As a 6 year old kid growing up in Worcester, MA I had no idea that the guy I saw pitching on WSBK Ch. 38 was going to be pitching 24 years later. As a 6 year old kid, 24 years later seemed like a ridiculous notion... if not impossible to comprehend. All I had to know is that my grandfather, Cosmo, who happened to watch almost every Red Sox game, sat me down and told me that this guy... Number 21... really knew how to pitch. But, nobody in my grandfather's house or Fenway Park had any idea that Roger Clemens would pitch one more game at Fenway on September 16th, 2007.
One year later, in 1985 my grandfather took me to see my first Red Sox game at Fenway Park. My fan-hood of the team began to take root as I couldn't wait to see Rich Gedman, Wade Boggs, Bill Buckner, Marty Barrett, Spike Owen, Jim Rice, Tony Armous, Dwight Evens and our ace on the mound... Roger Clemens. The game of baseball revolves around the pitcher and if you don't have an ace pitcher on your team... chances are the team wasn't going to make it far. The Red Sox had that guy in Roger Clemens and as a young kid, I was attached to baseball at the hip.
Watching him year by year, striking out 20 in one game, gaining Cy Young awards, leading the AL in ERA, showing incredible consistency and rounding it all out again with another 20 strike out appearance, really made an impression on me during my formative years. Then, thirteen years into his career, I was now a freshman at Liberty University, reading about the fact that the Red Sox may not bring Roger back for another season. I knew ... we all knew ... that, except for the one dominate performance of 20 strike outs in the late summer of '96... that his career had really gone down hill. I was heart broken... the baseball hero of my childhood was finished.
Eleven years later (on Sunday night, September 16th, '07) I was sitting in Fenway Park like countless times before. But that night, I could barely contain my excitement. Not only was it a chance to for my friend Adam to see Fenway Park for the first time in his life, but it was also a Red Sox vs. Yankees match up. However, most fortunate for me was the fact that 2 weeks earlier the Red Sox and Yankees set up their rotations so that Curt Schilling would face the 45 year old Roger Clemens on that fateful night. I couldn't believe my luck at Fenway in '07... having already seen some great games, including one from the Monster Seats. But seeing my childhood hero, live and in person, walking from the bullpen in right field toward the third base dugout was truly the cherry on top of this season.
The game was one of those pitching battles you read about with both hurlers holding the batters to a few hits scattered throughout the game. Everyone around me was so impressed to see Roger's dominate performance. The chatter around us was that many felt that old Roger deserved one final ovation from the Fenway faithful. It was the bottom of the 6th inning and we all expected to see number 22 for the Yankees come out to face the Red Sox for an out or two before Joe Torre would trot out and give Mr. Clemens one last walk off the mound at Fenway... ... ... but that never happened. Roger Clemens pitched 5 great innings that night and that was it. He was done... no chance for a standing ovation... no final raise of the cap from Roger. It was jolting. One couple even got up and left the game (which remained close). It was an empty feeling... as if we, the Fenway faithful, had no connection with this man who was pitching on this night, 24 years after his debut... It was if the last 11 years never took place.
Take a look at this nicely done photo history of Roger Clemens' career from Boston.com
Read the Mitchell Report here