With the launch-angle movement picking up steam and (allegedly) juiced balls resulting in record home-run totals across the sport, it’s easy to lose sight of what was once baseball’s chief export—dominant starting pitching. Nine-inning workhorses in the mold of Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson have gone the way of extinction with teams adopting stricter pitch counts and becoming increasingly reliant on their bullpens (not to mention the recent “opener” fad championed by Tampa Bay and others).
It’s natural for sports to evolve—the NFL has firmly become a passing league while players who can’t shoot from the perimeter are considered dinosaurs in today’s three-happy NBA. But with baseball becoming a shell of its former self, it’s easy to harken back to the glory days of pitchers past when the Rocket and Big Unit spun miracles every fifth day, constructing their masterpieces one high-90s heater at a time.
Thankfully for the nostalgic among us, ESPN has quite a Saturday planned. Taking a page out of MLB’s playbook following the league’s successful Opening Day at Home streaming marathon on Thursday, ESPN’s Saturday coverage will be devoted to four of the great pitching performances in big-league history. ESPN’s Strikeout Saturday, an eight-hour pitching extravaganza beginning at noon ET, will be headlined by the dominant foursome of Roger Clemens, Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson and Max Scherzer.
Talk about star power—those arms have combined for 30 All-Star appearances, 18 strikeout crowns, 15 Cy Young Awards, four no-hitters (including a perfect game) and an MVP Award. The four aces also share a common bond—each have fanned 20 batters in a major league game. Clemens’ first 20-whiff game achieved in 1986 (he repeated the accomplishment a decade later in 1996) will air at noon ET Saturday followed by Wood’s historic gem at 2 PM, Johnson’s 20-punchout performance at 4 and the most recent entry into the 20-strikeout canon, Max Scherzer’s mastery of his former team the Tigers to close out the slate at 6.
Baseball’s absence amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic has left a noticeable void in all our lives. But like a guardian angel, ESPN went the extra mile for us, digging deep into its archive to unearth a four-pack of vintage games for our viewing enjoyment. If you’re looking for yours truly tomorrow, you’ll know where to find me—glued to the TV.