The trial of Roger Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, begins today. He's in federal court in Washington, charged with perjury and obstruction of Congress for testifying at a congressional hearing in 2008 that he never used drugs to improve his pitching.
The witness who could bring down Clemens is former teammate and best friend Andy Pettitte, who grew up in Texas like Clemens and became a Christian when he was 11. Concerning Pettitte, The New York Times announced, "Although he never spoke much in the clubhouse about his religious convictions, Pettitte became known among the Yankees for his strait-laced life." I guess that's what being a Christian means, according to the Times: Has anyone bought the movie rights yet to Clemens vs. the Christian?
Ironically, Clemens himself once may have had some Christian leanings. At spring training in March 1994, I caught him in a pensive mood and asked him about his religious beliefs. He said, "My father passed away when I was 9. . . . When I was young going to church was like the sun coming up. You could count on it, Wednesdays and Sundays. Then when he passed away, my mom took on three jobs, raised six of us. She was the force behind us all, she still is, but that church consistency was hard."
Clemens went on to say that he'd never had that consistency since: "We work on Sundays. We have a Bible study Friday afternoon at Fenway for players and wives, but we travel a lot. . . . I know that once you commit yourself really to Christ, you never drift away. I know that's the basis for why I'm here, why I'm able to succeed. I know there's a better life for me regardless of what I do here. I know that my father's always watching over me . . . but there's so much media and off-the-field stuff. . . ."
So much stuff. When I interviewed major leaguers during the 1990s I heard that complaint, or plea, from many. An old Russian tale describes a chieftain who fought hard for the czar centuries ago and received the award of a suit of armor: The chieftain put it on and, crossing a river on his way home, fell off his horse and drowned. Baseball gave Clemens armor, but exacted a cost. Today we'll begin finding out how great the price was, and whether Clemens still remembers that Someone has already paid it.