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Skeeters pitcher Roger Clemens throws during a game against the Bridgeport Bluefish Saturday in Sugar Land, Texas. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, signed with the Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League this week. (Associated Press)

Skeeters pitcher Roger Clemens throws during a game against the Bridgeport Bluefish Saturday in Sugar Land, Texas. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, signed with the Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League this week. (Associated Press)

Gazzolo: Clemens still a baseball sideshow after all these years

Last Modified: Sunday, August 26, 2012 7:52 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Unlike old soldiers, not all aging pitchers just fade away.

One seems to want to go away kicking and screaming, maybe even howling at the moon.

Or perhaps this guy just doesn’t want to go away at all.

Whatever the reason, Roger Clemens was back on the hill Saturday night.

At the un-tender age of 50, there will likely be no talk of any steroid use now. Instead, he more likely to be taking Geritol.

Once the most feared fireballer in baseball, willing to throw inside and high when needed, Clemens turned over his legend for at least one night to the good people of Sugar Land, Texas.

Those weren’t the Yankees, Red Sox or even Astros he was facing, though some of those Bridgeport Bluefish could probably start in Houston and nobody would know the difference.

Saying he just wanted to enjoy the game, Clemens finished throwing just over three innings, changing the questions from why to what next.

“I’m 50 years old. We’re just going to go out and have fun with this and make it fun for the fans,” Clemens said.

Always believing his own hype and his greatness to the game, this is possible the first step in a comeback.

Tarnished by talk of steroid use and a federal perjury trial, the legend of Clemens, and his hopes of making the Hall of Fame, is in question.

This seems a lot like a desperate try at remaking the ending to his story.

In a few months, Clemens’ name is to appear on HOF ballots. He is not likely to get in with the Steroid Era fresh in voters’ minds. However, a game in the majors this year would restart his Hall clock and in five years the voters might have a different opinion about the steroid days

So why not take a shot at one fish, two fish or even a few extra Bluefish?

Pitching some 20 miles or so from Minute Maid Park for a club known as the Skeeters, an independent team, Clemens once again was the talk of baseball, and not in a negative way.

So, the image makeover has officially begun.

Still, he will forever be remembered more for his link to the Steroid Era than the game he dominated from the mound.

Right or wrong, that is just a product of the times.

All players of that era, whether they ever tested positive or not, or whether they were acquitted in a court of law like Clemens, are linked to this fact.

Clemens is just one of the biggest names.

Now, just months after being set free by a jury, he is back trying to play the baseball.

It is a cry for attention for sure, but he is not alone in this fact.

The Astros seem just as desperate for attention as Clemens. They went so far as to send a scout to watch him pitch, as if his report will matter. They were not alone. The Kansas City Royals did the same thing.

Both wasted trips.

ESPN made sure everybody got a good look at Clemens, as well. The network has made Clemens’ return to the mound equal to anticipation as that other talked about second coming.

Ah, the battle for ratings.

Talk is the Astros would consider signing Clemens for their own stretch run as well. They still must have hopes of catching the Cubbies for next-to-worst record in all of baseball.

Or, maybe they just can’t be outdone in their own market by the Sugar Land Skeeters.

Clemens would put a few more seats in the stands, but so might just about any circus act these days.

The move could take away some of Clemens’ credibility, granted, but a lot of that has been lost already.

Fact is, since all the steroid talk and then the trial, the once great hurler has been just a side show.

So Saturday night proved only more of the same.

•••

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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