Wed, May 21, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Clemens recalls early days

AP , BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

Roger Clemens took some time out from looking forward to his 300th victory to look back on the first 13 years of his career.

With his next two starts scheduled to come against the Boston Red Sox, with whom he earned the first 192 of his 298 victories, Clemens said Monday he has fond memories of the city and Fenway Park even though he now toils for the rival New York Yankees.

"It's never going to be in the past," Clemens said before New York opened a three-game series against the Red Sox. "This team and this ballpark is always going to be a part of me. I worked here. I worked here and I gave it my all here. That's never going to change."

Clemens needs two wins to become the 21st pitcher in baseball history with 300.

He has already failed once to earn No. 299, getting a no-decision Friday night when the Yankees lost to the Texas Rangers in extra innings.

A win would have had him going for No. 300 on Wednesday in his old ballpark.

"Every time Roger pitches it's exciting, whether it's 289 or 299," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It's exciting because we're watching a guy that's going into the Hall of Fame."

As it is, Clemens could join the exclusive club by beating Boston twice: Wednesday at Fenway, then Monday at Yankee Stadium.

"I'm hoping to get on it and get after it pretty quick," Clemens said. "I'd like to get it and get it over with."

Clemens earned the first three of his record six Cy Young Awards while winning 192 games in a Red Sox uniform -- as many as Young himself. But he was allowed to leave as a free agent after then-Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette pronounced him "in the twilight of his career."

"I tried to be here the entire stay, but it didn't work out and I wasn't wanted," said Clemens, who signed as a free agent with Toronto and was traded two years later to New York. "I'm fortunate that I am wanted now, and it was a blessing for me."

Red Sox owner John Henry, who was not with the team when Clemens left in 1996, said there were no hard feelings and called the future Hall of Famer "one of the greatest players ever to play at Fenway Park."

Henry said he would not rule out renewing the team's relationship with Clemens after he retires -- even considering retiring the No. 21 Clemens wore in Boston. The team's rules require a player to finish his career with the Red Sox, but the rules were ignored when Boston honored Carlton Fisk, who left under similarly unpleasant circumstances.

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