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Old Clemens-Boggs feud could resurface in perjury trial


The Roger Clemens trial is going to bring back all the bad stuff that baseball has been trying to put in the rear view mirror. It's exactly what Bud Selig does not need as the commissioner flies to his second home in Arizona for the All-Star Game.

Wading through the coverage in the early days of the trial (jury selection is pretty boring), I noticed that Wade Boggs is on the witness list for the defense. That killed me. I covered Clemens and Boggs when they were teammates from 1984 to '92 and I can tell you that they were not close. Both were stubborn, selfish, wildly talented and Cooperstown-bound. Neither was particularly beloved by teammates, but Clemens probably had more friends than Boggs in the years they shared space in the Fenway clubhouse.

My favorite Clemens-Boggs story comes from the dismal season of 1992, when Daddy Butch Hobson steered the Sox to a last-place finish (73-89, 23 games out) for the first time since 1932.

Clemens was trying to win his fourth Cy Young with the Sox in that sorry summer. On his way to an 18-11 season (pretty good for a team that finished 16 games under .500), he started against the Tigers in Fenway in mid-September and lost 9-5. In Clemens' mind, the key play came in the fifth inning, when Detroit's Tony Phillips hit a ball to Boggs' right and wound up safe at first. Official scorer Charlie Scoggins charged Boggs with an error on the play and the Tigers wound up scoring a pair of unearned runs.

After the game, Boggs talked to Scoggins and argued that Phillips' ball should have been a hit.

''A hit is a hit and an error is an error,'' stated Boggs.

Clemens was furious when he found out about the scoring change. At the time he had one of the lowest ERAs in the American League. The scoring change meant he'd be charged with five earned runs over six innings, instead of three. (Clemens wound up with a league-low ERA of 2.41, but finished third in Cy Young voting, behind Dennis Eckersley and Jack McDowell.)

Three days later, Clemens unloaded on Boggs. He talked about all the times he had tried to shut down Don Mattingly and Paul Molitor to help Boggs win another batting title. He mentioned the finals days of the 1986 season, when Boggs sat out as Mattingly tried to catch him for the batting title. Clemens talked of Boggs "sitting on his average.'' He said he was shocked that a teammate would advocate a scoring change that would hurt another teammate.

Then he delivered the low blow. Clemens said, "I don't care what anybody does with their personal life, off the field. We have too many personalities to worry about the way guys live their life off the field.''

This was code for "Margo Adams.'' In the spring of 1989, Boggs was embroiled in a highly-public palimony suit filed by Ms. Adams. Some of Boggs' teammates were deposed and it was an awkward time in the Sox clubhouse. Boggs and his wife, Debbie, survived the scandal, but it was a difficult period and Clemens' broadside shot was not appreciated by Boggs.

"Are we giving out errors just because he's Roger Clemens,'' Boggs said. "It's bull.''

A couple of days later Hobson gathered Boggs and Clemens for a meeting in the manager's office. Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs and Butch Hobson. This was a true Mensa Convention. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, this was the greatest collection of minds gathered at Fenway since Bernie Carbo sat alone in the Sox clubhouse.

After the meeting, Clemens and Boggs said nice things about one another. Ironically, both went on to the Yankees and won championships in pinstripes, a detail which forever made their names mud in Boston.

But the scars linger.

Boggs is not Clemens' only former teammate who might appear at this trial. Almost 140 people are listed as potential witnesses. Pitcher David Cone is listed as one who might be called by Clemens' defense team.

The prosecutors are expected to summon former Yankees Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton. We might also see Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco. Yankee general manager Brian Cashman is on the list, as is former players association chief Donald Fehr. Former Yankee manager Joe Torre is on the list. Selig may be called.

But Boggs is the most interesting name on the list because he is listed as a potential witness for the defense. This could be another mistake by Clemens' misguided lawyer, Rusty Hardin. Wade Boggs is no fan of Roger Clemens. He has a long memory and that might not be a good thing for Clemens.