BOSTON — Roger Clemens took advantage of his induction into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame to throw batting practice to two of his sons on the field at Fenway Park. Then, it was off to Chicago to see another son play in a high school All-America game at Wrigley Field.
But at no point in his busy schedule, the seven-time Cy Young winner said, does he spend any time worrying about whether he will eventually gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
“If it happens, it happens. It’s not going to change me as a person,” Clemens said at Fenway on Thursday morning. “It’s not why I played the game. When I was out there and I was doing it, I did it to the best of my ability, and I worked my tail off.”
Clemens was inducted into the Red Sox hall during a lunchtime ceremony along with Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and longtime broadcaster Joe Castiglione. They were recognized on the field during a 20-minute ceremony that included highlights and prerecorded speeches played on the center-field scoreboard before Thursday night’s game against the Houston Astros.
Clemens received a polite applause from the crowd, while Garciaparra and Martinez were given rousing ovations. The four received plaques and stood at the edge of the mound before throwing out ceremonial first pitches. Martinez was given an additional plaque commemorating his 17-strikeout, one-hitter in Yankee Stadium on Sept. 10, 1999.
But it is the celebration of the hard-throwing Texan that has attracted the most attention, bringing him back to the organization that drafted him out of college and helped him develop into a star. Clemens pitched 13 years in Boston, winning his first three Cy Young Awards and as many games in a Red Sox uniform as Cy Young himself.
In 1996, though, he had a bitter split with the team and signed as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays — earning the Cy Young in both his seasons there — and he seemed to seal the divorce when he went to the reviled New York Yankees. His returns to Boston were great theater, with the local fans turning on their onetime hero in favor of newcomers — including Martinez.
When he retired, Clemens had amassed 354 wins, and his 4,672 strikeouts are third in baseball history. His seven coronations as the top pitcher in the AL is also unprecedented; he also won the 1986 AL MVP, and twice struck out a record 20 batters in a game.
But Clemens’ reputation across baseball — and especially Boston — suffered again when he was featured in the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drug use in baseball. Although he has been eligible for the past two Cooperstown elections, Clemens has received about one-third of the votes (with three-fourths needed for election), despite on-field accomplishments that would otherwise make him a sure-fire candidate.
“I don’t know if it’s that important,” Clemens said, adding that he has visited the museum, where mementoes of his career are featured, and always receives a warm welcome. “It’s not something I sit up and worry about every day. I’ve been far too busy to worry about that. I know what I did in my career and how I did it, and I did it right.”
Martinez did not seem to care whether Clemens “did it right.” But the Dominican who inherited the role of ace in the Red Sox rotation said he would like to see Clemens take his spot in the hall anyway.
“In my heart, if you asked me before any of that (steroid allegations), I would say ‘Yes, 100 percent,’ without looking back,” Martinez said, referring to Clemens and slugger Barry Bonds. “It’s not just their performances, it’s how they dominated.”
Martinez pitched seven years in Boston and was the star of the staff that won the 2004 World Series to end the franchise’s 86-year title drought. In 1999-2000, he went 41-10 with an ERA of 1.90 — one of the greatest stretches for a pitcher in baseball history.
Garciaparra was Martinez’s teammate then, and now works on the Dodgers’ broadcast crew. And when fans ask if he’s ever seen anyone as good as Los Angeles left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who has won two Cy Young Awards so far and is 14-2 with a 1.78 ERA this season, he has a ready answer:
“Hang on,” Garciaparra says, “I got to play with Pedro Martinez. He is not there yet. But he’s definitely special.”