Clemens' 22 greatest moments

Originally Published: June 22, 2006
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider

CLEMENS COVERAGE
Roger Clemens makes his season debut for the Houston Astros Thursday night against the Minnesota Twins at 8:05 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Rob Neyer: 22 greatest moments
Jayson Stark: Back in business
Short Hops: Hershiser on Rocket
Roger's max: 100-110 pitches
Chat: Jayson Stark Insider
Photo gallery: A minors journey
Vote: Clemens' impact on NL?
Clemens: 'I feel ready' ESPN Video
BBTN on Clemens' return ESPN Video
Chat: Rob Neyer Insider
Editor's Note: Roger Clemens wears No. 22. He's played 22 major-league seasons. His prorated contract would be worth $22,000,022 over a full season. He's making his 2006 debut on the 22nd of June.

Notice the trend? So, in light of Clemens' affinity for all things 22, Rob Neyer lists the 22 greatest moments of the Rocket's career.

1
Oct. 14, 2000

In Game 4 of the ALCS, Clemens pitches a one-hitter against Seattle, striking out 15 Mariners and walking two. Seattle's lone hit comes in the seventh inning, when Al Martin's line drive just eludes the glove of Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez.

2
Oct. 27, 1999

After 247 regular-season wins, Clemens finally earns a World Series victory. Facing the Braves in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium, he goes 7 2/3 innings, allowing just one run and four hits as the Yankees win 4-1 and complete a four-game sweep.

3
April 29, 1986

In just his fourth start after shoulder surgery, Clemens strikes out 20 Mariners, thus setting a major league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Clemens doesn't walk anybody but gives up three hits in the Red Sox victory (one of them Gorman Thomas' solo home run that accounts for Seattle's only run).

4
June 13, 2003

Facing the Cardinals in an interleague game at Yankee Stadium, he earns a 5-2 victory, thus becoming the 21st major league pitcher to record 300 wins; in the second inning of the same game, he strikes out Edgar Renteria, becoming only the third pitcher to record 4,000 strikeouts.

5
Sept. 18, 1996

Ten years after setting a record with 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game, Clemens matches his record by striking out 20 Tigers (later tied by two other pitchers: Kerry Wood in 1998 and Randy Johnson in 2001) for the Red Sox. Just like a decade earlier, Clemens' 20 strikeouts are accompanied by zero walks.

6
Nov. 18, 1986

On the strength of his amazing 24-4 record for the pennant-winning Red Sox, Clemens is named the American League's Most Valuable Player, becoming the first starting pitcher to win the award since Vida Blue in 1971; six days earlier, Clemens had won the Cy Young Award unanimously.

7
Aug. 21, 1984

In a hint of better things to come, Clemens strikes out 15 Royals and walks nobody in an 11-1 complete-game victory at Fenway Park (Clemens will, over the years, enjoy particular success against the Royals: Through the 2005 season, he was 24-7 with a 2.17 ERA against Kansas City).

8
July 15, 1986

In his first All-Star Game, Clemens starts for the American League, pitches three perfect innings, is credited with the victory and is named the game's Most Valuable Player. He strikes out only two batters, but they're good ones: Ryne Sandberg and Darryl Strawberry.

9
Nov. 16, 1998

After his second season with Toronto, Clemens wins his second straight Cy Young Award and his fifth overall, a record. This comes after a season in which he earned (unofficially) his second straight "pitcher's Triple Crown," leading the American League in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

10
Feb. 18, 1999

Exercising a little-known clause in his Blue Jays contract that allows him to demand a trade, Clemens is traded to the Yankees for David Wells, Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush. Clemens is welcomed to the Bronx and will win 77 games (losing only 36) in five seasons as a Yankee.

11
Oct. 4, 1987

On the last day of the season, Clemens earns his 20th victory with a two-hit shutout against the Brewers at Fenway Park. It's Clemens' fourth straight complete game -- and his league-leading 18th of the season -- and this one comes after only three days of rest.

12
June 6, 2006

In his first of three minor league tune-up starts after signing a new deal with the Astros, Clemens pitches for the Class A Lexington Legends. And manning third base? Koby Clemens.

13
Jan. 19, 2004

After strongly hinting at retirement, Clemens signs with the Houston Astros, his hometown team. In his first season he'll go 18-4 and win yet another Cy Young Award (his seventh!); in his second season he'll lead the National League with a 1.87 ERA.

14
Oct. 4, 2003

In Game 3 of the Yankees-Twins American League Division Series, Clemens becomes the oldest pitcher -- 41 years, 61 days -- to win a postseason game. He pitches seven innings in the 3-1 victory, allows just one run, and Mariano Rivera finishes up with two perfect innings.

15
May 20, 1984

Clemens didn't fare so well in his first major league start with the Red Sox, on May 15 (six innings, 11 hits). But on May 20, in his second start, he racks up seven strikeouts in seven innings and beats the Twins to earn his first of many victories.

16
Feb. 8, 1991

With one season remaining on his old contract, Clemens signs a four-year contract extension with Boston, for $21.5 million guaranteed, that makes him -- temporarily at least -- MLB's highest-paid player.

17
June 6, 1983

The Red Sox select Clemens in the first round of the amateur draft, with the 19th pick. We won't list all the players drafted before Clemens here -- there were exactly 18 of them, including 10 pitchers -- but the best were Tim Belcher (No. 1, but didn't sign) and Kurt Stillwell.

18
Nov. 15, 2001

Clemens breaks his own record by winning his sixth Cy Young Award; only one pitcher had ever won five Cy Youngs, and that one pitcher was Clemens. He went 20-3 for the Yankees in '01, finishing third in the American League with 213 strikeouts.

19
Dec. 13, 1996

Clemens, a free agent, signs a three-year contract worth $24.75 million with the Blue Jays. This comes after a season in which Clemens went 10-13 despite leading the AL with 257 strikeouts. In signing with Toronto, he spurns a four-year contract offer from the Yankees.

20
Aug. 30, 1985

Clemens undergoes shoulder surgery, concluding a season in which he pitched well (7-5, 3.29 ERA) but was limited by injuries to only 15 starts. Shoulder surgery is usually the beginning of a sad story, but not this one; in 1986, Clemens bounced back with one of his finest seasons.

21
July 14, 2005

Roger's son, Koby, an eighth-round draft pick, signs a professional contract with the Astros. Generally seen as little more than a friendly gesture to their best pitcher and native son, Houston's decision could apparently pay dividends when Koby becomes a legitimate prospect.

22
Sept. 19, 2001

In the Yankees' second game since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Clemens runs his record to 20-1 with a 6-3 win over the White Sox; he's the first pitcher in MLB history to open a season 20-1.

Senior writer Rob Neyer writes for Insider three times most weeks during the season. You can reach him via rob.neyer@dig.com, and his new book, "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders," is available everywhere.