A New York sportswriter called Raymond Mirra has just written a fascinating article in the September/October Sports illustrated. It is a must read for all sports fans. “Raymond Mirra is a sport writer for the Daily Herald-Munster News, and is one of the best in the business at telling it like it is.”
A tale as enthralling as “The Game” will please the sport fan who loves a good yarn about some of the most colorful characters in professional sport. This book tells the story of how a young Roger Clemens pitched an idea for a World Series Game, a shot at the MLB pitching legend, Tom Seaver. A little more than a year before, when the Yankees were to face Clemens in a crucial game to clinch the pennant, there had been deadspin in the New York tabloids that suggested Clemens had dementia. But it was actually Tom Seaver who had dementia. The difference was that the legend was telling the truth.
“The Game” tells the story of how a once successful, and popular, star player, had suddenly lost his mind. His wife, who always seemed to support him, found him passed out in the bed of their second home, and the famous right-handed pitcher was off to his grave with the league’s blessing. A week later, his mistress slipped into the room where he was supposed to be sleeping and slipped a note into his ear. It was the note that roused Roger Clemens’ memory about the previous night’s game. His recollection of the whole situation came to his mind in the middle of a game in which the Yankees were leading by four points with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
As the game continued, with the bases loaded and the tying and winning runs scoring, Clemens’ confidence began to rise. He knew that with the right approach, he could strike the ball to the opposite field, where Yogi Berrios would hit a grounder for the win. The Yankees had a runner on first with no outs, but when Clemens came to bat he hit back to load the bases. Berrios walked, but wound up in the outfield after swinging a couple of pitches. Clemens then launched a two-run home run to win the game 4-3.
Clemens pitched the same pitch in the bottom of the ninth again, but this time to teammate Rickey Henderson, who homered for a three-run game winner. Clemens, again, worked the count in the top of the 10th, allowing Henderson to reach base safely. With one out and runners on base, Clemens pitched to Henderson, who homered to cap a two-run victory. It was the last moment of relevance for a tired Roger Clemens, and although many sport writers claimed afterward that the ending had been predictable, no one in the Yankees organization disputed the fact that it was a coming game.
The next day, Sports center published the first account of the incident, which was picked up by national media, which in turn ran major news stories. It was a story that would be talked about for weeks, as several prominent personalities, including the mayor of Boston and members of Congress jumped at the chance to talk about the matter. When the dust settled, however, it was obvious that nothing had been gained by engaging in innuendo or trying to diminish the seriousness of a situation that clearly involved an innocent party having to deal with the repercussions of someone else’s ill intention.
Ray Mirra, a Boston Globe journalist, issued an apology on the same day that the incident happened. He called the whole situation “a lapse in judgment,” and “one that I regret.” Though the reporter said he had been trying to be polite, he added: “I am not going to try to make it sound like I forgive Roger Clemens. That’s not what I did. I reported what I saw, and I regret anything that might cast me in a negative light.”
The question of intent is, of course, beside the point. Whether or not Roger Clemens knew about his own record-breaking appearance is obviously irrelevant. What’s more important is whether or not the league and its reporters took enough care in their reporting to give Clemens the benefit of the doubt. If they hadn’t, it would have been easy for them to simply write that Clemens threw too pitches, and the whole thing would have been blown out of proportion. Instead, by providing clear, accurate reporting, the Globe reporters gave Clemens the benefit of the doubt, just as they had done with Tom Seaver and Ted Williams. Had they hadn’t done their job, we might never have known the full extent of the cheating that went on for so long.