Clemens joins 300-win club, also tops 4,000 strikeoutsPosted: Friday June 13, 2003 8:16 PM
Updated: Saturday June 14, 2003 8:31 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Kody Clemens, all of 7, remained on the Yankee Stadium mound after his brothers and daddy had left. He wanted to scoop up some more of the dirt from his father's landmark night.
They will be forever intertwined, 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts.
After 19 1/2 years as one of baseball's greatest ever, Roger Clemens reached both marks in the same momentous game.
"To have these two milestones I was able to achieve tonight, it was really special," the Rocket said Friday night after leading the New York Yankees over the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2. "Everybody can stop chasing me around the country."
Clemens (7-4) was the 21st pitcher to make it 300, and did it on his fourth try. The 4,000-strikeout club is even more exclusive -- he's just the third member, joining Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Steve Carlton (4,136).
"4,000 and 300 puts me with some great names that ever played the game, that ever stepped on that mound," Clemens said.
Clemens allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings and struck out 10, raising his total to 4,006 on an unusually cool, damp night. He threw 120 pitches before handing a lead to New York's bullpen for his third straight start.
Given a 3-2 advantage, this time Chris Hammond escaped the seventh-inning jam he created, and Antonio Osuna and Mariano Rivera pitched perfect innings. A sellout crowd of 55,214 cheered while Clemens' teammates hugged him in the dugout after the final out.
Clemens jogged onto the field as Elton John's "Rocket Man" played over the public-address system. He raised both arms, tipped his cap to the fans in right field, then left, then touched his heart.
"I really wanted it to happen here. That's why I signed back here," said Clemens, who could have left as a free agent last winter.
He walked back to near the Yankees dugout and Kody, his youngest son, jumped into his arms as his wife, Debbie, gave Clemens a hug.
His other three sons -- Koby, Kory and Kacy -- took their turns scooping up dirt from the mound and putting it in bags as keepsakes, followed by Kody, who went out to the mound all by himself.
After the game, the sons followed him through the Yankee Stadium corridors, like ducks trailing their parents.
"That's probably every player's dream, to be out there with your son," said the Cardinals' Joe Girardi, Clemens' former catcher on the Yankees.
As fans chanted Clemens' name, Girardi and Tino Martinez -- another former Yankee -- remained in the St. Louis dugout watching the celebration.
"It's amazing, the hard work, the dedication he put in," Martinez said.
Many family members and friends had followed Clemens from city to city for the past three weeks, wanting to be on hand for his history-making night.
But his mother, Bess, suffering from emphysema and coming off a bout with pneumonia, was well enough to attend only his first try.
Clemens got teary-eyed as he talked about her.
After the game, he called her on a telephone.
"She sounded great," he said. "Probably pitching every pitch with me."
Flashbulbs popped from Clemens' first pitch. Even though the game was played in a drizzle, the excitement over his quest created a postseason feel for the first game that counted between the Yankees and Cardinals since the 1964 World Series.
Clemens, baseball's only six-time Cy Young Award winner, reached the milestones in his 20th and probably final major league season.
The 40-year-old right-hander (300-155) became the 21st 300-game winner, the first since Ryan, another Texas fastballer, in 1990.
"I still have my fastball," Clemens said. "I'm still a power pitcher, and I enjoy that."
Phil Niekro was the only other pitcher to win his 300th game while playing for the Yankees. The knuckleballer did it at Toronto in 1985 while wearing a road gray uniform, making Clemens the first to do it in Yankees pinstripes.
Clemens started strongly, striking out six of his first eight batters.
But coming off a 10-day bout with bronchitis, Clemens labored noticeably in the fourth and fifth innings, and twice failed to protect one-run leads.
Before the seventh, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre told Clemens he could face just two more batters. Yankees manager Joe Torre was booed loudly when he walked to the mound to remove Clemens with two outs in the seventh inning and Cardinals' No. 2 hitter, J.D. Drew, coming up.
Clemens, who allowed six hits and two walks, got a standing ovation from the crowd as he walked to the Yankees dugout on the first-base side, twice tipping his cap.
"I told Roger after the game, `I used to be popular here,"' said Torre, who has led the Yankees to four World Series titles.
"I would have booed, too, if I had been sitting in the stands. They wanted Roger to pitch the complete game, but that wasn't going to happen where his pitch count was," he said.
"You can never question what this man does," Clemens said. "He's so important to why we win."
"It got a little hairy out there, but I got the third out," Hammond said. "To me, it felt like the seventh game of the World Series."
Out of the game, Clemens quickly shaved, then got an eighth-inning visit from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
"He was almost choking me up the way he was talking," Clemens said.
Hideki Matsui, Ruben Sierra and Raul Mondesi all homered off Jason Simontacchi (4-4) to provide the offense for New York, which has won two straight since six Houston pitchers patched together the first no-hitter against the Yankees in 45 years.
Clemens, who came to New York in 1999 following 13 seasons with Boston and two with Toronto, got his 299th win on May 21 at Fenway Park, but five days later lost 8-4 to the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. The bullpen then wasted leads June 1 at Detroit and June 7 in his first start at Chicago's Wrigley Field.
Clemens looked pumped at the beginning, throwing fastballs past helpless Cardinals' batters. He struck out his first three batters, moving within one of 4,000. Then after allowing a home run and a double at the start of the second, he got Edgar Renteria to miss a 3-2 pitch.
Catcher Jorge Posada went out to the mound to shake Clemens' hand, and the ball was taken out of play.
"I know he's going to the Hall of Fame. I know my name's going to be there, too," said Renteria, initially unaware he was a record victim.
Asked which milestone was the best, Clemens said the answer was easy.
"The two rings I look at every day," he said, a reference to the Series titles he helped the Yankees win in 1999 and 2000.
About 1 1/2 hours after the game, the Clemens' family finally left Yankee Stadium with his two oldest sons. Rain was pouring down, but about 30 fans had waited him out, standing behind a barrier.
And they kept clapping and cheering.
Notes: Clemens tied a season high with 10 strikeouts. ... Only
three pitchers took longer to get from 299 to 300, according to the
Elias Sports Bureau. Niekro and Old Hoss Radbourn reached the mark
on their fifth tries, and Early Wynn did it on his seventh -- the
final victory of his career. ... Martinez, given several standing
ovations, went 0-for-3.