BOSTON — Roger Clemens won 162 games, four Cy Young awards and his only two World Series titles after leaving Boston.
The accomplishments didn’t diminish The Rocket’s appreciation for his 13 years with the Red Sox.
“This is my home. This is where I got started,” Clemens said Thursday at Fenway Park before being inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. “I learned so much about being a power pitcher here coming out of the University of Texas.”
Clemens, who was drafted by the Red Sox in 1983, enjoyed great success with Boston. He racked up 192 wins, earned five All-Star selections, won three Cy Young awards and scooped up American League MVP honors in 1986. A World Series ring proved elusive in that span, but Clemens finds it difficult to have any regrets about the beginning of his lengthy career.
“I don’t know that I regret it more after the guys that came behind us ended up winning a couple,” Clemens said. “I think it made it great for the fans and the city because they had waited so long for another championship. I think about remembering the pressure that went along with just to win a Game 7 at the time. We were told as players and the history about playing for this franchise about just trying to win a Game 7, let alone a World Series. We came so close. We got really, really close. Even though (I was) active (with the Houston Astros in 2004) watching them win one, this franchise has a piece of my heart.”
While it’s possible Clemens might never be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame because of performance-enhancing drug allegations, the former pitcher said Thursday he’d prefer to don a Red Sox cap on his Cooperstown plaque if the opportunity ever presents itself. Clemens still has a strong affinity for Boston despite thriving elsewhere after leaving in free agency following the 1996 season.
“I spent 13 years here. I worked hard,” Clemens said. “So yeah, like I said, this is where I got my start. I got my nickname here. The guys today still call me ‘Rocket’ more than they do ‘Roger.’ It’s pretty cool, and at home, I probably have more Red Sox stuff than any other club I’ve ever played for.”
Clemens thought he was going to finish his career with the Red Sox but isn’t bitter that he didn’t. He played for four teams — the Sox, Astros Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees — before finally calling it quits, and he established many meaningful relationships at each stop.
Clemens’ induction into the Red Sox Hall of Fame is a prestigious honor for which the longtime ace is grateful. One can’t help but wonder if he’ll someday join the likes of Bobby Doerr (No. 1), Joe Cronin (No. 4), Johnny Pesky (No. 6), Carl Yastrzemski (No. 8), Ted Williams (No. 9), Jim Rice (No. 14), Carlton Fisk (No. 27) and Jackie Robinson (No. 42) in having his No. 21 retired and placed upon Fenway’s right field façade.
“I think about all the guys early in my career that kind of showed me the ropes, if you will, not only on the field but behind the scenes — everything from tipping clubhouse guys to what you do on the bus, how you address yourself when you get to hotels, just a little of everything,” Clemens said. “I was 21 years old, so it was great to have Jimmy (Rice) and Dwight (Evans) and veteran players around you. You kind of sit back and watch.
“If it happens, it happens. It’s not going to change me as a person,” Clemens added of potentially having his number retired. “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. If it happens, it happens. It’s totally up to these guys.”
Clemens’ relationship with the Red Sox was once believed to be shaky. Now, there’s a deep admiration that runs both ways.
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