Work in Sports
Clemens-Piazza flareup still talk of the town
Updated: Tuesday October 24, 2000 2:14 AM
So on a travel day that required no travel, there was only one topic at Shea Stadium and both teams agreed: The image of Clemens throwing the jagged barrel of Piazza's bat was sure to be the lasting image of this World Series.
"This is definitely going to be torture if you have to watch that time and time again," New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said Monday.
"If the Mets win, I think they're going to use that as a motivation for coming back and beating us. ... And if we win, it's still going to be a major part of it," he said.
Said Piazza: "This is a situation that has taken prominence over the ballgame, which is unfortunate. But that's the way it is."
Torre made two lineup announcements, both which normally would attract a lot of attention.
Yet on this afternoon, as Yankees owner George Steinbrenner gave Clemens a hearty pat on the back during workouts, those moves caused little stir.
Instead, all the talk concerned Clemens throwing a chunk of Piazza's shattered bat within two feet of the Mets star in the first inning, causing the benches to empty in Sunday night's 6-5 win by the Yankees.
Clemens claimed the whole thing was accidental, and that he was merely being emotional.
"This is the World Series, it shouldn't overshadow what we're trying to do," Clemens said. "I've done that before -- I've thrown the bat at the batboy."
"There's no intent there," he repeated, for about the hundredth time. "I wish it had been Mike Bordick's bat. The only thing strange was that it was Mike (Piazza)."
The Mets were still seething at Clemens, having seen him bean Piazza on July 8 at Yankee Stadium.
Mets DH Lenny Harris said he spent the rest of Sunday night's game "trying to hit a ball right off his forehead."
A day later, Piazza seemed uncertain what to think.
"He seemed extremely apologetic and unsure and confused and unstable," he said. "Now that I have had time to think about it, I do believe his actions should be looked at by Frank Robinson or whoever is in charge of conduct."
Fact is, Robinson, baseball's dean of discipline, had already started to look into the matter. Clemens could face a fine, although many seemed to think a suspension was highly unlikely.
Torre said he had no problem with baseball investigating.
"I welcome that. I mean, I do. I talked to Frank Robinson this morning," he said. "He asked me what I thought and what I saw and what I felt. I think to be thorough about it, that's probably the right thing."
Torre sharply backed Clemens' version late Sunday night that the incident was not intentional. The manager said he needed his wife to calm him down later at dinner.
Given a day to think about it, Torre did not change his stance, though he said he could see why the Mets were angry.
"I can understand their comments," he said. "Understand that Roger is wearing our uniform, and we're going to go overboard to back him, not necessarily agreeing with everything that happens, OK?
"I don't condone what he did. But again, I still hold to the fact that he didn't throw it at him, OK?" he said.
Mets manager Bobby Valentine did not say Clemens deliberately threw the bat at Piazza. But asked whether he agreed with Piazza that baseball should look into the altercation, he responded, "Yeah, I support my catcher, totally."
No surprise, with the Clemens-Piazza flareup becoming the talk of the town, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani even addressed the issue. Being a lifelong Yankees fan, he reaction was predictable.
"I can't imagine he would throw at him, otherwise, he would ... get himself thrown out of one of the most important games of his career," Giuliani said.