06/14/2003 2:09 AM ET
Clemens: This is it for me
Right-hander emphasizes this is his final season
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By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- For Roger Clemens, the journey to 300 wins has been a long one. Now that he's reached it, the end is finally in sight.
Clemens has left the door open all season in regards to his possible return in 2004, but after reaching a mark that only 20 men have ever reached before, the Rocket closed the door on any speculation.
"I'm not coming back. This will be it for me. I have some unfinished business at home," Clemens said. "My family that's here, the team that's behind me, they've stood behind me through all this and sacrificed a lot for me to go out and do the work that I do."
"Age isn't very significant when you show the heart that he showed out there tonight," said manager Joe Torre. "If Roger decides to walk away, it's because he wants to, not because he can't do this anymore. He's pretty special. I'm awfully glad we had this chance to be together."
Debbie Clemens, who has been by Roger's side for his entire 20-year career, believes his desire to be with his family will conquer the urge to continue his career.
"I think that he wants to come home and help the boys," she said, referring to the couple's four sons. "Koby will be a junior next year, and I think they're all really looking forward to having him around. I told him he has a lot of bench time next year, because there are about 12 games a week."
One person who was unable to share Friday night with Clemens was his mother, Bess, who watched the game from her home in Texas. Bess, who suffers from emphysema, has been in and out of the hospital with pneumonia over the past couple of weeks.
"She was probably pitching every pitch with me," Clemens said. "I'm sure she was a nervous wreck."
Sitting in front of a banner with a special 300-win Rocket logo, Clemens reflected on his experience of chasing 300. From his teammates to his family to the media coverage, Clemens appeared to enjoy every aspect of it.
"It's very cool," Clemens said. "I finally got to the number that all y'all were talking about that guys (in the future) may not get to. They'll have to work awful hard, because I had to work awful hard to get to this point."
That said, Clemens said he was relieved to get No. 300 on his fourth try, as he wouldn't have to keep flying his family and friends around the country while meeting with the media to talk about his quest.
"I was hoping this would be it so we all didn't have to meet again and we could get back to some normalcy," he said. "I won't have everybody chasing me around the country. I'll send them all home and we can get back to business."
Clemens, who will turn 41 on Aug. 4, struck out 10 in his milestone victory, displaying a blazing fastball and vicious splitter. Talking about his performance, he sounded extremely proud of his ability, which looked the same from 20 to 30 to 40.
"I still have my fastball, and I've never wavered from that. I'm still a power pitcher," Clemens said. "It's a direct result of the work that I do. I made the commitment to myself, my family and my teammates a long time ago. I feel real fortunate that at the age of 40 I can still do that."
When Clemens lost his first shot at 300 on Memorial Day against the Boston Red Sox, it was widely assumed his 300-win tour wouldn't make it back to Yankee Stadium. But after blowing a 7-1 lead in Detroit and watching the bullpen give up a lead at Wrigley Field, the Rocket had another chance to reach 300 in front of the home crowd, something he was thankful for in the end.
"This is why I wanted to desperately come back here so badly," Clemens said. "I want to thank the fans here. They were unbelievable."
"After it's all said and done, I guess Yankee Stadium was a special place for him to do it," Torre said. "I know he appreciates that. The first time he put the pinstripes on, he had a glow."
Although Clemens plans on getting back to his normal, grueling training program Saturday, he said he planned to take some time out of his day to reach out to some people who have been supportive of him throughout the past weeks.
"It's been amazing the people that have called and the letters I've gotten," Clemens said. "Reggie (Jackson) has called me just about every day. I'll spend the next two or three days here making phone calls back to thank people."
One man that Clemens had a chance to see in person on Friday was Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who made his way down to the Yankees' clubhouse in the eighth inning of Friday's game to congratulate the Rocket on his achievement.
"He's a guy with passion," Clemens said. "He was almost choking me up with the way he was talking. For him to give me the opportunity to do this was great."
Debbie, who watched the game with about a dozen family members, said that Friday's game ranked up there with her top memories of her husband's career.
"He's had a lot of very exciting games -- the World Series, the 20-strikeout games -- I have at least 10 that come to mind, and probably more than that," she said. "There's been a lot in 20 years. We've been very lucky and blessed."
When asked if he was more impressed with 300 wins or 4,000 strikeouts, Clemens thought about it for a second and came back with Answer C.
"I couldn't distinguish between the two," he said. "My two rings I look at every day are still the best. You do that together."
Now that the quest for 300 is behind him, he'll be looking for ring No. 3 starting on Saturday.
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.