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Tom Verducci
February 23, 2004
Returning to their Houston roots, inseparable pals Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte want to share the fun of pitching the Astros to a title
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February 23, 2004

The Home Team

Returning to their Houston roots, inseparable pals Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte want to share the fun of pitching the Astros to a title

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Clemens and Pettitte work out, golf, vacation, sightsee, shoot pool, commiserate and, at least for a few nights last postseason, room together. Neither goes his way alone. Not by blood but by destiny have they been made brothers. Brothers in arms.

The hotel freight elevator, like the private jet, the gated property and the dinner tab picked up by someone else, is one of the unmistakable if more spartan imprimaturs of certified American celebrity. Escorted by three security officers, Clemens, Pettitte, baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Astros owner Drayton McLane are taking this clandestine mode of travel, on Feb. 6, to the fourth-floor ballroom of the Hilton Americas-Houston for the annual Houston baseball awards dinner, but it is Clemens who dominates the car in every way. He signs baseballs and poses for a photographer with the dinner committee chairman's two small sons. Selig all but disappears in the eclipse. McLane, 67, backed up to a wall behind Clemens, begins to tell a story about how the burly righthander had thrown batting practice to him at a meet-and-greet session with 200 salespeople from a team sponsor.

"Got one up and in on him," Clemens says, laughing. "Had to. Didn't like the way he was leanin' over the dish."

Clemens notices Pettitte standing quietly with that smile that seems locked upon his face ever since he was introduced as an Astro on Dec. 11. "Look at Lefty up there," Clemens says. "The big guy's just floatin'. I don't think he even knows where he is."

Pettitte lowers his head and blushes. Typically, he opts not to engage in repartee, in part because it's not his style but also because Clemens is to needling what Errol Flynn was to swordsmanship. When Clemens recently received an invitation to play in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and Pettitte moaned that he hadn't, Clemens coolly shot back, "You're about six Cy Youngs short of playing in that tournament, pardner." Pettitte took it in silence.

Clemens is that kid on the playground who's always quick with a joke and loves to double-dog-dare you. For all the machismo he exudes on the mound—the way he stares down hitters and that slow, Texas gunslinger walk-he has not outgrown the unspoiled perspective of a high school jock. He gets to work out, play a game and hang out with his buds.

Referred to by the Hendricks brothers as the Big Guy, Clemens displays a boyish enthusiasm that says he has to play. That's why Alan Hendricks never fully believed his client last year when he kept telling the world that he was going home for good to his wife, Deb, and their four boys.

"I'd believe Roger was shutting it down," Alan says, "only when he was sitting home on his couch in December and could say, I don't need it. I don't want to do it.' "

In September when the agents e-mailed Clemens a schedule of his November, December, January and February appearances and commitments, the calendar included this notation for the week beginning Feb. 15: "Pitchers and catchers report."

Clemens e-mailed back: "Pitchers and catchers report? Very funny. No chance."

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