Clemens, Ramirez cross paths
A pair of tainted superstars and prodigal Red Sox return to Boston
BOSTON -- Manny Ramirez didn't vanish inside the Monster on Friday night -- as DH, he never got close enough -- but hey, we've already been there, done that.
Instead, something perhaps even more confounding happened on the occasion of Ramirez's return to Boston, as another Sox prodigal slipped into Fenway Park unannounced as a ticket-bearing occupant of a front-row Monster seat.
The sight of the dreadlocked Ramirez elicited a home-brewed mix of mirth and malice, cheers and boos fighting to a draw on the Manny Meter on a night he managed a single in five trips, taking a third-strike slider from Daniel Bard for the final out of Boston's 10-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But that was none other than Roger Clemens posing for pictures for fans startled to find the Rocket sitting in their midst, just above the American League scoreboard.
"Funny, I saw him on the JumboTron during the game," said Sox rookie left fielder Daniel Nava. "I try not to look around too much during a game -- stay focused on what's going on -- but if I'd put two and two together, I would have realized he was sitting right over my shoulder."
Sox center fielder Mike Cameron, meanwhile, didn't find out until afterward that Clemens was within hailing distance.
"Usually I look up there once in a while, but some guy from L.A. was hammering me," Cameron said.
Clemens is in town to play in a member-guest golf tournament run by his good friend Eddie Miller, a vice president of sales at Twins Enterprises, Inc., the souvenir business. When Miller called Red Sox president Sam Kennedy for tickets for the game, he didn't mention the guest he was bringing.
"They had no idea he was coming," Miller said Friday night. "All of a sudden we showed up, no security or nothing. There were four of us, including my daughter and her boyfriend. One of their security guys said, 'You guys can't sit out there alone, you'll get killed."'
Dressed in a white baseball cap and black polo jersey, Clemens stayed through the first six innings, turning around occasionally to oblige fans snapping away, but telling reporters through a Sox security man that he would answer no questions.
Clemens, of course, not only has history with the Red Sox, he has significant ties with Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who had the Rocket in New York. Dodgers coach Don Mattingly, who had been tipped off by NESN analyst Peter Gammons that Clemens would be in the house, pointed out Clemens to Torre when his face appeared on the scoreboard.
"I haven't heard from him for a while," Torre said. ''From time to time, we trade a text, but it's been a little bit. I think the last time I talked to him was a couple of years ago.
"I miss Roger. He was a plus for me."
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Clemens last pitched in 2007, Torre's final year with the Yankees. In December of that year, Major League Baseball released the Mitchell Report, Sen. George Mitchell's probe into the use of performance-enhancing drugs by players. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, was mentioned 82 times in the report, his reputation shredded by allegations made by his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, who said he injected Clemens with both steroids and human growth hormone.
Clemens insisted to Congress he never used PEDs, contradicting the testimony of McNamee and former teammate Andy Pettitte, who testified that Clemens told him he had used HGH. Now, the man who can make a case that he was the best pitcher in baseball history is a pariah, the target of a federal grand jury investigation into whether he committed perjury to Congress. McNamee, according to the New York Times, recently told the grand jury that Clemens used money from his nonprofit foundation to purchase drugs and pay McNamee, allegations that Clemens' lawyer vehemently denied.
Jose Canseco, a good friend, testified before the grand jury earlier this month; ex-big leaguer David Segui appeared on Thursday, and it would seem the investigation is coming to a close. A perjury conviction could send Clemens to prison for up to five years.
There was a bizarre symmetry, then, in Clemens showing up at Fenway on the same night as the return of Ramirez, whose own greatness as a slugger was tainted last year by his 50-game suspension tied to his use of a female fertility drug that often is used to mask steroids.
Ramirez's legacy in Boston, which should have been assured by his role on two World Series title teams, already was colored by the circumstances of his departure from the Sox, with team management maintaining they had no choice but to rid themselves of a player who didn't want to be here.
"I thought there were more thank-you cheers than the other," Torre said. "I was satisfied with that. I know what he did all those years to me. Without Manny, I don't think they would have hung those two banners."
Cameron read the crowd a bit differently. "It sounded like the jeers were a little louder," he said. "But a lot of people appreciate what he's done here. How could you not? He's cemented his place in history with the things he's done."
Cameron wasn't here during Ramirez's run, but he's aware of the other side too. "I've heard the stories," he said. "But as a player, you look up and respect guys like that. He was one of the greatest right-handed hitters in the game."
Ramirez, perhaps betraying some anxiety, swung at the first pitch on each of his first two at-bats, lining out both times against Felix Doubront, the 23-year-old left-hander from Venezuela making his major-league debut. In the sixth, he flared a single to center and came around to score, and he came up again in the seventh, this time against reliever Scott Atchison, and took a called third strike.
Meanwhile, his long-time accomplice in Sox sluggery, David Ortiz, bashed a long two-run home run in the first inning. It was Ortiz's third home run in the last four games, 15th this season, and 274th as a member of the Red Sox, tying him with -- who else -- M. Ramirez.
"It was good to see my boy out there," said Ortiz, who embraced Ramirez during batting practice. "I had a little chit-chat with him out there. Good to see him back."
With the Dodgers pushing a run across in the ninth and threatening to add more, Cameron found himself doing a little calculating. "I'm thinking, 'Oh, jeez, he's going to get another chance to come up,'" Cameron said. "Somehow or other, these things seem to fall into place in our game, that a guy like that comes up again with a chance to beat you. He's a beast, man."
Ramirez did get one last chance, and ended the game with the bat on his shoulders. The cheers were not for him, but for Bard, and a team now within a game of first place.
Ramirez, who has withdrawn behind the same curtain of silence that marked his Red Sox years, left without saying a word to the media, strolling to the team bus accompanied by several Sox security men. "That guy," Dodgers first-base coach Mariano Duncan said, "doesn't worry about anything."
How many times have we heard those words about Manny? He'll be back this afternoon.
Clemens will not. He'll be at a golf tournament. "We're leading our flight," Eddie Miller said.
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.