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High pitch

Sports | Desperate Yankees roll out the red carpet for Roger Clemens

Issue: "Is Romney rolling?," May 19, 2007

After decades in baseball, there's one pitch in Roger Clemens' repertoire even better than his fastball: his sales pitch. When the 44-year-old future Hall of Famer told New York Yankees fans during the 7th-inning stretch on May 6-in a dramatic announcement from the owner's box-that he would return to the Yankees, the Rocket embarked on yet another comeback. Credit Clemens for this: The man knows his value. "He's Roger Clemens," agent Randy Hendricks said at a news conference. "From my point of view, when he says he's ready to play, teams should listen."

The Yankees were listening the hardest. Most attribute the Yankees' slow start to a combination of injuries to the pitching staff and poor mound performances by those tapped to fill in. If ever there were a team that needed a pitcher like Clemens-and simultaneously had the resources and inclination to buy the talent-it's George Steinbrenner's Yankees. The coalescence of circumstances means that Steinbrenner will fork over a prorated $28 million to Clemens for his services in 2007. The faster the Rocket can get on the field, the more of that large sum he can actually earn. If Clemens makes his first start on June 1, as the Yankees expect, he'll earn $18.7 million for the season. According to one calculation, Clemens should make well over $8,000 per regular season pitch if all goes as planned.

But it's not just the salary. Clemens gets all the perks his sports diva status can muster. If the Rocket isn't scheduled to pitch on a road trip, Clemens won't be required to travel with the team. That's a caveat the Yankees weren't willing to grant last season. But then, last year the Yankees didn't end April with 14 losses and only nine wins. And the 2006 Yankees didn't use eight starters in the season's first month. "He may be here sometimes and not be here sometimes," New York General Manager Brian Cashman said. "We'll be happy when he shows up every fifth day to pitch for us."

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Around the Horn

BASEBALL: Don't expect a lot of cheering when San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. With 10 homers in just over the first month of the season, Bonds seems like a lock to reach and surpass Aaron's 755 home runs. But according to an ESPN and ABC News poll, just 37 percent of respondents say they are rooting for Aaron's record to go down, while 52 percent say they are rooting against Bonds.

BOXING: Two-time boxing champion Diego Corrales, 29, died May 7 after a motorcycle accident in Las Vegas in which Corrales' speeding bike struck another vehicle from behind. "He fought recklessly and he lived recklessly," said promoter Gary Shaw. "That was his style." Exactly two years before his death, Corrales defeated Jose Luis Castillo by getting up from two 10th-round knockdowns to capture the WBC lightweight belt.

HORSE RACING: For the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby, the so-called "Sport of Kings" got the queen. The British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, stood out amongst the seersucker at Churchill Downs with her lime-green hat with fuchsia trim. While many in the crowd sought to catch a glimpse of royalty, patrons caught a good race too: James B. Tafel's horse, Street Sense, won in front of the Derby's third-largest crowd ever.

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