He is packing his bags. His three-bedroom Manhattan apartment seems bare when you consider that it's been his in-season residence for three years. A framed picture of Clemens with Cal Ripken Jr. by the Babe Ruth monument at Yankee Stadium does not hang on a wall but leans against a window on the sill. A few boxes are scattered about. "I'm sending stuff home now," he says. "It's getting emptier because I don't want it to be the end of October, hopefully, and then a big transition."
Two years ago Debbie figured that when Roger won his 300th, he'd find another pitcher or record to chase down. This winter, though, a certainty settled over him like the warmth of the spring sun. This would be his last season. "They're ready for me to come home," he says, "and I'm ready."
He found in that decision—a twilight of his own choosing—tremendous peace and comfort. Never has he been more playful, never has he so enjoyed the brotherhood of baseball. One day he's telling teammate Mike Mussina, whose flesh tone may actually be deepening beyond its usual pallor, to up his SPF factor. Another day he's yelling to a smiling Pettitte, "First time I've seen your teeth in a month. I was ready to hang a cryin' towel in your locker." He is allowing a crew from MLB Productions to film him behind the scenes this season for a sort of video scrapbook, including a planned trip next week to his father's grave in Ohio. "The neatest thing about shutting it down this year," Clemens says, "is that more guys, even from other teams, are coming up to me to ask questions before I go."
"Roger, from Day One of spring training, has never had a down day," says Stottlemyre. "You see a little extra spark every day at the ballpark. It's almost like, 'I know this is my last go-round.' He's always had a lot of energy. This year he's stepped it up." IDUNA, THE Norse goddess of youth and beauty, also kept a box close by. Hers was filled with golden apples. Whenever the gods felt old age creeping up on them, Iduna opened the box—Clack-clack!—and gave them a golden apple. They took a bite and were filled with the magic of youth.
Inside his hard case, Clemens keeps the tools and totems of his craft. His steel protective cup. Old game balls. His game hats. A nameplate from his spring training locker in 2001, on which former teammate Allen Watson wrote that Clemens would go 22-6 and win the Cy Young. (Clemens went 20-3 and won the Cy.) Four game-ready black fielding gloves. Four mouthpieces in a lime-green plastic case.
"I bite down when I pitch," Clemens says. "My jaws and temples used to be real sore after games. I used a football mouthpiece until my dentist said, 'I can make you a thinner one that's more durable.' I go through about four a year."
And then there's a Men in Black visor. "It's the Men in Black case," Clemens says, finally explaining the stenciled acronym (if not the E-22, which, it turns out, is the equipment manager's code for Clemens's gear). "I got the visor at Universal Studios."
Torre says, "Roger takes me back to what Roy Campanella said: 'You have to have a lot of little boy in you to play this game.' "
There are no golden apples inside Clemens's case, so he labors lovingly at keeping the ravages of age at bay. The work allows him to stand tall on the mound and reach back to his youth for a young man's fastball. The baseball will resonate like a sweet memory in the mitt of Borzello. The two of them have a running gag about it. Borzello will shake his head over the quality of Clemens's stuff, the stuff that cannot be bequeathed, and Clemens will bark, "What are you shakin' your head about?"
"I've already told you," Borzello will say.