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Letter From America: Götterdämmerung

Ronnie Bray writes of the sad last game of a giant of the baseball world.

For more of Ronnie's columns please click on Letter From America. And do read his slices of autobiography by clicking on A Shout From The Attic.

Roger Clemens, one of only four pitchers in baseball history to take more than four thousand strikeouts, let two runs get past him in the first two innings when the Yankees were two games down in the five game series against the Cleveland Indians, and the sixty-thousand Yankees fans were calling for blood in their run-off to the World Series.

The manager, Joe Torre, under threat of summary discharge according to George Steinbrenner the team’s owner if he fails to win this series of five games and take the Yankees on to win the American League pennant, looked grim-faced as he marched out to the mound a short way into the third innings to check if his veteran star pitcher was alright or if he needed to pull him out of the game.

Clemens was a giant among giants. He was the first pitcher in history to strike out twenty batters in a nine-inning major league game, an astounding record that only Kerry Wood and Randy Johnson have matched, and he is the only pitcher to have done it twice.

Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette said Clemens was in the "twilight of his career" after his strikeout statistics fell to a dramatic low for four seasons in a row. It did look as if the Colossus Clemens was face to face with his Götterdämmerung.

Opening pitchers of Clemens’ stature are expected to throw at least six innings before yielding to a reliever, but in this game Clemens was obviously having difficulty. When the manager went out a second time, forty-five year old Roger Clemens, who was named as one of the pre-eminent pitchers of 2006, headed sadly for the dugout to a standing ovation from the very fans who had booed him moments before when they demanded he be thrown out because he wasn’t doing the business against the Indians.

After being let go by the Red Sox, Clemens’ career took off again, and he became the first major league pitcher to chalk up three hundred and fifty wins, which he achieved in July this year.

Clemens reached the dugout after a walk that must have seemed like a five-mile hike with every eye in the stadium following him closely. At the dugout there was but slight recognition for the man who had been the face of Yankee pitching for many years, because the manager and coaches there knew what it was taking out of the him. Most relieved pitchers will stay in the dugout and mingle with the managerial and coaching staff, and accept their congratulations for their efforts, but this walk-off by Clemens could be his last in Major League Baseball and he was clearly in no mood to be consoled.

Instead of staying among his team members, he went straight from the steps down into the team’s pavilion at the side of the pitch and through the door leading to the tunnel leading to the unwelcoming empty silence of the changing room.

I witnessed the death of a legend who has given to baseball much more than he got from it. I could not see but I would be surprised if Roger Clemens did not begin to weep as soon as the dugout door slammed shut behind him as he strode into the dimness of the tunnel.

I am not a Yankees fan, and I don’t want them to win – I have reserved that slot for the Arizona Diamondbacks – but even so, I felt like joining Roger Clemens and weeping along side him for a less than triumphal exit from the sport to which he has given so much.

Thus ends his great career – ‘not with a bang, but with a whimper.’

Copyright © 2007 – Ronnie Bray

All rights reserved

* The Yankees lost three games and won one, so were knocked out of the race for the World Series, so Torre’s tenure at the Yankees looks shaky.

Other Stories by Ronnie Bray:



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