SI Vault
Tom Verducci
June 02, 2003
In his final season, Roger Clemens stalks his landmark 300th win by making certain that his 40-year-old body can still bring the heat
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June 02, 2003

It's All About The Power

In his final season, Roger Clemens stalks his landmark 300th win by making certain that his 40-year-old body can still bring the heat

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No matter what his victory total, however, Clemens never acts his age. He is the high school jock who, $100 million later, still doesn't call anybody by his given name—Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is "Jeet," catcher Jorge Posada is "Georgie," manager Joe Torre is "Skip" and Jim Murray, one of Clemens's agents, is "Taco Neck," after his habitual head-tilt to cradle his cellphone while writing notes, which resembles the universal taco-eating position.

His pitches have nicknames too. Clemens throws, for instance, a "splittie" (splitter), a "Hook 'em, Horns" (curveball) and a "Racer X" (a fastball that rides back on the inside corner against lefties) but tries to avoid the dreaded "cement mixer" (a slider that spins too slowly). Even his truck has a nickname: Mean Machine. Befitting his outsized image, Clemens drives a Hummer H2. "The Mean Machine's great," he says from behind the wheel while mounting an offensive on Second Avenue. "People get out of your way."

Clemens drops off Jowdy at a diner and tells him to order Clemens's usual lunch while he parks the Mean Machine. Not long after Clemens sits down, he is served his Rocket fuel: a platter with a breast of chicken and a bacon cheeseburger nearly the size of a Manhattan studio apartment.

Somehow the conversation gets around to a hearing in the baseball commissioner's office over Clemens's famous ejection by umpire Terry Cooney in the 1990 American League Championship Series. Clemens remembers that all parties were carefully editing their recollections of the on-field language until commissioner Fay Vincent finally implored them not to, saying, "We're all grown men here."

"The stenographer was a little lady straight out of Little House on the Prairie," Clemens says. "She couldn't believe what she heard after that. The poor old woman's hands were shaking. I'm thinking, I hope Little House on the Prairie makes it."

His recovery-day work isn't done yet. Clemens works out again after he arrives at the ballpark at 3:30 p.m., usually strapping weights on his ankles for exercises designed to maintain strength in his groin area.

Day Two begins back on the artificial-turf field, as early as 7 a.m. The conditioning drills closely mirror those of Day One. At the gym Clemens substitutes upper-body weight work for the previous day's lower-body weight work. He moves through 12 different curls, lifts and pull-downs. "People who don't know get put off by lifting," Clemens says, "but I never lift more than 25 pounds above my head."

He follows the weight work with another 20 minutes of cardio on the treadmill and bike. Then he works out again at the stadium. He does a series of light-weight exercises for strength and flexibility in his pitching shoulder. He also throws for 12 minutes in the bullpen, using all his pitches: four-seam and two-seam fastballs, slider, curve and splitter.

On Day Three, Clemens runs through another full morning of crunches, agility drills and cardio, though his weight work is scaled back to a few exercises at the ballpark. He throws again in the bullpen, though this time he moves Borzello up to 55 feet, not the standard 60 feet, six inches. For this, too, he has a nickname: Williamsport. "I'm not looking for full extension," he says. "I just want to concentrate on staying on top of the ball, keeping my hand behind it. It helps you repeat your delivery."

When Clemens is satisfied with the muscle memory in his body, and especially his right hand, he tells pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, "That's it." It's like tuning a piano. One day last month Clemens threw only 12 pitches before stopping his Williamsport.

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