HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens dug his spikes into the dirt and
stared momentarily at the ground before throwing his first pitch.
He knew his mother would have wanted him on the mound.
The Houston Astros ace made his scheduled start Wednesday night
and allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings against the Florida Marlins,
pitching in honor of his mother after she died early that morning.
"I'm not really at all surprised. The word that we used, he
understands the meaning of the word duty," Houston general manager
Tim Purpura said. "His mother taught him about duty. He feels like
he has a duty to pitch for the Astros tonight, and that's what he's
Bess Clemens died in Georgetown, Texas, because of complications
from emphysema, the Astros said. She was 75.
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner often shared his affection
for his mother, saying her health was an important factor as he
weighed retirement the past two offseasons. His stepfather died
when he was young, and his mother was an inspiration.
"His mother was a very special person in his life. I can see
the two of them together, Roger was still a little boy around
her," New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said in St. Petersburg,
Fla. "She's been fighting this thing for a long period of time.
Hopefully she's at peace and Roger is also."
After giving up consecutive one-out singles in the seventh
inning with the Astros ahead 3-1, Clemens and catcher Brad Ausmus
met on the mound. Manager Phil Garner then came out, and after
speaking briefly with Clemens, changed pitchers. The pitcher got a
standing ovation as he walked to the dugout. He allowed five hits
and struck out four, raising his career total to 4,492.
Reliever Chad Qualls got the first batter he faced to ground
into an inning-ending double play. Clemens threw 83 pitches.
Clemens has talked about how much he hoped his mother would be
able to attend his Hall of Fame induction.
"I don't want to speak to two empty chairs," he said after
winning the NL Cy Young Award last year.
"I know that was a big thing. He would have loved for her to be
able to make it to see that," Astros pitcher and close friend Andy
Pettitte said. "I know that was a big issue for him, but she
wanted him to keep playing. So that would be something I don't
think he needs to have any regrets about."
There was no public acknowledgment at the ballpark of Bess
Clemens' death. The Rocket got a warm round of applause when he
made his way in from the bullpen after warming up and when the
lineups were announced, but that happens whenever he starts.
Surely pitching with a heavy heart, Clemens walked leadoff
batter Luis Castillo on four pitches, then had another four-pitch
walk later in the first -- his only walks. The second batter got a
single, and the Marlins took a 1-0 lead on a grounder.
"I don't care how he pitches. He's out there and his mom just
passed away," teammate Lance Berkman said before the game. "If he
pitches great or not, it's not going to matter one bit to anybody
Clemens looked much sharper in the second inning, throwing nine
of 11 pitches for strikes with his first two strikeouts. When he
batted in the bottom half, he drew a bases-loaded walk to put
Houston up 2-1.
Bess Clemens came to Yankee Stadium for her son's first attempt
at his 300th win on May 26, 2003, against Boston. Suffering from
emphysema and coming off a recent bout with pneumonia, she wore a
breathing tube around her face. But she wasn't able to attend when
Clemens won No. 300 2½ weeks later against St. Louis.
"She's not doing well enough to be here," Clemens said at the
His mother did throw out the ceremonial first pitch before a
Yankees game in August 2003.
"It was great. They should have let her stay on the mound. She
had better stuff than I had," Clemens said.
Now 43, the Rocket is having an outstanding season. He went into
his start 11-7 with 171 strikeouts and a major league-leading 1.78
Pettitte, also his teammate with the Yankees, said his mother's
health was weighing on Clemens when they spoke Monday.
"He was hoping that she would be able to pull through. She's
pulled through plenty of times before," Pettitte said.
Clemens' decision to pitch reminded Houston manager Phil Garner
of when he was playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1979 World
Series. Manager Chuck Tanner stayed with the team after his mother
"Chuck continued to manage because he said that's exactly what
his mom wanted him to do," Garner said. "He said, 'She wanted me
to get to the World Series, but she wanted me to see it through,'
and he did."