Roger Clemens

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William Roger Clemens

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Biographical Information[edit]

Roger "The Rocket" Clemens is considered by many to be the greatest pitcher of all-time, having notched over 300 wins and 4000 strikeouts and winning an unprecedented seven Cy Young Awards for four different teams. He has also been a very controversial figure because of some ungentlemanly behavior over the years, and accusations of PED use that led to his trial for perjury in 2011.


Clemens was signed by the Boston Red Sox and scout Danny Doyle as a 1st round pick in the 1983 amateur draft. He made his major league debut with the Red Sox in 1984, and went on to win 20 games for them three times and help them to the World Series in 1986. He became a household name at the start of that season, when he reeled off 14 straight wins to begin the year; he was the 1986 American League MVP, the last starter to win MVP honors for 25 years until Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers in 2011. No one has since matched his 14-0 start, although for a long time, he was the one who came closest, starting with 11 wins in 1997; Max Scherzer finally topped that in 2013, with 13 straight wins before his first loss. After his breakout season in 1986, when he was 24-4, 2.48 with 238 strikeouts, he repeated as Cy Young Award winner in 1987, going 20-9, 2.97 with 256 strikeouts. The Sox won another division title in 1988, although he fell to 18-12, 2.93. He won his first strikeout title that year, with 291, and his 8 shutouts led the American League as well (a career high). He had another outstanding year in 1990, when he led the Red Sox to a third division title, going 21-6, 1.93. However, he failed to win a game in either the 1988 or 1990 ALCS, as the Red Sox were swept by the Oakland Athletics both years. His second start in the 1990 postseason ended early when he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.


In 1996, after four subpar seasons, the Red Sox let Clemens become a free agent. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and won Cy Young Awards in both seasons there, 1997 and 1998. In his first game with the Blue Jays, April 2, 1997, he struck out 9 members of the Chicago White Sox; it stood as the team record for a player in his first game for Toronto until David Price struck out 11 on August 3, 2015. Prior to the 1999 season, he was traded to the New York Yankees, whom he led to four World Series appearances in five seasons. He also won two other Cy Young Awards, in 2001 and 2004, the latter with the Houston Astros in the National League. In 2001, he started the season 17-1, the first to do so since Elroy Face won his first 17 decisions in 1959; the next pitcher to win 17 of his first 18 decisions would be Scherzer in 2013. Clemens finished the season with a mark of 20-3, the first pitcher to win 20 games with that few losses since "Louisiana Lightning" Ron Guidry went 25-3 in 1978.

Roger Clemens-3888.jpg

Roger's career was marked with some blemishes. He was ejected from a playoff game in 1990 for arguing balls and strikes and his behavior was erratic as he started the game with eye black on and wearing high socks. He once beaned Mike Piazza, an act that some suspected was intentional because Piazza had previously hit very well against Clemens. Later that same year, in the 2000 World Series, Clemens threw a jagged piece of bat - which Piazza had just broken in fouling off a pitch - in Piazza's general direction. In trying to win his 300th game against the Red Sox, Clemens used a special logoed glove, an act that rankled the Red Sox, causing manager Grady Little to ask it be removed. The umpire consented and Clemens, who lost the game, was forced to use his normal glove. Most seriously, he has also been alleged to have used steroids by former major league players Jose Canseco and Jason Grimsley. He, as well as his personal strength coach, Brian McNamee, who allegedly dealt steroids to Grimsley, have denied the allegations. In fact, he completely denied usage of PEDs in testimony to Congress in 2005.


Clemens, a Texan, planned to retire following the 2003 season, but when the Houston Astros wanted to sign him, he jumped at the chance to play close to home. He went on to win his first National League Cy Young Award with the Astros in 2004. He started the 2004 All-Star Game for the National League at Minute Maid Park, becoming the third pitcher to start the game for both leagues, after Vida Blue and Randy Johnson (Roy Halladay has since joined them). Incidentally, he was rocked by American League batters in the game, to such an extent that there was speculation that his catcher, Piazza, was tipping pitches in a continuation of their long-running feud. He holds the record for most times pitching in an All-Star Game, with 10 appearances during his career. On May 9, 2005, Clemens became the winningest living pitcher when he passed Steve Carlton on the all-time wins list. He had 341 career wins at the close of the 2005 season.

The Astros non-tendered Clemens on December 7, 2005, which prevented them from re-signing him before May 1st of the 2006 season. The Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees expressed an interest in signing him, but Clemens implied that he was leaning toward retiring after the United States was eliminated by Mexico in the second round of the 2006 World Baseball Classic. On May 31st, it was announced that Clemens was coming out of retirement to rejoin the Astros for the remainder of the season. He signed a one-year contract worth $22,000,022, which was prorated to approximately $12.25 million for the final 3+ months of the season. Clemens made his first appearance of the season on June 22nd against the Minnesota Twins, losing to rookie Francisco Liriano, 4-2. He ended the season with a 7-6 record, and a 2.30 ERA.

Facing a similar situation in 2007, Clemens announced on May 6th that he was signing with the New York Yankees, who desperately needed starting pitching. When Clemens faced Julio Franco on June 15th, it was the oldest pitcher-batter match-up since Rube Walberg pitched to Nick Altrock in 1933. With the Yankee bullpen worn out, Clemens volunteered to relieve on June 24th against the San Francisco Giants. He had not pitched out of the bullpen since July 18, 1984, as a rookie. It was a major league-record 22 years, 341 days between relief stints, easily shattering the 15 years, 343 days set by Steve Carlton from 1971 to 1987. On July 2nd, he pitched eight innings of two-hit ball against the Minnesota Twins to pick up his 350th career victory, becoming the first pitcher since Warren Spahn in 1963 to reach this milestone. On August 18th, Clemens became the first pitcher to allow a home run to a hitter who was not yet born at the time the pitcher first won a Cy Young Award; Cameron Maybin was the batter. In a match-up of 300-game winners, he faced Greg Maddux twice after they each passed the 300-game mark. His record in these match-ups was 1-1. He finally retired after that season, having long teased fans and media about his upcoming retirement, dating back to the 2003 World Series when his start for the Yankees against the Florida Marlins was touted by broadcasters as likely the last of his career.

During his career, Clemens twice struck out 20 batters in a single nine-inning game: against the Seattle Mariners on April 29, 1986 and against the Detroit Tigers on September 18, 1996.

Clemens' oldest son Koby Clemens was selected by the Astros in the eighth round of the 2005 amateur draft. His second son, Kacy Clemens, was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 35th round of the 2013 amateur draft but decided to follow in his father's footsteps and attend the University of Texas; he was drafted again, by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 8th round in 2017. The Astros also drafted his youngest son, Kody Clemens, in the 35th round of the 2015 amateur draft. Kody did not sign and went to college at the University of Texas like his father and older brother; he was drafted again, in the 3rd round in 2018, by the Detroit Tigers.

He appeared in The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat". He also appeared in the movie Anger Management as himself and in the movie Cobb as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics. In the movie Kingpin, he played the role of Skidmark.

On December 13, 2007, Clemens was one of the players named in the Mitchell Report as using performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens denied the claims and appeared on 60 Minutes to try to clear his name. He also filed a defamation lawsuit against Brian McNamee, who was his trainer from 1998 to 2001, who made most of the allegations of PED use and produced physical evidence in the form of used syringes which he claimed were used to inject Clemens with various illegal substances. Clemens and McNamee testified before the House oversight committee on February 13, 2008. Both held to their past positions and were caught in contradictions by the Congressmen. Andy Pettitte, Clemens' former teammate, said that Clemens had told him that he used Human Growth Hormone. Clemens claimed that Pettitte did not correctly recall the conversations. Other damaging information about Clemens came out at the time, including allegations of having had a decade-long affair with country music star Mindy McCreary that had started when the singer was only 15. The tale took on added poignancy when McCreary committed suicide in 2013, aged only 37, after years of run-ins with the law and numerous bouts of drug addiction.

On August 19, 2010, Clemens was indicted on six counts of perjury for his 2008 testimony under oath, which was alleged to have contained a number of lies and misleading statements in order to obstruct the work of Congress. The trial began in Washington, DC on July 6, 2011, after the trial of Barry Bonds had found the latter guilty of one count of obstruction of justice, but could not come to an agreement on the charges of perjury leveled against Bonds. In prevision of the trial, the prosecutors revealed some of the evidence they had against Clemens on July 1st, including items of medical waste supplied by McNamee that were allegedly used to inject Clemens with PEDs. On July 13th, after jury selection had been completed, both sides presented their opening arguments. The trial was expected to revolve around the credibility of McNamee, who supplied much of the physical evidence and was the prosecution's key witness. Also slated to appear was convicted drug dealer Kirk Radomski, who claimed to have supplied some of the substances. For its part, the defense countered that "Clemens' only crime was having the poor judgment of staying connected with McNamee." His lawyers claimed that none of the allegations were founded and that the physical evidence was the result of tampering. Then, in an unexpected development, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial the next day, explaining that the prosecution had repeatedly ignored his directives regarding how evidence could be introduced to the jury. The defense thought the errors were deliberate and asked for the charges to be thrown out entirely, but Judge Walton instead ordered a new trial, which began on April 17, 2012. Highlights included testimony from Pettitte, who stated that he was "50-50 sure" about having a conversation with Clemens on PED use in the early 2000s, and incriminating testimony from McNamee, who swore that he had injected Clemens with illegal substances on numerous occasions, although the defense strategy was to discredit McNamee's character and reliability as a witness, something it managed to do quite successfully. On June 18th, Clemens was acquitted of all charges by the jury.

Clemens returned to the world of baseball on August 20, 2012 by signing with the Sugar Land Skeeters in the Atlantic League. While the return to the field was portrayed as a one-time favor to Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti, a personal friend, there was also speculation that it could mark his eventual return to the major leagues in some capacity, now that he had put his legal issues behind him. Covering all the bases, the Houston Astros sent a scout to look him over, as well as teammate Scott Kazmir, just in case. He returned to the mound on August 25th, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Bridgeport Bluefish before a sold-out home crowd. He showed good control and velocity and left the door open for more appearances with the team in the future, but a couple of days later, he stated that the outing had been a "one-time deal" and that for now, he was concentrating on his golf game, as he was playing the the World Amateur Handicap Championship. He immediately reversed himself by announcing he would make another start for the Skeeters on September 7th. That day, he pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Long Island Ducks. His son Koby started at catcher for the Skeeters, having signed a one-game contract with the team and allowing the father-son duo to play together for the first time. In 2013, Clemens went to spring training with the Houston Astros - as a special instructor only.

Clemens may have been acquitted of charges by a jury, but in the court of public opinion, he faced a much harder fight. The results of the 2013 Hall of Fame Election were a case in point. His numbers should have made him a shoo-in for election on the first ballot; instead, he finished well down, with only 37.6% of the vote, behind his contemporary Curt Schilling, who had much less impressive career numbers, but had been outspoken in favor of a "clean" game. With a large number of voters being on record that they would never vote for players tainted by steroids, his eventual election by the BBWAA was highly doubtful at that point. His vote total did not increase in 2014 and in fact dropped slightly, to 35.4%, although he did pass Schilling. In 2015, he was back behind Schilling, at 37.5%, and in 2016, he improved to 45.2%. In 2017, he finally exceeded the 50% threshold, at 54.1% and was finally showing some significant upward movement in his support, but he then stalled at 57.3% the following year, his improvement in percentage being solely a result of fewer ballots being counted. In 2019, he went up to 59.5%, as the resentment against Barry Bonds and him was clearly fading and reached 61% in 2020, with two years of eligibility remaining.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 11-time All-Star (1986, 1988, 1990-1992, 1997-1998, 2001 & 2003-2005)
  • AL MVP (1986)
  • 7-time Cy Young Award Winner (1986/AL, 1987/AL, 1991/AL, 1997/AL, 1998/AL, 2001/AL & 2004/NL)
  • 1986 All-Star Game MVP
  • 2-time AL Pitcher's Triple Crown (1997 & 1998)
  • 7-time League ERA Leader (1986/AL, 1990-1992/AL, 1997/AL, 1998/AL & 2005/NL)
  • 4-time AL Wins Leader (1986, 1987, 1997 & 1998)
  • 3-time League Winning Percentage Leader (1986/AL, 2001/AL & 2004/NL)
  • 2-time AL Innings Pitched Leader (1991 & 1997)
  • 5-time AL Strikeouts Leader (1988, 1991 & 1996-1998)
  • 3-time AL Complete Games Leader (1987, 1988 & 1997)
  • 6-time AL Shutouts Leader (1987, 1988, 1990-1992 & 1997)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 12 (1986-1992, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003 & 2004)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 6 (1986, 1987, 1990, 1997, 1998 & 2001)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 15 (1986-1992, 1996-1998, 2000, 2001 & 2003-2005)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 12 (1986-1992, 1996-1998, 2001 & 2004)
  • Won two World Series with the New York Yankees (1999 & 2000)

1985 1986 1987
Don Mattingly Roger Clemens George Bell
AL Cy Young Award
1985 1986 1987
Bret Saberhagen Roger Clemens Roger Clemens
1986 1987 1988
Roger Clemens Roger Clemens Frank Viola
1990 1991 1992
Bob Welch Roger Clemens Dennis Eckersley
1996 1997 1998
Pat Hentgen Roger Clemens Roger Clemens
1997 1998 1999
Roger Clemens Roger Clemens Pedro Martinez
2000 2001 2002
Pedro Martinez Roger Clemens Barry Zito
NL Cy Young Award
2003 2004 2005
Eric Gagne Roger Clemens Chris Carpenter

Records Held[edit]

  • Strikeouts, game (9 innings), 20, April 29, 1986 and September 18, 1996 (tied)
  • Strikeouts, AL, career, 4,167

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jim Albert: "Is Roger Clemens' WHIP Trajectory Unusual?", Chance, New York, NY, Volume 22, Number 2, March 2009, pp. 9-20.
  • Hansen Alexander: The Life and Trials of Roger Clemens: Baseball’s Rocket Man and the Questionable Case Against Him, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2017. ISBN 978-1-4766-6576-4
  • Mel Antonen: "Astros Ace Still Has Fire, but Family Comes First", USA Today, August 23, 2005, pp. 1A-. [1]
  • Allen Barra: "Grove, Koufax, and Clemens A Comparison Across Time", in Clearing the Bases: The Greatest Baseball Debates of the Last Century, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 2002, pp. 153-174. ISBN 978-0312265564
  • Rob Beamish: "Steroids in the Court of Public Opinion: Roger Clemens Versus the Mitchell Report", in Mike McNamee and Verner Møller, eds.: Doping and Anti-Doping Policy in Sport: Ethical, Legal and Social Perspectives, Routledge, New York, NY, 2011, pp. 142-159. ISBN 978-0415833509
  • Eric T. Bradlow: "A Statistical Look at Roger Clemens’ Pitching Career", Chance, New York, NY, Volume 21, Number 3, September 2008, pp. 24-30. [2]
  • Christine Brennan: "Say it ain't so: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens nearing Hall of Fame threshold", USA Today Sports, December 28, 2016. [3]
  • Frederick C. Bush: "Roger Clemens", in Bill Nowlin and Leslie Heaphy, ed.: The 1986 Boston Red Sox: There Was More Than Game 6, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016. pp. 44-56. ISBN 978-1-943816-19-4
  • Gerry Callahan: "Commanding Presence: He May Only Win About Half the Time, but Roger Clemens Still Intimidates Hitters, and He Gives the Blue Jays Instant Credibility", Sports Ilustrated, Volume 86, Number 13, March 31, 1997, pp. 120-. [4]
  • Gerry Callahan, with David Sabino: "Booster Rocket: While Baseball Went Ballistic, the Already Formidable Yankees May Have Locked in Another World Series Berth by Landing Cy Young Winner Roger Clemens", Sports Illustrated, Volume 99, Number 9, March 1, 1999, pp. 36-. [5]
  • Roger Clemens, with Peter Gammons: Rocket Man: The Roger Clemens Story, Stephen Greene Press, Lexington, MA, 1987. ISBN 978-0828906296
  • Roger Clemens (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, Volume 49, Number 6, June 1990, pp. 41-42.
  • Colin Fleming: "Pitchers' Duel: Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Hall of Fame Standards in the Steroid Era", The Atlantic Monthly, Boston, MS, July 2009, pp. 26-27. [6]
  • Peter Gammons: "Striking Out Toward Cooperstown: In One of Baseball's Great Pitching Feats, Boston's Roger Clemens Fanned 20 Seattle Batters to Set a Major League Record", Sports Illustrated, Volume 64, Number 19, May 12, 1986. [7]
  • Daniel Healey: "Fall of the Rocket: Steroids in Baseball and the Case Against Roger Clemens", in Symposium - Doping in Sports: Legal and Ethical Issues, National Sports Law Institute, Marquette University Law School, Milwaukee, WI, 2008.
  • Hendricks Sports Management LP, Randal A. Hendricks, Stephen L. Mann, Bret R. Larson-Hendricks: An Analysis of the Career of Roger Clemens, Hendricks Sports Management, LP, Houston, TX, 2008. [8]
  • Joseph Janczak: The Rocket: Baseball Legend Roger Clemens, Potomac Books, Inc., Washington, DC, 2007. ISBN 978-1597970884
  • Gabe Lacques: "Hall of Fame countdown: Roger Clemens, dominant on the mound, defiant in defending legacy", USA Today Sports, January 20, 2018. [9]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Baseball Hall of Fame: Roger Clemens seeks more gains in support as last-chance ballot nears", USA Today, January 15, 2020. [10]
  • Jeffrey Lutz: "Roger Clemens heads roster of MLB alums to play together in NBC World Series", The Wichita Eagle, July 17, 2016. [11]
  • Jonathan Mayo, foreword by Roger Clemens: Facing Clemens: Hitters on Confronting Baseball's Most Intimidating Pitcher, Lyons Press, Guilford, CN, 2008. ISBN 978-1599211626
  • Brian McNamee: "Excerpts from Roger Clemens-Brian McNamee Taped Phone Conversation", USA Today, January 8, 2008. [12]
  • Leigh Montville: "A Moment of Madness: Who Is Roger Clemens - A Hothead Who Boiled Over in the Playoffs or an Overgrown Kid Driven by Obsessions?", Sports Illustrated, Volume 73, Number 22, November 26, 1990, pp. 110-. [13]
  • Bruce Newman: "The Fireball Express: That's Boston's Roger Clemens, Whose Overpowering Fastball is Making Him a Good Bet for Cooperstown", Sports Illustrated, Volume 68, Number 23, June 6, 1988. [14]
  • Bob Nightengale: "It's past time for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens to earn Hall of Fame induction", USA Today Sports, January 22, 2018. [15]
  • Whitney Pastorek: "Roger Clemens", in Sean Manning, ed.: Top of the Order: 25 Writers Pick Their Favorite Baseball Player of All Time, Da Capo Press, Cambridge, MA, 2010, pp. 87-94. ISBN 978-0306818554
  • Jeff Pearlman: The Rocket That Fell To Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality, Harper Collins, New York, NY, 2009. ISBN 978-0061724756
  • Joe Posnanski: "Like it or not: A case for Bonds, Clemens: Greatness on diamond too great to not be in Cooperstown",, January 10, 2018. [16]
  • Josh Robbins: "Out of This World: Astros Pitcher Roger Clemens Is 'One In A Billion' When It Comes to Greatness", The Orlando Sentinel, March 1, 2005, pp. D1-. [17]
  • Steve Rushin: "Roger, Over and Out: This Season, a Game Is as Good as Over the Moment that Roger Clemens Steps Out on the Mound", Sports Illustrated, Volume 74, Number 18, May 13, 1991, pp. 36-. [18]
  • Teri Thompson, Nathaniel Vinton, Michael O'Keeffe, and Christian Red: American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, 2009. ISBN 978-0307271808
  • Tom Verducci: "'Going Batty': Showing His Best and Worst Form, Roger Clemens Riled the Mets with a Bizarre Bat-Throwing Episode, then Shut Them Down", Sports Illustrated, Volume 93, Commemorative Edition, November 1, 2000. [19]
  • Tom Verducci: "Rocket Science: Ignited by His Twin Passions for Family and Fitness, the Yankees' Ageless Roger Clemens Has Lifted Off to an 18-1 Record, and Toward a Sixth Cy Young Award", Sports Illustrated, Volume 95, Number 10, September 10, 2001. [20]
  • Tom Verducci: "Believe Him or Not: Long Before Testimony at a Congressional Hearing Cast Doubt on His Claim That He Has Never Used Steroids or HGH, Roger Clemens Convinced Himself That He Has Done No Wrong", Sports Illustrated, Volume 108, Number 7, February 25, 2008. [21]
  • Warren N. Wilbert: What Makes an Elite Pitcher? Young, Mathewson, Johnson, Alexander, Grove, Spahn, Seaver, Clemens, and Maddux, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7864-1456-7
  • Steve Wulf: "A Boost from the Rocket: Roger Clemens's Return Lifted Boston in Its Battle with Toronto", Sports Illustrated, Volume 73, Number 15, October 8, 1990, pp. 26-. [22]

Related Sites[edit]