I was there at the beginning of Clemens' Major League career. Well, almost the beginning. He was drafted by the Red Sox in 1983 and first came to the big leagues in 1984, but his career didn't really take off until 1986, and that was the first year I covered the Red Sox full-time for
In Boston in 1986 we thought of Clemens almost the same way we thought of
Clemens pitched for the Red Sox from 1983-1996, winning 192 games which (appropriately) ties him with
He pitched 100 complete games for the Red Sox, winning three Cy Young Awards.
The success was not achieved without controversy. It started in 1987 when a young Clemens walked out of spring training camp over a contract dispute. He came back to win his second consecutive Cy award in '87, but some Sox fans never forgave his holdout. After the 1988 season, Clemens reacted strongly when free-agent teammate
It was downhill after that. The Rocket kept putting up great numbers, but fans chided him for lack of postseason success (he won only one of nine playoff starts for the Red Sox) and harped on his off-field foibles. In 1992, Clemens sabotaged new manager
It was bad at the end in Boston. Clemens was a .500 pitcher over his last four seasons in Boston. Much of the mediocrity was owed to poor management and a brutal bullpen, but the Rocket was not in top shape and few tears were shed when he fled to Toronto after the 1996 season. Red Sox general manager
Meanwhile, Clemens went Toronto and suddenly turned into Rambo.
Sox fans were somewhat miffed when the fighting-trim Rocket won back-to-back Cy Youngs in his first two seasons with the Jays, but Clemens made himself the ultimate enemy by getting himself traded to the Yankees and winning a World Series with the Bronx Bombers. He's been mud in Boston ever since.
Now it looks like he got dirty when he left Fenway. There is ample evidence that Clemens turned to performance-enhancers almost immediately after he left Boston for Toronto. No Red Sox player has worn jersey No. 21 since Clemens left the Red Sox, but he holds no place of honor in the hearts and minds of Boston baseball fans.
It's a shame. Clemens did a lot of tremendous work for the Red Sox. He did it on the level. But in those years of greatness, we saw the stubborn streak and the hardheaded nature that's going to take him to prison.