On this date nine years ago former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens defeated the Cardinals in the Bronx to record his 300th career victory.
In the second inning of the contest, which New York won 5-2, Clemens fanned St. Louis shortstop Edgar Renteria to record his 4,000th shutout.
It was a mismatch of starting pitchers. The Yankees sent Clemens, who would go on to compile a 354-184 record with a 3.12 ERA to the hill against St. Louis hurler Jason Simontacchi who finished his career with a 26-17 career mark and a 5.06 ERA in three seasons with the Cardinals and a final year with the Nationals.
Clemens would record 4,672 strikeouts over the course of his career, third all-time after Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. Simontacchi recorded 191 in his career, a number of whiffs Clemens equalled or matched in 13 individual major league seasons.
It was a horrible, rainy night in the Bronx where I watched the game from a seat high in the right field upper deck, completely unsheltered from a cold, pelting rain. But the game spawned one of my favorite personal baseball stories.
We arrived at the ballpark and hustled to get in line to go to Monument park at Yankee Stadium and just barely made the cut-off. After perusing the plaques for the likes of Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio the security folks told is it was time to leave. As I walked out, I rubbed the nose of Babe Ruth's monument, which was Clemens' tradition for good luck when he pitched at the big ballpark in the Bronx. Presumably, I was the last person to do that before the one-time shoe in did it prior to his 300th win...
But the best part of the story came after we took our seats. After taking terrible abuse a few days before from Red Sox fans at Fenway Park, we were a little bit apprehensive about what was going to happen in New York.
Shortly after we sat down, wearing our Cardinals caps but otherwise minding our own business, a video came up on the Jumbotron that showed a cleaning woman with a feather duster. As the camera panned out, it became obvious that she was dusting Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra as he stood in a museum on a pedestal. Then the screen faded and the words "Only in New York" popped up.
Right on cue, a Yankees fan is stereotypical New York accent, poked me in the back and says "You see dat? Only in New York! You ain't got nothin' like Yogi Berra in St. Louis!" So i turned around and said "You know Yogi Berra is FROM St. Louis, right?" The guy and his buddy sat silently for about five seconds. Then the other guy punches the first guy in the arm and says "Ha, dey got you! Yogi Berra is FROM St. Louis!" After that we all got along great.
As much as I wanted to see the Cardinals win the game, it was pretty cool to see the spectacle of Clemens getting such a historic win. But it's a shame to later learn that Roger Rocket was such a fraud.