It was August of 1997 and the Mariners were on their way to their second AL West crown in three years. The team was led by superstar Ken Griffey Jr., who blasted 56 home runs and compiled 185 hits en route to being named the AL MVP.
On the mound, Randy Johnson was having one of the most dominant seasons of his illustrious career. On June 24, he struck out 19 Oakland Athletics, the second highest total for a nine-inning game in MLB history. Johnson became the first southpaw to fan 19 batters since Steve Carlton did it in 1969. It was an impressive and unforgettable night, to say the least.
And then Johnson did it again.
On August 8, exactly 16 years ago, Johnson absolutely dominated the Chicago White Sox in one of the more masterful performances in Mariners history. The Big Unit struck out sluggers Frank Thomas and Albert Belle three times each in front of a crowd of 42,170 at the Kingdome. Going into the ninth inning Johnson had 16 strikeouts, and after fanning the side he matched his career high of 19.
"He made his pitches when he needed to and he made us chase it when he wanted to," Thomas said. "He was very overpowering. He was outstanding and he was nasty."
Johnson came one strikeout shy of Roger Clemens' all-time record of 20 in one game. (The Rocket did it twice in 1986 and 1996.)
"I got close once again to Clemens' record," Johnson said after the game. "Tonight was a special night."
The stellar performance gave Johnson 16 wins on the season, and he finished the campaign with 20 victories and a 1.05 WHIP, both career bests up to that point.
To this day only one pitcher has matched or topped Johnson's 19 strikeouts in a regulation game -- Kerry Wood in 1998. Interestingly, Johnson did record 20 strikeouts in nine innings as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. But because that game against the Cincinnati Reds went to extra innings, his performance is marked with a footnote.