By Bill Stewart
William Roger Clemens is one of the greatest Major League pitchers of all time. Over his career, he had 354 wins and 184 losses. His earned run average was 3.12 and he had 4,672 strikeouts – third most of all time. He was an All-Star 11 times, won seven CY Young Awards and was a two-time World Series Champion. He was also accused of using anabolic steroids, but he was never convicted. The accusation, though, has kept him from being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He was born in Dayton, Ohio, on August 4, 1962, of German descent. Roger lived in Vandalia, Ohio, until 1977, then spent most of his high school career in Houston, Texas. He played baseball for Spring Woods High School under longtime coach Charles Malorana and was scouted in his senior year by the Minnesota Twins and the Philadelphia Phillies. But he thought college was a better option.
He pitched for San Jacinto College North in 1981 and had a 9-2 record. He switched to the University of Texas at Austin and compiled a 25-7 record for the Longhorns, helping them to win the College World Series in 1983. Clemens was selected by the New York Mets in the twelfth round of the 1981 draft, but he wouldn’t sign. The Boston Red Sox drafted him in 1983 in the first round, nineteenth overall. He debuted with Boston on May 15, 1984. An undiagnosed torn labrum almost ended his career. Successful surgery by Dr. James Andrews allowed him to return to the mound in 1986.
On April 20, he pitched a 3-1 win over the Seattle Mariners and struck out a Major League record 20 batters to begin what would be a memorable year. He started the 1986 All-Star game in Houston and was named MVP. Clemens went on to win the American League MVP and Cy Young Awards. He finished with a 24-4 record and an ERA of 2.48 with 238 strike outs. Roger won the seventh game of the ALCS over the California Angels. But the Sox lost the 1986 World Series to the New York Mets in seven games. The Sox finished 78-84 in 1987, but Clemens won his second Cy Young Award with a 20-9 record, a 2.97 ERA, 256 strike outs and seven shutouts. Clemens won his third Cy Young Award in 1991, with an 18-10 record. He turned in another 20 strike-out game in one of his final starts for Boston in 1996. The Red Sox did not sign Clemens after that season. General Manager Dan Duquette wanted to keep Clemens, but the Toronto Blue Jays offered more and Roger went north. He signed with Toronto for a four-year $40 million contract. He won two more Cy Young Awards. In 1997, he was 21-7 with a 2.05 ERA and 292 strike outs. In 1998 he was 20-6 with a 2.65 ERA and 271 strike outs. After the season, Roger decided that the Jays were not very good and he wanted to win championships, so the Jays traded him to the Yankees. He played five seasons for the Yanks, winning two World Series titles. In the 2001 season he became the first pitcher ever to run up a 20-1 streak, and he finished with a 20-3 record and another Cy Young Award.
He announced his retirement from the Yankees at the end of the 2003 season. But he came out of retirement in 2004 and played for the Houston Astros for three seasons. In 2004 his record was 18-4 and he won his seventh Cy Young Award. He was the losing pitcher of the seventh game of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. He returned to the Yankees in 2007 and finished the season with a record of 6-6 and an ERA of 4.18 before retiring again.
Because of the controversies over anabolic steroids, he was denied the Baseball Hall of Fame. He also was accused of lying to Congress in a meeting and was tried in court, but he was eventually found not guilty.
A wonderful pitcher, but not the greatest human being in the game – but we still love what he accomplished in Boston. Clemens had a record of 192 wins and 38 shutouts for the Red Sox, and he is the all-time leader of 2,590 strike outs. He was our greatest pitcher ever.
(Editor’s Note: Bill Stewart, better known to Saugus Advocate readers as “The Old Sachem,” writes a weekly column about sports – and sometimes he opines on current or historical events or famous people.)