07/09/2004 11:27 AM ET
Recalling the '86 All-Star classic
Game in Houston marked by Clemens, AL's pitching
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
|Roger Clemens started the 1986 All-Star Game in Houston and was named its MVP. (AP Photo)
HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens will never forget his first All-Star Game.
"This one (2004) is special, too, but to go to that first one and it's right here in my hometown, that was very special," Clemens said. "That and to start the game, it would be very hard to top that, that was very special."
Extra special, actually.
Especially when you consider that Clemens, a 23-year-old at the time and in the middle of the first of six Cy Young Award seasons, would be named the Most Valuable Player of the 1986 game, which was played at the Astrodome.
It was the first indoor All-Star Game, and the first the city had hosted since 1968. The '86 Midsummer Classic, just like the '68 version in Houston, would be dominated by pitching.
Indeed, the pitching was superb. Against rosters with seven players who have since gone on to the Hall of Fame and perhaps a half dozen more who will eventually join them, the hitters were overmatched.
The two teams combined for only 10 hits, the second-fewest in All-Star history behind the eight recorded in the 1968 game. Nineteen batters were fanned, including five in a row by Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Clemens began the game with three perfect innings, throwing 21 strikes and only three balls.
"Like everybody else, I just didn't want to let my teammates down," Clemens recalled. "After that first pitch, I felt comfortable."
In the first inning, Clemens got San Diego's Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg of the Cubs and Keith Hernandez of the Mets in order. In the second, Gary Carter and Daryl Strawberry of the Mets and Mike Schmidt of Philadelphia went down.
Clemens went to the mound for the third leading, 2-0, courtesy of a home run by Detroit second baseman Lou Whitaker. Clemens retired Dale Murphy of Atlanta and St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith to make it eight straight.
That brought pinch-hitter Kevin Bass of the host Houston Astros to the plate to hit for Mets starter Dwight Gooden.
Bass was the National League Player of the Month for June that year and was also making his first All-Star appearance. But even his hot bat would have a hard time that night.
"It was like a dream," Bass said. "You're just thrilled to be a part of all of it."
The crowd of 45,774 grew louder when Bass came to the plate, but the right fielder grounded out to end the inning, making Clemens the first All-Star starter to pitch three perfect innings since Steve Stone six years earlier.
Teddy Higuera of Milwaukee continued the pitching dominance by the American League, retiring the next four batters in order before the NL got a hit for the biggest O-fer to start a game by an All-Star team. Through the first seven innings, the NL managed a total of one hit.
The AL increased its lead to 3-0 in the seventh, when Frank White of the Kansas City Royals homered off hometown hero Mike Scott after the Astros right-hander had fanned Cal Ripken Jr. and Jesse Barfield.
"The first two pitches he threw me were unhittable," White recalled. "Finally he threw me something that I could hit. I swung hard and got the bat on it."
The NL finally got on the board with a pair of runs in the eighth off Charlie Hough, the knuckleballer from Texas. Hough didn't help his cause by getting charged with two balks. Gooden was also called twice for that infraction.
The Senior Circuit had the tying run on third in the ninth, but Don Aase of Baltimore induced San Francisco's Chris Brown to hit into a game-ending double play.
The American League had a 3-2 victory and Clemens, the victor, had a very special memory.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.