By Dan Rubin
I still remember the ovation.
It was August 31, 2003. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees were in the rubber game of a three-game series towards the end of the season. The Sox were mathematically still in contention for the AL East crown, but the Yankees were starting to put a little bit of distance between the two squads. However, the teams split two marathon games to open up the season, and the difference in divisional momentum came down to two old workhorses going head-to-head for one last go time on Fenway’s grass.
In the hours leading up to the game, it began dawning on many that this particular game superseded the heated rivalry. Due to the rotation, Roger Clemens would take the hill at Fenway Park for New York, and, with the schedule ahead, it became more and more apparent that this was Clemens’ final start in the stadium he made himself famous.
With one out in the sixth, Clemens walked nemesis Trot Nixon before Dave McCarty lined a single to center. With runners at the corners and the Yankees up six, Clemens struck out Doug Mirabelli, who needed to catch since the Sox were throwing Tim Wakefield that day. But Clemens couldn’t get out of the inning, walking next batter Gabe Kapler before being pulled for Antonio Osuna.
Clemens strode off the mound, and, echoing his famous performance in 1997, as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, received a standing ovation. The “Fenway Faithful,” sensing the moment, honored the man who made history at the park. He wasn’t always the most likeable guy, but the fans took to his attitude and always respected him. The Rocket created more history in Boston during the ‘80s and ‘90s then they could fully fathom. He was a surefire Hall of Famer, one of the game’s greatest pitchers, and maybe, just maybe, the thawing between Clemens and the Red Sox would come to fruition if he wears a red “B” on his cap in Cooperstown, (Hall of Fame).