The Rocket That Fell to Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality

The Rocket That Fell to Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality

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by Jeff Pearlman
     
 

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“Pearlman’s book develops a stark, unsparing picture of Clemens’s life that surpasses anything that’s come before.”
Boston Globe

 

Jeff Pearlman, the New York Times bestselling author of The Bad Guys Won! and Boys Will be Boys, now brings us The Rocket That Fell to

Overview

“Pearlman’s book develops a stark, unsparing picture of Clemens’s life that surpasses anything that’s come before.”
Boston Globe

 

Jeff Pearlman, the New York Times bestselling author of The Bad Guys Won! and Boys Will be Boys, now brings us The Rocket That Fell to Earth, an explosive account of the rise and fall of Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees superstar Roger Clemens, arguably the greatest pitcher of all time. Called “exceptional” by Time magazine, The Rocket That Fell to Earth is a stunning portrait of a sports legend equally loved and loathed by fans and colleagues, his life and his storied career, and his place at the dead center of professional baseball’s shocking steroid controversy.

Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
“Pearlman’s book develops a stark, unsparing picture of Clemens’s life that surpasses anything that’s come before.”
Time magazine
“Bulldog effort, exceptional book.”
Time Magazine
"Bulldog effort, exceptional book."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061886720
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/24/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
1,039,084
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

The Rocket That Fell to Earth
Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality

Chapter One

High Heat

The candle is lit. It shouldn't be, but it is.

We are, after all, human. We walk out of the supermarket without remembering to pay for a mango. We jaywalk and run reds and bum cigarettes when we're six months into quitting.

We forget to extinguish candles.

It happens. In fact, it's literally happening, right here by the bedside of Jonathan Benoit, a 14-year-old Seekonk, Massachusets, resident and one of the world's biggest Red Sox fans. It is a warm May night in 1996, and as he drifts off to sleep, young Jonathan takes one last glance at the walls covered with images of his hero, Roger Clemens. Along with a few pictures of a half-naked Pamela Anderson, there are eight full-sized posters of Clemens—each one depicting the Boston ace in a different phase of his windup and release. You can't count the ways this boy loves Roger Clemens. His snarl. His intensity. His blue Red Sox cap pulled down over his eyes just so. His 97-mph fastball that causes opposing hitters to instinctively flinch. Clemens is the reason Jonathan wears uniform number 21 in youth ball, the reason he relishes brushing batters back. "The Rocket," he tells anyone who will listen, "is the man."

As the boy's eyelids grow heavy, the candle falls onto his blanket, and fire and smoke engulf Jonathan and those eight Roger Clemens posters. Jonathan's door is shut, so his parents don't hear the crackling of wood. But his dog, a husky named Tasha, wakes everyone up. As Jonathan's father rushes for the nearest fire extinguisher, his mother begs forthe boy to stay alive. "I don't want to die!" he screams. "I don't want to die!"

He never loses consciousness, even though burns cover more than 60 percent of his body. The paramedics arrive and strap him to a stretcher. Tasha barks wildly. His parents clasp hands. His walls, once covered by images of his idol, are now black.

"I eventually returned to my body," Jonathan says, "and fought to live."

When the eighth-graders at Seekonk Intermediate School learned of their classmate's accident, they were devastated. The details were sketchy: Jonathan was in a fire. Jonathan had been taken to the Shriners Burns Institute. Jonathan might live. Jonathan might die. "It was very hard," says Kathryn Dunlap, Jonathan's teacher. "As an educator, you're fairly powerless in that situation. But we came up with a plan."

One hundred and sixty-three of Jonathan's classmates wrote to Roger Clemens, telling him that his biggest fan was on the verge of death. "To be honest," says Dunlap, "I had no expectations. It was just something to do. I hoped he would see them." Two weeks after the fire, Clemens saw them. The Red Sox were in Seattle to play the Mariners when, before the fourth game of the series, a thick FedEx bundle was placed atop his clubhouse chair. In the midst of recovering from a knockout fever that sapped most of his strength, Clemens leaned back on a table in the trainer's room and started to read. Tears streamed down his cheeks. The man known as a cold, heartless baseball killer was speechless.

Within a month, Clemens was standing in the auditorium at Seekonk Intermediate School, addressing the eighth-graders as their classmate was swaddled in bandages, lying in a hospital bed. The baseball star insisted that no media be admitted, so the next day's newspapers carried no stories. "When Jon recovers—and he will recover—he'll need your love and strength and support," Clemens told the children. "There's nothing more powerful than friendship. Use that power."

Five weeks later, Clemens walked into Room 325 at Shriners Burns Institute wearing a blue Boston Red Sox jersey and cap and white pants, and armed with a slew of autographed items. It was Jonathan's 54th day in the hospital, and his hope had long ago been replaced by despair. Yet when Clemens arrived, everything changed. "I knew at that very moment that I would be OK," says Jonathan. "He represented something very powerful to me."

The pitcher took a long look at his young fan—arms layered in bandages, hands wrapped in blue gauze, neck coated with reddened scabs and scars—and asked that everyone leave the room. For the next one and a half hours, Clemens forcefully told Jonathan he would again wear number 21 and throw inside fastballs. "We all face obstacles in life—some harder than others," he said. "This is your big one."

One year to the day after the fire, Jonathan was back on the baseball field. He would go on to play two years of junior varsity baseball at Seekonk High before—late in his junior year—being called up to varsity. "That was a big day for me," he says. "Most of the people I knew thought I'd never play again, and I made it. I owed that to a lot of friends—beginning with Roger Clemens. He had a fan for life."

The years have passed. The photographs and memories have faded. The Roger Clemens who visited Jonathan Benoit on that July afternoon was a 33-year-old 185-game winner who hoped to finish his career with the Boston Red Sox. The Roger Clemens who exists today is a 46-year-old 354-game winner who turned himself into a baseball mercenary. The Roger Clemens who visited Shriners Burns Institute that day was known as a happily married father of three who refused to go more than a handful of days without seeing his wife, Debbie. The Roger Clemens who exists today is still battling bad press over his 10-year affair with a country singer named Mindy McCready—a woman he allegedly first had sex with when she was 17. She was only one of many women with whom he committed adultery over the past 15 years.

The Rocket That Fell to Earth
Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality
. Copyright (c) by Jeff Pearlman . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Jeff Pearlman is a columnist for SI.com, a former Sports Illustrated senior writer, and the critically acclaimed author of Boys Will Be Boys, The Bad Guys Won!, and Love Me, Hate Me.

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The Rocket That Fell to Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Jermster More than 1 year ago
This is a sad tale. Not just sad for Roger Clemens who remains in denial, it is a sad commentary on baseball fans in general who had to know what was happening and turned a blind eye. For kids, as a so-called "hero" not only lied to everyone in baseball but the government as well. For baseball who continues to ignore what steroids did to the game and what they are still doing.For all the players who played by the rules. Roger Clemens is just one more poster boy for the pampered athlete who gets everything he wants, even a free ticket to break the rules. Clemens is an arrogant athlete who still doesn't understand why he is offensive to anyone who believes in fair play. The book does a good job of showing how Clemens became the man he became. It is a story every young athlete should read. There is a fine line between the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Shame. If baseball is lucky it will never have to deal with Clemens again. I don't think it is that lucky. After all, they created the Rocket.
gtutty1 More than 1 year ago
This is a sad tale. Not just sad for Roger Clemens who remains in denial, it is a sad commentary on baseball fans in general who had to know what was happening and turned a blind eye. For kids, as a so-called "hero" not only lied to everyone in baseball but the government as well. For baseball who continues to ignore what steroids did to the game and what they are still doing.For all the players who played by the rules. Roger Clemens is just one more poster boy for the pampered athlete who gets everything he wants, even a free ticket to break the rules. Clemens is an arrogant athlete who still doesn't understand why he is offensive to anyone who believes in fair play. The book does a good job of showing how Clemens became the man he became. It is a story every young athlete should read. There is a fine line between the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Shame. If baseball is lucky it will never have to deal with Clemens again. I don't think it is that lucky. After all, they created the Rocket. If you want to read another sad tale--read Selena Roberts's A-Rod. Another well-written tale about another fraud.
Puko More than 1 year ago
This was a relatively quick and easy read. I've read some of Pearlman's other stuff and expected more out of this, though. The overview of Clemens early years was good, but the rest (from the time he reached the majors on) broke little new ground. It seems like writers are stumbling over themselves to get a book written every time another player hits the steroid list (which is why there's another Clemens book that was published within a month or so of this one) and content may suffer as a result.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago