January 15, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 58  

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Clemens un-retires, signs with Astros

HOUSTON (AP) — The Rocket blasted out of retirement and landed back home in Houston.

Three months after Roger Clemens threw his final pitch for the New York Yankees in the World Series, the six-time Cy Young Award winner signed a one-year contract worth US$5 million Monday with his hometown Astros.

“The Astros worked real hard to get me off that fence after I’d gotten up on it,” Clemens said. “I feel I still have a lot to give. We want to try to make memories together. That’s the only reason I came out of retirement.”

Clemens will pitch for a big pay cut from last year’s US$10.1 million salary. The Astros will defer US$3.5 million of Clemens’ salary until 2006, general manager Gerry Hunsicker confirmed.

Clemens can earn an additional US$1.4 million based on the Astros’ home attendance: $200,000 for each 100,000 fans starting at 2.8 million and running through 3.4 million. The Astros drew about 2.45 million fans last year.

In addition, Clemens has a 10-year personal services contract with the Astros, beginning when he finishes playing. His contract also has another unusual clause that will permit him to attend his sons’ games at times during the season when he’s not scheduled to pitch.

“Because of who he is, there are a few exceptions we are allowing him to make with our rules,” Hunsicker said. “His family is a big part of this, so we worked it out. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He is one of the greatest to play the game.”

Although Clemens said at the end of last season he was 99 per cent sure of retirement, baseball commissioner Bud Selig applauded Clemens’ decision. “It’s a great thing for Houston and, frankly, Roger has earned the right to do whatever he wants to,” Selig said.

Clemens, 41, was 17-9 with a 3.91 ERA last season, his fifth with the Yankees. He spent his first 13 seasons in Boston, then went to Toronto for two years before moving on to New York, where he won World Series titles in 1999 and 2000.

His 310-160 record puts him 17th on the career wins list, and his 4,099 strikeouts place him third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Steve Carlton (4,136). The Yankees thought that was the end of Clemens’ spectacular career.

“Roger Clemens was a great warrior for the Yankees — a teacher and a leader,” Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement. “He told the world he was retiring, and we had no choice but to believe him.”

Clemens’ last appearance for the Yankees was a memorable one, in Game 4 of the World Series against the Florida Marlins. Clemens didn’t get a decision as the Yankees lost 4-3 in 12 innings. Even the Marlins’ players applauded after Clemens struck out Luis Castillo in what was thought to be his final major league pitch.

Now, Houston can’t wait to see Clemens on the mound in an Astros uniform.



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