Those who had followed the career of Roger Clemens might be forgiven for believing he would not notice even if a hurricane were blowing the fans out of the upper deck. He was a study in overwhelming intensity: the 6'4", 205-pound frame, the relentless stare, the obsessive focus that reduced the universe to a 60-foot, 6-inch path between the mound and home plate. Now, after 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts, the 41-year-old Clemens had announced that 2003 would be his last season. Game 4 of this Series would in all likelihood be the last game he ever pitched—a fact the Wrigley fans recognized when they gave him a sustained standing ovation as he walked to the mound.
The affection lasted all the way to the third pitch of the game—when Clemens, notorious for keeping batters off the inside of the plate, threw a 94-mph fastball and a gust from the Hawk altered his rhythm by a fraction, causing the ball to pass an inch away from Lofton's chin.
Clemens insisted later that the pitch was supposed to have been low and a bit inside. ("If I'd been aiming for Kenny," he said, "he'd have known it.") But, as every fan knew—and a not-so-instant replay reminded viewers—there was a history: Clemens had beaned Mets catcher Mike Piazza in an interleague game back in 2000 and then, in that year's World Series, retrieved a piece of a broken bat and hurled it toward Piazza as the catcher was running toward first base.
Now, with the Chicago fans howling almost as fiercely as the Hawk, Clemens lost focus just enough to walk Lofton. Then Grudzielanek, with an 0-and-2 count, lunged at a wasted pitch and dropped it just over the head of first baseman Jason Giambi. Sosa was up next, and he put Clemens's first pitch over the leftfield wall. As Sosa crossed the plate, Torre trotted out to the mound, to be met by a glare that would have stopped a freight train. After a few words the manager went back to the dugout—and Clemens struck out the next two men ... and all three Cubs in the second ... and all three in the third. And for the next five innings he turned in one of the most memorable pitching performances in World Series history.
By the bottom of the eighth Clemens had struck out 14 men. Then, in the top of the ninth, with one out and the bases loaded, Ruben Sierra's sinking line drive landed just under Sosa's glove in rightfield and rolled all the way to the wall, and the game was tied.
In the dugout Torre was sitting next to Clemens, gesturing, apparently beseeching. Clemens was just as furiously shaking his head. And when the Yankees' half of the inning ended, with the score tied 3--3, it was Clemens, with 115 pitches that night, going out to the mound to a prolonged, emotional ovation, a final salute to the human spirit triumphing over age. But when Clemens opened the inning by walking pinch hitter Eric Karros, Torre headed out of the dugout, shoulders hunched as if leaning into a wind fiercer than the Hawk, and beckoned to the bullpen. The cameras, tight on Clemens's face, captured his state of pure rage. As he stalked off the mound, he hurled his glove—in frustration, he later insisted—and it missed Torre's head by a few inches.
Thus began the first intrateam brawl in World Series history, as the manager rushed his own pitcher. After a brief scuffle Giambi, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and four security guards dragged the flailing Clemens to the dugout as he repeatedly yelled, "That f---ing wind! That f---ing wind!"
It was left to Mariano Rivera to snuff out the Cubs and then lead off the 10th with the first hit of his baseball career, score on a Jeter home run and set the Cubs down in order, giving the Yankees a lead of three games to one. (Clemens, suspended for the remainder of the Series by commissioner Bud Selig, never pitched again, but he of course found a new career when he teamed up with Suzanne Somers to produce their hugely successful book and video, Forever Ageless—Keeping Your Hormones Healthy.)
WE CAN DO IT! screamed the back page of the Sun-Times, proclaiming a sentiment almost no true Cubs fan believed. But the next day Yankees starter Wells, famous for his disdain for conditioning, reared up in agony and left the game after the first inning with crippling back spasms. His replacement, Jose Contreras, surrendered five runs over the next four innings. And when the Series returned to New York, fate once again blessed the perennial losers. Carlos Zambrano limited the Yankees to five hits, while Sosa and Gonzalez hit two homers each off Pettitte, and when the game ended Chicago had a 6--1 victory—and the World Series between the most and least successful major league teams had come down to a single game.
There hadn't been anything like it since March 1971, when Muhammad Ali met Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden for the heavyweight championship of the world. On the night of Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003, Yankee Stadium became the center of the known universe. All day, as an unseasonable warm front pushed the temperature to 68°, fans and onlookers gathered around the stadium. Outside gate 4, Freddy (Freddy Sez) Schuman, the 78-year-old fan who roamed the park banging a good-luck pan and brandishing homemade signs (FREDDIE SEZ MAKE IT 96 YEARS!), was posing for pictures. Scalpers were asking $1,500 for a bleacher seat—and getting it.