It Was Twenty Years Ago....and a Night I'll Never Forget.
Twenty years ago this coming April 29, 1986 to be exact, a cool cloudy night at Fenway for the fans who were lucky enough to be there. But at 6:30 that evening no one knew that this was to be a night that history would be made. I know, because I was there.
Now looking back at the WSBK channel 38 television special the Red Sox flagship station at the time put together, with the voices of Bob Montgomery and the legendary Ned Martin freshly ringing in my head, the memories of that night have come flooding back to me. And the building excitement, pitch by pitch, whiff by mounting whiff, as the hapless Seattle ballclub could only shake their heads and toss their helmuts after looking at and sometimes swinging at unhittable fastballs from our young ace, Roger Clemens, impossibly thin and youthful at the time. He knew he "had it" that night, and gradually we, the lucky audience, knew it too. Bob Montgomery said it best, when, in the ninth inning, as Roger was working on his second and what turned out to be final strikeout of the ninth inning, he said "the fans are standing now. And darn it, I'm going to stand too." Fastball, outside paint fastball, and strikeout number 20 was recorded, and the night became one that will live forever.
I just finished watching the tremendous 1 hour show channel 38 put together. I videotaped it all those years ago, and the recording still looks as good as the day I first viewed it, even going so far as to edit out the commercials, which would have been funny to see in themselves after 2 decades. But being there was extraordinary. I remember we all stood in the top halves of the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings, as the Seattle line-up, printed on the yellow and withered box score that I right now hold in my hands, looked helpless, Little League players versus Roger's heat. And what heat. I couldn't really appreciate the stuff Rocket had, nasty and unhittable being the defining terms used to describe his 'paint it black" heat. Only when viewing the video did his sharpness take on a new and greater understanding. And we cheered. The next morning my voice sounded like I had seen a Springsteen show the night before, gravelly and barely intelligable. Pure drama on the diamond.
I'll take out this twenty year old videotape once or twice more before this 2006 season starts. Dewey led off, followed by Boggsie, Billy Buckner, Jim Ed Rice, Don Baylor, Glen Stapleton, Richie Gedman, Marty Barrett, Phsyco Lyons, and Glenn Hoffman. Some names in the Seattle lineup were Spike Owens, Dave Henderson, and others who remain a little fuzzy in my mind. But that night they all knew that Mr. Clemens was to be a certain kind of special that they could not possible prepare for.
The 2 hour drive home to Hartford is not as clearly etched in my mind, other than it was a safe trip. I do remember my phone ringing off the hook the next day, as many friends knew my plans for the night before.
Thank you Roger. You made April 29th, 1986 an evening I will never forget. And you know what? 10 years and 5 months later, on September 18th, 1996, he did it again. 20 strikeouts in a 9 inning game, WITH ZERO WALKS! 18 innings, 40 strikeouts, zero walks. Not bad. I have the box score from that game too, a little less yellowed with age but striking in its contents. I'd love to do it all over again, if only I could. Again, thank you for reading this. I wish you could have been there with me, but you can always watch the video with me anytime you're near Hartford. Priceless, classic, historic, an ordinary night turned extraordinary. If only the Green Monster could talk, oh the tales we would hear.