kelly and Bancroft both hit one off another Hall of Famer, Rube Marquard. Kelly may have had the most homers, but Youngs had the best day: 5-for-5 with five runs and two RBI. He hit for the cycle with two doubles. Giants beat the Braves, 15-4.

1922 The longest outing in the career of Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt: 14 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K.

1923 Major league debut: Rube Walberg

1923 Yankees sign Lou Gehrig

1924 Bump Hadley, playing for Mercersburg Academy, not only tosses a perfect game against Hadley-Lynn of Massachusetts, but fans 26 of the 27 batters he faces. Hadley will become a productive major league pitcher for many years.

1926 Major league debut: Joe Cronin

1930 Major league debut: Lefty Gomez

1931 Jimmy McAleer, former major league manager and all-time winningest St. Louis Browns skipper, commits suicide

1931 Wes Ferrell has a game for the ages. He throws a no-hitter, hits a home run and a double, and drives in four runs. Rick Wise may not be impressed, but anyone else out to be. With 26 outs, his brother Rick Ferrell comes to the plate and gets on board with what’s ruled an infield error. If I recall correctly, Wes spoke about it in the oral history book Baseball When the Grass Was Real. Brother Rick laid down a bunt, and Wes thought that’s how it ought to be: Try your damnedest to get on at all times, no matter that the score was 7-0 and the game put away. Very different from today’s “unwritten rules” where you don’t try to show up someone like that.

1932 Hall of Famer Red Faber loses his 200th game. He’s 249-200 on his career now

1932 Greenelee Field, Negro League park, opens in Pittsburgh.

1933 Dodgers release Jack Quinn

1933 One of the most bizarre plays in baseball history: Yankee teammates Lou Gehrig and Dixie Walker both tagged out at the plate bang-bang one right after the other in one play against the Senators. The same thing happened to the Yanks about a half-century later against the White Sox.

1934 Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio born

1934 Phillies play their first legal Sunday home game. So does Pittsburgh. Sunday ball finally has come to all of major league baseball.

1936 First pro game in Japanese Baseball League

1936 Epic pitchers duel in as Cardinals defeat Giants 2-1 in 17 innings. St. Louis’ Roy Parmelee and New York’s Carl Hubbell both go the distance. Parmelee: 17 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 9 K. Hubbell: 16.1 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 6 K.

1936 For the third time in his career, Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons tosses a complete game shutout and hits a home run in one game. NYG 9, BRK 0

1939 Joe DiMaggio tears a muscle in his leg and will be out five weeks

1940 Ted Williams hits two triples in a game. He’ll do it once more in his career.

1940 200-game winner Paul Derringer is having one heck of a season. He tosses his 14th straight Quality Start, a career high he’ll tie three months later. In this stretch, he’s 12-1 in 126 IP with 131 H, 35 R, 30 ER, 18 BB, and 52 K for a 2.14 ERA.

1944 St. Louis Browns, of all teams, set AL record by winning their first nine decisions

1947 Yankees release Joe Medwick.

1948 200 homers: Ted Williams

1948 After 77 straight appearances dating back to 1945 without picking up a loss, Ted Wilks of the Cardinals loses

1952 Al Rosen, Cleveland, homers three times in one game

1952 Bob Feller sets personal record with most hits allowed, 18. He wins in complete game anyway: Indians 21, A’s 9. Teammate Jim Fridley smacks six hits in that game

1953 Joe Adcock becomes first person to homer into Polo Grounds’ center field bleachers, 475 feet from the plate

1956 Richie Ashburn hits an inside the park home run in the first game of a double header. He also hit two homers in a game the day before. Those are his only homers on the year. Think about it: He gets only three home runs in 719 PA, and they all come within five plate appearances.

1962 100th time Walter Alston and Danny Murtaugh manage a game against each other

1962 Frank Thomas, NYM, HBP twice in one inning

1963 Willie Mays hits his 100th career triple

1966 Hank Aaron homers in his fifth consecutive game, his longest streak

1970 Paul Blair hits three home runs in one game

1971 Sterling Hitchcock born

1978 Pete Rose hits three homers in one game. It’s his first multi-homer game in eight years and last one in his career

1979 Gary Carter hits an inside-the-park home run. It’s the first of two in his career. He gets two homers in this particular game, the second time in three games he’s done that.

1980 Phillies sign amateur free agent Juan Samuel

1981 Steve Carlton fans his 3,000th batter

1983 Steve Carlton picks off three base runners in game vs. Houston

1983 Lee Elia has his memorable postgame tirade denouncing Cubs fans. Mind you, he’s the Cubs’ manager at the time. Can be heard here (audio NSFW)

1984 100th time Tommy Lasorda and Dick Williams manage a game against each other

1984 Dave Stewart becomes the first pitcher to go 0-6 in April

1985 Larry Parrish hits three homers in a game for the fourth time. Larry Parrish did it four times? Larry Parrish? He was a good hitter, but Hank Aaron did it only once.

1986 Tigers 2, Royals 1. Detroit wins despite getting only two hits all game

1986 Expos hit four homers in fourth inning: Andre Dawson, Hubie Brooks, Tim Wallach and Mike Fitzgerald

1986 Nightmare ending for Cubs: Enter bottom of the ninth leading Padres 4-1. Then: 1B, force out, 1B, 1B, HR.

1987 Greatest game Andre Dawson ever had. Not only does he go 5-for-5 and hit for the cycle, but he throws a runner out at first in the rare 9-3 ground out.

1988 Last game: Joe Niekro

1988 Orioles FINALLY win a game, now 1-21 on the season. BAL 9, CWS 0

1989 According to WPA, this is the worst game Andre Dawson ever had: 1-for-5, one run, GIDP. WPA: -0.400.

1990 Dan Quisenberry retires. When I was a kid, he was the ultimate relief ace. What the BBWAA thinks of Sutter is what I thought of Quis.

1992 Yankee farmhand Jeff Hoffman dies of previously undetected heart problem in his hotel room

1994 Montreal Expo Kirk Rueter becomes first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela to start his career at 10 wins and no losses

1995 Major league debuts: Brad Radke, LaTroy Hawkins (both for Minnesota Twins), Andy Pettitte and Esteban Loaiza

1996 Tom Kelly offers a memorable quote about Mariano Rivera: “He needs to pitch in a higher league, if there is one. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal.” I half-wonder if I have the right year for this one, but looking it up, Rivera had thrown three innings of hitless middle relief against the Twins the day before. Two days before that he had another three-inning relief stint against the Twins without surrendering a hit. So it was this early in Rivera’s career Kelly said that.

1999 A’s loss puts manager Art Howe 83 games under .500, his worst (618-701). He’ll tie that mark two games later, but will rise up from there.

1999 Brewers sign Hideo Nomo

2001 Geoff Jenkins homers twice in one game, giving him five in two games

2005 The first match-up between two 300-game winners in 18 years as Greg Maddux outduels Roger Clemens 3-2 in Houston.

2006 The 200th career homer for Magglio Ordonez helps Tigers beat Twins, 18-1.

2007 Jamie Moyer slugs his first double in 19 years.

2007 Troy Tulowitzki achieves the most boring of baseball’s noteworthy plays: the unassisted triple play. It’s the 13th ever.

2009 Yovani Gallardo has quite a nice day: Hits homer while winning 1-0.

2010 Maggio Ordonez raps out his 200th hit

2010 John Buck, Toronto, hits three homers in one game, all off different pitchers.

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“His Game Score of 97 has been topped only once in a nine-inning game.”

What of Kerry Wood’s 20K game in 1998? I think he scored a 105.

Chris J.
Chris J.

Andrew – you’re right.  There’s a qualifier there, that’s missing, but I forgot what it is. 

Oh – I just remembered, best Game Score in a 9-inning non-shutout.  That’s the missing phrase.

Good catch on your point.  Thanks.