Boston Red Sox

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After a few years pitching in relative (and injury-riddled) obscurity, Clemens ignited his legend and became instant front-page news on a late April night in 1986 when he became the first pitcher to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game. It was the watershed moment in a monumental year for Clemens, wrapping the season with a 24-4 record, his first of seven earned run average titles (at 2.48) and not just the AL Cy Young Award but the AL MVP honor as well.
During his 13 years with the Red Sox, Clemens thrice won 20 games and secured four ERA titles, including three in a row from 1990-92; besides his breakout 1986 campaign, he also won Cy Young Awards in 1987 and 1991. Clemens’ impressive regular season successes eluded him in the postseason, where he only won one of eight postseason starts during his Fenway tenure.
Clemens’ fiery fastball was matched only by his demeanor, as he once claimed to be the nicest of guys—except on the day he pitched. A throwback of sorts, Clemens welcomed the opportunity to knock down hitters; the bigger the stars, the more likely they were to hit the deck or worse, as players such as Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza and Manny Ramirez discovered. Even the revered Hank Aaron wasn’t spared the direct wrath of Clemens’ rage; when Aaron criticized Clemens’ winning of the 1986 AL MVP because he was a pitcher, Clemens barked back that he wished Aaron was still playing so he could “crack his head open to show him how valuable I was.” Clemens’ mean side would work against him in the fourth (and final) game of the 1990 ALCS at Oakland when he was ejected for aiming a long-distance tirade of profanity from the mound toward home plate umpire Terry Cooney.
Reaching his mid-30s in the mid-1990s, injuries and substandard results by his own measure suggested that Clemens was on a downhill slide—but in what would be his final win for Boston late in 1996, he matched not only his own record for strikeouts in a game (fanning 20 Detroit Tigers) but also matched the franchise record for wins (192) and shutouts (38), both held by Cy Young. Still, this final act of bravado wasn’t enough to convince the Red Sox to keep him; his contract expired, Boston made the decision to let him go—with general manager Dan Duquette publicly suggesting that Clemens was reaching the “twilight” of his career. But as with Cincinnati owner Bill DeWitt 30 years earlier when he sent Frank Robinson to Baltimore because he felt he was an “old 30,” Duquette would find himself eating his words; Clemens signed with Toronto (prior to moving onto the New York Yankees and then Houston) and experienced a second wind of greatness, winning 162 more games, four more Cy Young Awards and two world championships—all possibly fueled by steroid use, according to accusations by his former trainer.

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