Editor's note: Fenway Park opened on April 20, 1912. NESN.com will be celebrating Fenway's 100-year anniversary with unique content from now until April 20, 2012.
To say the 1986 season was an eventful one for the Boston Red Sox would be one of the great understatements of the century.
The excitement started within the first month — April 29, to be exact — when Sox ace Roger Clemens struck out an MLB-record 20 batters against the Mariners at Fenway Park. That record would stand alone until 1996 — when the Rocket tied his own record against the Detroit Tigers (the Cubs' Kerry Wood would then equal the 20-strikeout mark in '98, which still stands as the record for a nine-inning game).
It was just the tip of the iceberg for Clemens, who won his first 14 decisions in '86, started and won the All-Star Game MVP, and then took home both the Americal League MVP and Cy Young awards after the season. His 24-4 record and 2.48 ERA made for one of the greatest seasons in team history.
But Clemens wasn't alone in his winning ways in 1986. Bruce Hurst and Oil Can Boyd won a combined 29 games for the pennant-winning Sox, who took over first place in mid-May and would never relinquish the lead.
The offense, meanwhile, featured an incredibly balanced attack, beginning with third baseman Wade Boggs' second straight (and third career) batting title after posting a .357 average primarily from the leadoff spot.
Outfielder Jim Rice hit 20 homers and knocked in a team-leading 110 runs, while the newly acquired Don Baylor slugged 31 homers and drove in 94. First baseman Bill Buckner and outfielder Dwight Evans also joined in the RBI parade with totals of 102 and 97, respectively.
The Sox breezed through the American League to the tune of 95 wins, but eventually ran into some trouble against the California Angels in the ALCS. Trailing the series 3-1, the season looked all but over when Dave Henderson stepped to the plate in the ninth. But Henderson –acquired in a trade in August — would come up big, blasting a two-run, game-tying home run to send the game into extras, followed by the go-ahead sacrifice fly in the 11th.
For a short time, it appeared as though the Sox were going to carry that momentum to a World Series victory.
Boston took a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 in New York, when a Henderson homer and a Boggs RBI double put the team up 5-3 in the 10th. After reliever Calvin Schiraldi got the first two outs in the bottom of the inning, the Sox were on the brink of their first title in nearly 70 years.
And that's precisely when the unthinkable happened.
Shiraldi gave up three straight singles to run the score to 5-4, and Bob Stanley, brought in to try his hand at shuting the door, threw a wild pitch that tied the game. Then, the Mets' Mookie Wilson hit a slow grounder that went through the legs of Buckner … and you know the rest.
In Game 7, Boston took a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning before six straight runs put the Mets up for good. Despite an eighth-inning rally, the Sox would fall 8-5 — and 4-3 for the Series — creating yet another chapter of heartbreak for the seemingly cursed franchise.
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