Clemens came to New York for a ring, and he got it
Posted: Thursday October 28, 1999 09:23 AM
Roger Clemens shared his first World Series victory with sons Koby and Kory. AP
NEW YORK (AP) -- Roger Clemens had spent his entire life waiting for this moment.
He couldn't win the big one, they said. Didn't have the heart, didn't have the guts.
Now, 30 minutes after he did it, he was up on top of the Yankees' dugout, leaning into the first row, hugging the fans and giving them high-fives, too.
"Tonight," he said, "I kind of feel what it's like to be a Yankee for sure."
Fifteen years after he first stepped on a major league field, he finally proved the doubters wrong.
| CNN/SI On-Site |
| Clemens was very effective. I felt that he would probably be at his best because this was the moment that he had been waiting for -- trying to prove his worth to the Yankees. He did that tonight. |
-- CNN/SI Baseball Analyst Ozzie Smith
With a chance to make history, Clemens didn't just beat the Atlanta Braves, he smothered them.
On baseball's greatest stage, the mound of Yankee Stadium with the World Series title just one win away, he threw four-hit ball for 7 2-3 innings and led the Yankees to a 4-1 win Wednesday night that gave them their second straight Series sweep.
"He was calm today," wife Debbie Clemens said. "He studied his videotapes and was with the family. The whole family was around."
Koby, 12, and Kory, 11, were out on the Yankees' infield now, digging up some dirt to save. Kacy, 5, and Kody, 3, were back at the hotel.
Clemens had come back on the field, fans still cheering.
"Pump you fists. Pump your fists," Roger told his kids.
And the crowd kept yelling for him.
"This is what everybody said it's all about," Clemens said.
He remembered back to April 11, when the Yankees of '98 received their rings.
"They said, 'We're going to get you one,'" Clemens recalled.
Well, he played a part, too.
Those five Cy Young Awards were nice -- more than enough for each kid -- but he couldn't flash one on a finger and proclaim himself a winner.
Now he can.
"I'd like to thank my family for pushing me to come here," he said.
The fans never quite bonded with him. They loved Mr. Perfect, David Wells, a shot-and-a-beer guy. Clemens was more aloof.
And it didn't help that following consecutive Cy Youngs, he slumped to 14-10 after the spring training deal that sent him from Toronto to New York.
That changed Wednesday, when they sensed title No. 25 as they walked off the subway and into the ballpark.
Here was Clemens, bounding off the mound like a kid to field three comebackers. He didn't admit it, but he was juiced.
"That's why he came here," Derek Jeter said, "to win a championship."
He didn't allow a fly ball to an outfielder, didn't allow a runner past first base until the eighth.
"I knew he was going to do it," Series MVP Mariano Rivera said. "This guy was pumped up."
On his way to the mound before the first, Clemens stopped by Monument Park to give Babe Ruth's plaque a little pat. And then he gave a performance that would make Ruth proud.
Keith Lockhart in the fifth was the only batter to reach leading off an inning. He was quickly erased when Eddie Perez bounced into a double play.
Clemens pumped his right fist, then pointed his right index finger, the one that has released so many fastballs, at second baseman Chuck Knoblauch as if to say, you can do it.
He didn't allow another hit until the eighth, when Walt Weiss reached on an infield hit - replays showed first base ump Gerry Davis blew the call, that Clemens had caught the ball and had his right foot on the bag before Weiss stepped on the foot.
The trainer came out, but Clemens stayed in, allowing a clean single to Gerald Williams
. That was it. New York manager Joe Torre decided Clemens should call it a night, even though players on the Yankees bench seemed to pull for him to remain.
"I wanted to finish," Clemens said. "I thought I was still pumping pretty good and Skip was going to give me an opportunity."
Slowly off the mound, Clemens walked. He waved his cap to the crowd. He was back to the clubhouse as Jeff Nelson allowed a single to Bret Boone that drove in Atlanta's lone run, but came back to the dugout for the triumphant ninth.
He had brought so much baggage with him to New York, including the hatred of Boston fans who felt he turned traitor when he left the Red Sox after the 1996 season to sign with Toronto.
After pitching seven shutout innings against the Rangers in the first round, he was bombed in Boston, didn't get out of the third inning. The Fenway fans said that was the real Clemens, the one with the 2-3 postseason record, not the one who went 247-134 during the regular season.
Forget that, Clemens said Wednesday night. This is me.
"I feel very blessed to be a part of the team," he said.
His career may not be complete, but his mission is.
"You did it. You stayed within yourself," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said after Clemens gave him a big bear hug in the chaotic clubhouse. "I'm really proud of you."
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