Pettitte, home from the banquet by then, gave Laura a hug and whispered, "We're home, babe. We're home."
The doorbell rang early the next day. Clemens had come over to play—to work out, that is. (The two live about 25 minutes apart.) Pettitte told Clemens there was something he had to share with him first. Clemens congratulated him, wished him well, gladly gave Pettitte his blessing to wear his original number, 21, and then said it was time to get on with their workout. It was the fourth straight day of hard training for Clemens.
A few mornings later Clemens looked out his window and saw 50 people carrying signs and urging him to pitch for the Astros. That same day, a radio station delivered an H2, also burnt orange, to his driveway, his to keep if he ended his retirement and joined Pettitte. He couldn't go to the grocery store or the gas station without somebody telling him he had to do it. Had to.
Clemens rolled the idea around in his head. After Pettitte's signing, the Hendrickses and the Astros had talked about the possibility of Clemens pitching again. Now McLane was offering to let Clemens take days off if he wanted to stay home and watch his sons play sports. Worried how that might sit with teammates, Clemens asked Houston first baseman Jeff Bagwell about such a privilege during a round of golf. "I told him nobody would have a problem with it," Bagwell says. "And from what I know about Roger, and what the team means to him, I don't even think it will be an issue all that much."
Clemens's sons let him know how they felt about it at Christmas. They gave him an Astros cap.
There was one more person he would need to consult, and that would require a reversal of roles. Pettitte had remained as impartial as he could, waiting for Clemens to resolve the issue with his family first. Finally, at dinner on Jan. 4, the 10th night of the 12-day trip to Hawaii, Clemens and Pettitte and their wives discussed the comeback.
"At dinner I felt like his mind was made up, but that he wanted to hear it was O.K.," Pettitte says. "He said to me, I feel like I'm going back on my word.' I told him, "Things change. I never imagined this would come about.' If I sensed his family was against it, I never would have said anything. But you could tell they were pulling for him."
When Clemens returned to his room that night, he told Deb, "Hon, I'm sitting on the fence, and I'm going to need a nudge." Deb gave the last push. The Big Guy was back.
"The people [in Houston] were great," Clemens says. "But Andy was reason 1. And they were 1A."
"Look at that," says Bagwell, his voice barely more than a whisper. He is standing in front of his locker at Minute Maid Park, gazing with awe at the name-plates above four lockers across the room. In order, they read MILLER, OSWALT, PETTITTE, CLEMENS. "Do you know how good it feels to see those names?" Bagwell says. "That's a pretty good corner there."