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HATS OFF TO THE ROCKET.
June 20, 2003

by Bill Hogan

 
 

On June 13, Roger Clemens became the 21st pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win 300 games. At the same time, he became only the third pitcher ever to strike out 4,000 batters. Two remarkable feats accomplished in one night. Whether you love him (Yankee fans), or hate him (Red Sox fans), you have to tip your cap to the Rocket.

Clemens said he will retire at the end of the season which means he'll be making his induction speech at the Hall of Fame in July of 2009. No question, he is a shoo-in; and was even before notching win number 300.

 
 


It also seems, from what I've read, that it's a shoo-in he'll be wearing a Boston Red Sox cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Even though Clemens himself is so opposed to the idea that he has threatened to boycott the ceremony if his likeness on the plaque isn't sporting a baseball cap with the letters NY.

But, alas, it's not Clemens' decision to make. The Hall of Fame will decide which cap he wears; even though it is Clemens that won 300 games and struck out over 4,000 batters and Clemens that is booed every time he takes the mound at Fenway Park wearing pinstripes.

Sorry, I gotta take a moment to scratch my head. The greatest personal achievement a ballplayer can experience and the HOF is going to turn it into a teenager's worst prom nightmare; "here's the car son, have a great time, stay out as late as you want and don't do anything I wouldn't do (he he). Oh, by the way, you have to wear my old, powder blue Tux – the one with the pink ruffled shirt. It drove the ladies wild in '72."

Clemens spent 13 seasons in Boston so he's shackled to the Red Sox for eternity? That's like being buried next to Adolph Hitler or Carrot Top against your will. He won half of his six Cy Young Awards elsewhere. Not to mention his most prized possessions were obtained after leaving Beantown; two World Series Championships.

Four poor seasons between 1993 and 1996 when Clemens won a total of 40 games and the Red Sox cut him loose. The next two years in Toronto he won 41 games and two Cy Young Awards – on very mediocre Blue Jays teams.

In July, Gary Carter will be inducted into the Hall of Fame representing the Montreal Expos. He wanted to go in as a member of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets. Carter won't get his wish, but then, he should count his blessings that he got in at all. As marginal as his election is, I think Carter would go in wearing a hair net.

And here's a guy who has to go from now until Armageddon wearing the cap of a team that will, shortly, cease to exist. The Hall is worried about accurately portraying history and the first question any kid that ventures to Cooperstown is going to ask is "who the heck are the Expos?"

I don't know about you, but if I keep kicking in to my retirement fund, and miraculously live long enough to cash it in, I don't want some snot-nosed CPA telling me I have to take a lump sum distribution all in pennies. I earned that money and I'll take it on my own terms. Check please. I don't see why the guys who earn a spot in the Hall can't do the same thing – enter on their own terms.

The possibility that Roger Clemens would miss his own Hall of Fame induction because the cap on his plaque has a big "B" on it is ridiculous. Hey, I bet Pete Rose wouldn't mind. But Clemens does, so it makes no sense that the damn cap can't have a freakin' NY on it – most of the others do anyway.

There are dozens of logical, statistical reasons why Clemens should go in as a Red Sox; but the one real good reason why he shouldn't is that he doesn't want to. And that shouldn't count for something that should count for everything.

The decision to vote William Roger Clemens into the Hall the first time his name appears on the ballot is a no-brainer. Whether he goes in as a Yankee or a Red Sox is a no-brainer as well; whatever he wants.

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