OAKLAND, Calif. -- Roger Clemens couldn't believe it, but he said the magic words to plate umpire Terry Cooney yesterday and disappeared from the final game of the American League playoffs.
This is the same guy who has been telling the Boston Red Sox when he will and when he won't pitch, even though his doctor says that there is nothing physically wrong with him. But, yesterday, Cooney made that decision for him, ejecting him in the second inning of the deciding game of the American League Championship Series.
The umpire said afterward that Clemens cursed him and called him a "gutless [expletive]" during a brief exchange of words after a disputed pitch. Clemens pleaded innocent, but Cooney's side of the story was confirmed by several other sources.
"It was unbelieveable is what it is," Clemens said. "He thought I was shaking my head at him. I said I'm not shaking my ------- head at you, and I was gone. I only said that one thing."
Oakland shortstop Mike Gallego was at the plate at the time, and heard things a little differently. So did pitcher Dave Stewart and manager Tony La Russa in the dugout.
"I think Roger was a little upset with the pitch calls," Gallego said. "It just got a little out of hand. I thought the umpires were doing a great job." "He started yelling things at the umpire," La Russa said. "In this league, you get run for that. He went too far. You don't do what he did today."
How could something like this happen in such an important game? Clemens apparently felt confident that it wouldn't, because he was making no secret of his displeasure with Cooney's strike zone.
Though he denied almost everything afterward, it was apparent that he said more than he was willing to admit. What he said cannot be printed here, but anyone able to lip-read a little could see on television that Clemens was using language guaranteed to draw an ejection during a regular-season game. The question was whether he could use it with impunity in a game where his presence was so pivotal to the outcome of a postseason series.
"We can't rewrite the rule book for Roger Clemens," umpire Jim Evans said.
Cooney's on-field answer to that question touched off a near rio in the Boston dugout. While he and manager Joe Morgan argued at home, Red Sox players hurled two coolers of Gatorade onto the field, and one player threw a bucket of sunflower seeds at first-base umpire Vic Voltaggio.
Infielder Marty Barrett also was ejected, then got into a shoving match with coach Dick Barardino on the dugout steps.
There was room to wonder if Clemens went out the same way h came into the game, by choice. He was struggling in the second inning. He had fallen behind in another game against Oakland Athletics pitching ace Dave Stewart. He was pitching tired, and it was beginning to show. Could it be that he wanted to go out with a bang instead of a whimper?
Far-fetched? Nothing Clemens does surprises anyone in the Boston clubhouse or press box anymore. He held his manager up to national embarrassment this week -- telling Morgan when he would or wouldn't pitch -- with the strange logic that led him to the mound for yesterday's game. He appears to have the entire Red Sox organization under his thumb.
But his act wore thin in a hurry, as far as the umpiring crew was concerned. The ejection had Morgan jumping up and down in disbelief. Clemens nearly ended up in a shoving match with one of the umpires, and faces a possible three-day suspension to begin the 1991 season, though Evans said he didn't consider the contact "a personal assault." Clemens complicated matters by refusing to leave the dugout for an inning afterward.
American League president Bobby Brown won't have to wait for the videotapes to come in the mail. He was right there at ringside for the main event, and conferred with crew chief Rich Garcia for several minutes after the incident.
Baltimore Orioles manager Frank Robinson,watching the game from his home in Los Angeles,said he was surprise by the ejection,not because of the setting,but because Terry Cooney was the umpire involved,The New York Times reported.
(He's usually pretty calm,one of the more easy-going guys",Robinson told the Times."So I think it would surprise everybody,but even more so because it happen with Terry Cooney.
The ejection of Clemens -- the fifth ejection in Leagu Championship Series history -- had an almost immediate on-field aftershock. Left-hander Tom Bolton came on in relief and gave up a two-run double to Gallego, which staked Stewart to a 3-0 lead.
The Red Sox never recovered, but they were in critical condition when the game began. This way, at least they went down fighting, even if they were fighting with everyone but the Oakland A's.