By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
I grew up in a baseball family; so did every other kid on my block in 1950s Illinois. Our team of choice was the Chicago Cubs, though perhaps “choice” is the wrong word, for we inherited those Cubbies (as they were always called) from my mother and her brothers, whilst they in their turn inherited them from their father, my grandfather. The Cubbies were not so much a team as they were a cult whose tribal rituals were well known and never neglected by the faithful. They played America’s game… and we were proud to wear their colors and follow their (always losing) seasons with intense scrutiny and pride.
As my mother (a complete zealot) hastened to remind us when we members of the younger generation suggested we wanted more from a team than dogged perseverance and that gallant way they had of leaving the field at an end of another losing season; my mother wisely said that these were our boys, they tried hard, gave great pleasure, didn’t make much money and deserved every penny they got. And so we were well and truly put in our place… and stayed loyal to The Cause, though Bill Veeck’s White Sox tempted…
I thought of my fellow loyalists the other day as I watched Roger Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers ever to grace the game, as he and his wife walked down the street, reporters dogging their every move, to the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C. July 11, 2011. And I don’t mind telling you that I teared up… not so much for Roger Clemens but for those faithful Cubbies in Downers Grove, now mostly dead and buried… and thus saved from the pain of watching not merely the Rocket but the entire sport on trial. They would, I know, have been deeply saddened by this humiliating scene… and as I remembered each of them by name…tears fell. I couldn’t help it… and you probably can’t either. This hurts.
William Roger Clemens born August 4, 1962. Dayton, Ohio.
Clemens’ parents separated when he was an infant. His mother soon married Woody Booher, whom Clemens still considers his father. Booher died when Clemens was just nine years old, and Clemens has said that the only time he ever felt envious of other players was when he saw them with their fathers. At Spring Woods High School in Houston, he played baseball, football, and basketball. He was scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins his senior year, but opted for college instead.
Things heated up at San Jacinto College North when he began his college pitching career in 1981. The New York Mets now scouted him and selected him in the 12th round of the 1981 draft, but he did not sign. Instead, he transferred to the University of Texas where he became the first player to have his uniform number retired.
People were already beginning to talk about the Rocket (as he was nick named). But it was the Boston Red Sox who drafted him in 1983, quickly moving up through the minor league system, making his major league debut on May 15, 1984. Just 2 years later, 1986, Clemens with 24 wins helped the hitherto hapless Red Sox to a World Series berth… while earning him the American League MVP and the first of his record-breaking seven Cy Young Awards. These were glory days for the Red Sox, for baseball, and for Clemens.
And it was just the beginning…
This is not an article about all Clemens’ awards, trophies and meritorious recognitions; if it were, the space at my disposal would be far less than needed. He won such prizes from the start. He won them consistently. He won them in such numbers that the very number of such prizes won turned into a record all its own.
The Rocket was flying high indeed, whichever of the 5 teams he was on…
Boston Red Sox (1984-1996)
Toronto Blue Jays (1997-1998)
New York Yankees (1999-2003)
Houston Astros (2004-2006)
New York Yankees (2007).
Everything came his way… money and lots of it, women, recognition, deference, fans shouting his name, glad to be in the presence of a bona fide American legend. He was the hero of America’s game… and the nation that idolized him.
For just such a time, the ancient Romans had someone ride along with victorious generals as they had their magnificent triumphs, “Remember,” they warned, “thou art but mortal .”
No one told Roger Clemens that… and even if they had he might well have dismissed the notion as unseemly, unwelcome, lese majeste.
But now the ever victorious Roger Clemens was confronted by people who had a very different tale to tell, that the Rocket flew higher and higher not by virtue of God-given talent but because of chemicals in a bottle, injected by his trainer, one Brian McNamee. The Rocket stopped flying high…
“Juiced” and the Mitchell Report
Clemens world of privilege and adoration came to a halt in 2005 when Jose Canseco’s book “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big” was published. The author’s claims and charges shocked and appalled the nation… but things got much worse for baseball, and for Clemens, real fast.
The next broadside into Clemens’ world of celebrity and glory came in 2007 when the Mitchell Report was released. It was sober, judicious, unassailable in its charges… and came replete with 82 mentions about Roger Clemens and his use of anabolic, results-enhancing steroids. This was followed by “American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America’s Pastime,” a carefully researched volume by four New York Daily News investigative reporters.
Clemens was summoned before Congress and there firmly denied each and every allegation, to the incredulity of many. On August 19, 2010 , a federal grand jury at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. indicted Clemens on six felony counts involving perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress.
Clemens pleaded non guilty and so he must remain until the jury says otherwise. The case against Clemens largely hinges on his old trainer McNamee… and Clemens’ well-paid lawyers will ensure McNamee is damned, his credibility destroyed. Legal analysts say Clemens will not take the stand in his own defence, since that would open Pandora’s box for sure.
If Clemens loses, of course, he’ll be given another number, his prisoner number. But even if he’s fully vindicated (which not even the most optimistic expect), he will no longer be the icon of America, the high flyer we all admired and cheered. There will always be the sneaking suspicion that he achieved greatness by great duplicity, lies, and deceptions. A standard of shame that offends, saddens, and diminishes the nation, its tarnished game, and its shameless chemically enhanced players, all inferior to the men of the Cubbies who played the game with honesty and honor.
* * * * *
About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is , where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates
* * * * *