So I’m watching ESPN’s coverage of the Cubs/Astros game last night and I find myself rooting for Clemens. The last time I did that was during his first visit to Fenway as a Blue Jay, where he was matched against Aaron Sele — and I use the word “matched” in its lightest possible context. Rocket was mowing our asses down and by the fifth or sixth inning, all of Fenway was cheering him on. That’s the game where, as he walked off the mound, he gave the now-infamous glance upward to the Sky Box seats where Dan Duquette was no doubt busily crafting a press release noting that, while Clemens did in fact win, Sele actually threw more pitches, making him so much more the horse.
But once Roger donned the pinstripes, that was it. Love affair over. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to root for anyone over “there.” But then… some years later… it happened. After mercilessly tearing the guy a new one during the 1999 ALCS, we gave him straight love after what we thought would be his last performance at Fenway Park. A standing O for a Yankee? At Fenway?!? You betcha. It was a way of reclaiming Roger as our own, of momentarily forgiving him for joining the Steinbrenner Corps. It was as loud as the heckling we’d given him four years earlier and as breathtaking a moment I’d ever witnessed at Fenway. The big lug climbed up the visitor dugout steps and waved his cap to the crowd, soaking it in for a good, long minute.
Of course, he then came back a few months later to try to keep us from the World Series and suddenly, he was an asshole again. Again.
Now, unless the Sox and Houston lock horns in the Series, I’ve got nothing emotionally vested in his starts, so I monitor them. Checking the box scores, scanning Baseball Tonight. “Did he win his fifth? His sixth? His seventh?” Last year, the Astros came to town; this year, no dice. But how cool would that have been? Rocket on the Fenway mound as an Astro? Now that he’s shed the stripes, we’d have showed him the love. It would have been spectacular.
Yes, it’s all good fun again, watching Roger. It’s just too bad that the night I finally got to watch him was the night he earned his first L of 2004. But it will still be a trip to see him start the All-Star Game. At Home.
Also, on the subject of the Astros, can we once and for all agree that the late ’70s Houston jerseys were the single lowest point of baseball fashion? The ’85 Phillies outfits were pretty gnarly too, but these Astros babies, modeled here by Nolan Ryan, tread dangerously close to Earth, Wind and Fire territory.
Tonight, the Sox head to Coors field to continue interleague play against the Colorado Rockies. This would ordinarily not be a cause for excitement, but this is Coors friggin’ Field, where the baseballs just can’t stay in the park. Watching Manny at the plate during this series will become an almost religious experience. More so than usual.