Flipping through the channels last night and I get all caught up in NESN’s rebroadcast of Clemens’ 20-K masterpiece against the Seattle Mariners from 1986. Suddenly, I’m a wee lad in West Roxbury, toiling away on some homework, listening to this bugger on the radio, and spazzing out with every K, running downstairs to shriek to my dad, “Hey! He just struck out another one.” It was an amazing bit of baseball theater, and the harbinger of great things to come for El Rocket and the 1986 Red Sox.
Hell, I’d been a fan before. You had to be in my family. If you wanted to eat, you rooted for the Sox. And if you didn’t, God help you. I recall my dad giving hell to Uncle Hector, a lifelong Tigers fan, at a family barbecue. “You like the Tigers so much, why don’t you get Mark Fidrych to cook you a steak?” he’d scream, waving his tongs like a man possessed and flinging loaded plates across the yard. When you came to visit, you came correct, sporting your Sox hat or windbreaker, or you didn’t come at all. So it was in my blood. I was born with it. But it wasn’t until that night in 1986 — watching Roger stomp all over the mound like General Goddam Patton — that I officially fell in love.
For that stretch of two and a half hours, Roger was Iron Man, all jets blazing and lasers firing and Spike Owen grabbing his own balls in disbelief. Okay, yeah, it was the 1986 Mariners, featuring Owen and… Phil Bradley! And it could be argued that the toughest thing Roger had to do was keep himself from busting a gut at the sight of Gorman Thomas squeezed into that hi-day-ous Seattle uniform. But watching him on that mound again, looking like a skittery high-schooler and throwing like some blasted machine, I remember just how incredible it was to have this guy around. Not to mention the off-the-charts nostalgia factor. Look, it’s Steve Lyons in centerfield! And Sammy Stewart in the bullpen! And Monty as your color man! And, holy crap, Sean McDonough had hair!
Looking back, that it all ended in tears and unopened champagne and bloody knuckles and broken glass and Ron Darling is beside the point. Any years that were shaved off my life by that World Series meltdown were restored tenfold in 2004. Bottom line is we got to see one of the game’s greatest pitchers in the defining year of his career, and also got a taste of the badness of ass to come. Remember when he won the MVP and Henry Aaron said pitchers shouldn’t be eligible? Clemens said he wished Hammerin’ Hank was still playing, so he could crack him in the head. You might call that disrespect. I call it freakin’ hilarious.
Oh, and while we’re stepping into the wayback machine, allow me this one indulgence. No one ever believes me when I explain to them that in 1986, on the heels of that inexplicable Monkees revival, some geniuses decided to launch The New Monkees! Forget Davy, Peter, Mickey and Mike. We’ve got Dino! Larry! Marty! And Jared! It didn’t last long, but someone deserves a congressional medal of honor for uploading a shitload of New Monkees clips to YouTube. Check this video to the never-played-anywhere “Boy Inside the Man.” Or try “Carlene.” Or “The Corner of My Eye.” Or my personal favorite, “Whatever It Takes” — which is a textbook piece of 80s pop. Seriously, when visitors from another world ask us what music sounded like in 1986, just play this. They’ll understand. Oh, and the New Monkees didn’t just sing. Like their predecessors, they acted! In comedy bits! Here, just watch an episode of their show. I’ll be in the bathroom, freebasing Pixy Stix.
And with that, I’m off to New York, handing the keys to Denton for the next couple days. See you Friday. Go Sox.