Clemens: Thank you, fans
The 2003 season, the last of Roger Clemens' 20-year career, was not a farewell tour. The Rocket would have none of that. It was more an appreciation for a pitcher who finished with a record six Cy Youngs, 310 wins and 4,099 strikeouts. Now, Clemens would like to say thank you in his own words, written exclusively for MLB.com.
By Roger Clemens
Special to MLB.com
This entire season was like a long closing act.
I had the opportunity to say thank you to a lot of fans around town, living and going about New York City. People knew that I was going to retire, and while some of you out there urged me not to, everyone has thanked me for everything that's happened since I've been here wearing pinstripes.
Now, I'd like to thank all of the baseball fans out there. Not only the ones in New York, Boston and Toronto, but in all baseball cities and towns all over the world.
I don't have to look any further than my World Series experiences in New York to know how much the fans have meant to me. Being able to close out my first one against Atlanta in 1999, to be able to celebrate at Yankee Stadium with the fans, it was one of the most memorable moments of my career. Then, to have the parade, to be able to go out and have the celebration, wave and thank all of the fans that supported us, everyone should be able to experience that just once.
I want to thank all of you fans, because it works both ways. You give me the inspiration when I go out to pitch. It's been great support, even when I was a visitor here. People have always expressed how they enjoyed watching me work, they just couldn't cheer for me because I was wearing another uniform.
Once I got traded to the Yankees, the fans were unbelievable, and it's been that way for the full five years. I hope you all know that I've given my all, I haven't taken anything for granted. Every time I've gone out there, I've tried to do something special that day. Some days worked out better than some others, but you have all taken time out of your schedules to come watch me pitch, and I always tried to give something back.
I've tried to leave a lasting mark, something special behind in each of the three cities in which I've played. I pitched my entire career in the American League East, where fans really come out to support their team.
Boston was a great experience as well. I played 13 wonderful years up there, we had some teams built around strong hitting and we went 1-2-3 deep in the starting rotation, so I never felt as if I was going at it alone.
Toronto is more of a hockey town than a baseball town, but the Blue Jays have some great tradition with a couple of World Series championships. It was a little different than what I expected for the two years I was there, and I was able to teach some of their young kids what it takes to win, guys like Carlos Delgado and Shannon Stewart. My family and I loved our time up north, and are grateful to have had the chance to experience it.
I got to experience Toronto, play two wonderful years for Mr. (Paul) Beeston. Then, out of nowhere, I get a call at midnight from Joe Torre, welcoming me to the Yankees. I had no idea what I was walking into, because you don't know if you'll be able to pick up where they left off and continue to win. To come into an atmosphere with guys who know what it takes to win and are willing to sacrifice that, it's great. New York isn't for everyone, but it's certainly agreed with me. It's the most incredible place to play. If you want to win, this is where you want to be.
It was meant to be. My sisters told me stories that when I was young, I would wear a Yankees hat and jacket, and that I was destined to play here. In college, guys called me 'Goose' after Goose Gossage. My mom says that everything comes full circle, so I guess that's true. As much as I loved Boston, what happened there was a blessing in disguise.
With the Yankees, I've always had that same feeling I had with the Red Sox, that there were so many solid guys around, that if you weren't able to get it done on a particular day, someone else would be there to pick you up. We thrive and feed off one another. People look at the Yankees as a bunch of superstars, but you'd never know it from the way these guys handle and carry themselves.
"I'll miss the competition the most. I still know I can compete at a high level, which is why I came back. I didn't come back for a farewell tour or as a favor to someone, I came back to win."
The fans are second to none in New York, which is why Mr. Steinbrenner always tries to put a great product on the field. We're always trying to do something special on that field for them, and they can appreciate that.
At the time I played in Boston, I never could have imagined that I'd wear these pinstripes some day. When you're coming up, you always assume that you'll start and finish with the same club. That didn't happen, and it turned out to be a blessing for me, because I got to experience Toronto and New York.
Being here, I've had an owner that wants to win worse than I do, which, as a player, is all you can ask for. Playing for Mr. Torre, it's been incredible. He's been so much fun to work with, to watch him teach and pass along his experience to the younger players, it's inspiring.
What the fans have always done for me, being a power pitcher for 20 years, is to help get me going. When you take center stage out there, whether you feel good or bad, once you get on that mound, that crowd can really light you up and elevate your game. I talk about momentum a lot, and they can give that to us. If I'm trying to strike a guy out, the crowd can get me going and pump the team up.
And it's not only in New York. I find it almost comical when we go on the road, to hear and see the amount of Yankee fans that are everywhere. The following we have on the road is incredible. I love seeing the looks on the faces of our new players when they realize that we have fans in every city.
I'll miss the competition the most. I still know I can compete at a high level, which is why I came back. I didn't come back for a farewell tour or as a favor to someone, I came back to win. I came back to lead a staff, to be a number one guy, and I got that opportunity.
I'll miss the one-on-one confrontations between the pitcher and batter, working with Jorge Posada, and just competing. I'll miss the noise from the crowd when I get two strikes on a hitter, striking a guy out in a big situation. That's the bottom line. Fans come out to get away from their work, to relax and cheer you on. That makes it fun for us, because if the crowd wasn't there, we wouldn't be playing.
I want to thank each and every one of you for making this whole ride as memorable as it's been. I couldn't have done it without you.
Roger Clemens story was told to Mark Feinsand, a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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