It has been said that only three things matter in the city of
Boston--politics, baseball and revenge--and on one glorious July
afternoon at Fenway Park they came together like the last
chapter of a good novel.
As Roger Clemens stepped to the Fenway mound for the first time
in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform, a hearty sampling of boos cut
through the applause and filled the old ballpark with tension.
On the streets outside, vendors had sold souvenir WANTED posters
charging Clemens with treason, and TV crews had tracked his
every step through his former stomping grounds. The game meant
nothing in the American League East standings but everything in
the town where the Rocket had always stirred the fans' emotions
like no other ballplayer of his era.
After a contentious public showdown with hard-line Red Sox
general manager Dan Duquette, Clemens had bolted Boston as a
free agent at the end of the '96 season and signed a staggering
four-year, $31.1 million deal with the rival Blue Jays.
Convinced that Duquette had driven him out of Boston, Clemens
attacked his 14th big league season like a desperate rookie,
showing up at spring training in superb condition and winning
his first 11 decisions of the regular season. He would go on to
win 21 games and his fourth Cy Young Award, but not before
making a dramatic campaign stop in his old district.
The Red Sox hitters never had a chance. Clemens may have left
Boston for the money, but he came back for blood. He set a
Toronto record with 16 strikeouts in eight innings, snuffing out
the boos along with the overmatched Boston hitters. Before
turning the game over to the Blue Jays' shaky bullpen, he struck
out the side on 10 pitches in the eighth, ending his epic outing
by making his old pal Mo Vaughn look feeble with a 97-mph
As he left the field to a thunderous ovation, Clemens shot a
glance up toward the Red Sox owner's box, just to make sure
everyone had been paying attention. The box score said he earned
a 3-1 win, but everyone who was there knew Roger Clemens had
done a whole lot more than that.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY DAMIAN STROHMEYER [Roger Clemens pitching]