A Look Back: Piazza vs. Clemens

Whenever Mike Piazza and Roger Clemens step onto the same playing field, there's almost always an interesting sequence of events to follow. <P> A look back at the twisting relationship between the two future Hall of Famers, who meet again Wednesday night at Shea Stadium:

June 7, 1999

Piazza helps put a stop to Clemens' American League record 20-game winning streak, cracking a two-run homer on a hanging forkball over the left-center field wall at Yankee Stadium. The Rocket doesn't make it out of the third inning.

July 9, 1999

Piazza gets Clemens again, crushing a three-run homer at Shea Stadium as the Mets cruise to a 5-2 victory. Clemens goes six innings and is charged with five earned runs in the loss.

June 9, 2000

Clemens is booed off the mound at Yankee Stadium after he allows nine runs, including a grand slam to Piazza and a two-run homer to Edgardo Alfonzo. He leaves trailing 9-2 in the sixth inning.

Clemens: "The boos, I was as hacked off as anybody else was. I felt I had better stuff than the final score says it was. I was trying to keep the ball in the yard, gave up too many homers."

July 8, 2000

Perhaps remembering their two previous encounters, Clemens comes up and in on Piazza with a 95-MPH fastball in his first at-bat. Piazza is conked flush in the batting helmet and lies motionless on the field at Yankee Stadium, a sickening and mostly silent scene amidst the sellout crowd.

Piazza is helped off the field and is diagnosed with a concussion, forcing him to miss the All-Star Game; later, he refuses to accept a telephone call from Clemens in the visiting clubhouse, uttering an expletive. Clemens goes on to pitch great in a 4-2 Yankees win.

Clemens: "I didn't hit Mike on purpose. I was going to pitch him inside. I don't know if I've pitched inside as much as I need to this year. Mike has obviously hit me well."

Piazza: "I have no respect or appreciation for his comments. Roger Clemens is a great pitcher, but I don't have respect for him now at all. I could respect the fact of his throwing inside. Getting hit in the ribs and body are part of the game. But he has very good control; he only walked one guy (in 7 1-3 innings). If he knew he had to come up and hit the next inning, I think he would have been more careful. I think it was very much an intentional pitch."

October 22, 2000

Game 2 of the World Series takes a backseat to the much-hyped return of Piazza vs. Clemens, and the fiasco takes a strange twist when Clemens fields the jagged barrel of Piazza's broken bat and throws it at the Mets catcher, running out a foul ball.

Clemens later claims that he thought he was throwing the ball – in the general direction of the base-runner or batboy – and the shard of lumber eventually winds up in the possession of sportscaster Keith Olbermann, who is working the World Series for FOX. Clemens will be fined $50,000 for his actions, which he appeals.

Piazza to Clemens: "What's your problem?"

Clemens: "I was extremely emotional that first inning. I knew I had to get control of my emotions extremely quick. Before I let go of the bat, I had no idea that Mike had ran. There was no intent. I grabbed the bat to sling it toward our on-deck circle and I had no idea Mike was running and that really wasn't the substance of the game."

Piazza: "I think I was just sort of confused and shocked as everybody. After it occurred, what could you do? No. 1, I was a little disoriented. Obviously, my bat shattered and I had no idea where the ball was. When I started slowly jogging down the line, when he threw the bat I walked out to see what his problem was. He had no response. It was bizarre. I was trying to figure out if it was intentional. He really had no response. Then there was intervention by everyone else. … It's just so bizarre. I hate for this to be an incident remembered in a game that was such an interesting ballgame."

June 15, 2002

Nearly two years later, Clemens finds himself finally back on the same field as the Mets, who have been licking their chops at a chance to retaliate for Clemens' theatrics of the last few years. Much to the dismay of the sellout Shea crowd, they fire and miss, with Shawn Estes buzzing a fastball behind the Rocket's buttocks in the third inning.

The Mets get the last laugh, though, when Estes shuts out the Yankees through seven innings with 11 strikeouts and homers off of Clemens. Piazza also homers in the Mets' 8-0 blowout win.

Estes: "Well, I haven't had the greatest control in the past, so there's times I've hit guys and the ball got away from me. The fans know what's going on. It's well documented. People can draw their own conclusions."

Piazza: "I've never doubted Shawn as being a good teammate, and you can read into that what you want. That's the bottom line. I've never doubted anyone on this team as far as a situation to protect each other."

Clemens: No comment.

July 12, 2004

In a twist of fate, Piazza and Clemens – now with the Houston Astros – are selected as the battery for the All-Star Game in Houston. All goes well, including a pre-game meeting between the two in which few details are released other than that they amicably went over pitchers, but the night will be spoiled for Clemens when he quickly puts the National League in a six-run hole.

Piazza, pre-game: "I think it's funny. I've been kind of laughing about it. I didn't think it would be as significant as it is, as a lot of people are making it out to be. Anything to make the game more exciting, I guess. Yeah, it's a little strange. But I remember catching other Hall of Fame pitchers as well, which is pretty cool. So I'm looking forward to it. He's got great stuff. He's throwing as well as he ever has, at least since I've been facing him, so we'll see."

Clemens, pre-game: "I don't have to pitch to him, pitch at him. I'm pitching with him now. We are on the same team, so pretty much it's not a story of what's going on here. As far as Mike and I are concerned, I've said many times I'm looking forward to it. I'm glad I get to throw to him and I don't have to face him, because I know what type a hitter he is. If you make a mistake, leave a ball out over the plate, especially in this ballpark, you're not going to get it back. It's very simple."

Clemens, post-game: "It was a tough go of it. I threw a couple of breaking balls and they hit them. … It happens. You face a good lineup and somebody gets on and somebody flips one out of here and it's a tough outing. The biggest thing to me is I wanted to go two innings to help out and I wasn't able to."

April 13, 2005

Piazza and Clemens face off for what could quite possibly be the final time tonight. Clemens is 42 and may retire after the season; Piazza, 36, is a candidate to do the same.

"I've always enjoyed facing the best," Piazza said Monday. "Whether it's Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson. You really have to be on your game against them. He's got 320 wins, so that pretty much speaks for itself."


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