Roger Goes Batty


OCTOBER 23—“Why would Roger throw a bat at Mike?” an incredulous Joe Torre asked the media in the interview room after Game 2 of the Subway Series. Question after question about the “unsplendid splinter” incident involving Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, and a shattered baseball bat had brought the characteristically even-keeled Yankee skipper to an uncharacteristic boiling point. “Let’s try to analyze it, okay?” said Torre. “Why would he do it? He’s angry at Mike Piazza because he hit Mike Piazza in the head? Wouldn’t Mike Piazza be the one who was angry? There’s just no logic to it. Hit him in the head and then throw a bat and hit him in the knee and maybe disable him? There is no answer—because it doesn’t make sense. Does that make sense to anybody? Somebody answer me.”

Actually, the next person to get interviewed—a guy named William Roger Clemens—provided a pretty good answer. First Clemens tried to stanch any talk about his motivations with a verbal version of the knockdown pitch: “There was no intent. No intent. No intent,” he kept repeating, his right hand cutting through the air like an Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop. After saying that he “had no idea Mike was running; I told Charlie that” (that would be his good friend for the evening, home plate umpire Charlie Reliford), and that he was simply acting on instinct (“Grab the bat and sling it to the on-deck circle where our batboys were at”—excuse us, but does this lifetime nonhitting American League pitcher even know what a batboy looks like?), Clemens’s words took an even more telling turn. “I was extremely emotional,” he confessed. “All week, my teammates were talking to me, thinking all the attention about the pitch back in July was getting me down….I knew I couldn’t pitch up and in, which is my strength….I just wanted to keep my confidence up….After the first inning, I came in the room and sat by myself….I really had to calm down so I could stay focused.”

Right, Rocket: It’s all about you. Pass the testosterone.

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