Clemens comfortable as retirement looms

If Yanks don't advance, start today will be his last


October 04, 2003|By Dom Amore | Dom Amore,THE HARTFORD COURANT

MINNEAPOLIS - One day soon, Roger Clemens will feel the old pangs in his chest and think about the decision he has made to retire.

"It doesn't take any more to realize what life is then to walk into my house and get hit in the chest with the car keys and you know you have the kids' carpool line that afternoon," Clemens said. "I enjoy that. The game that I play and what it has made me, that's what I do. It's not who I am."

Clemens, 41, will be a pitcher for just a little longer, to the end of this month at the most. He will start for the New York Yankees today in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome, site of his first major league victory in 1984. If the Yankees, who tied the series with a 4-1 victory in Game 2, do not advance, this will be Clemens' last start, the last day he blocks out all else to focus on winning a baseball game.

"I think he just thinks it's time," said Andy Pettitte, Clemens' best friend. "He's ready to go on home and watch his kids grow up."

Clemens reached his last career goal, his 300th victory, on June 13, then won 10 more to finish the season 17-9 with a 3.91 ERA, making all 33 of his scheduled starts and pitching 211 2/3 innings - four more starts and 25 more innings than Pedro Martinez.

Very few pitchers walk away off this kind of season, especially if they are healthy. Some of the great ones have had trouble walking away at all. Clemens' mind appears made up, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, knowing Clemens will not get out of shape, half-jokes about asking him to return in midseason for the 2004 stretch run.

"I'm always getting on him," Mike Mussina said earlier this season, "telling him he's not going to retire. Let's say he's sitting on 307 wins, and the next guy on the list has 308 or 309 - he's coming back. I can see him coming to spring training next year, the Yankees tend to bring [former players] back, and he watches a couple of games and says, `I've had enough of this,' and he puts the uniform back on. I wouldn't be surprised if he retired, or if he didn't. I just want to be the first one to say I was right if he doesn't. I'd be saying, `I told you so.' "

Clemens, as it turns out, is sitting on 310 wins, one behind Tom Seaver, and 4,099 strikeouts, 37 behind Steve Carlton for second on the career list behind Nolan Ryan's 5,714.

"I'll miss the competition," Clemens said. "I like to compete. I like to challenge guys, whether they're facing me or whether they are alongside of me."

Clemens' post-career life in Houston will revolve around his wife, Debbi, and their sons Koby, 16, Kory, 15, Kacy, 9, and Kody, 7. All are involved in athletics, and Clemens spends much of his downtime in the clubhouse talking with his sons on his cell phone or bragging about them to teammates. He says they have taken a back seat to baseball long enough.

"Different people are in different stages of life when it's time to stop playing," Mussina said. "Some people just don't have anything better to do. But I think he'll have a lot to do."

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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