OAKLAND — Roger Clemens may have said the "magic words" that merited his ejection, but the Oakland Athletics worked the swift and stunning magic that made the Boston Red Sox disappear from the American League playoffs in four games.
Counted on by the Red Sox to resuscitate their faint comeback hopes, Clemens pitched only 1 2/3 innings Wednesday before being ejected by plate umpire Terry Cooney. It was a novel incident--only the fifth ejection in postseason history--on a day that had a familiar ending. For the eighth consecutive time, Dave Stewart earned the victory in a game started by Clemens. The A's 3-1 triumph gave them their third consecutive AL pennant.
"One event is not going to take away from the fact that we beat them twice in Boston and twice here," said Stewart, who was named the most valuable player of the series for his victories in Games 1 and 4. "The bottom line is that we swept them in four, and if you're a baseball fan, that's what you're talking about."
Clemens' ejection at the Oakland Coliseum will be talked about for weeks, with Clemens sure to do some talking to American League President Bobby Brown after the umpires file their reports. Brown, who was present, will review tapes of the incident before ruling.
"Something must have been said that was quite dramatic to bring about that type of reaction," Brown said. "I think it's very important that the umpire feels he's in control out there. If he feels it's slipping away, he has to do something."
The A's were leading, 1-0, and had runners on first and second after Clemens walked Willie Randolph on a 3-and-1 pitch. Unhappy with Cooney's calls during Randolph's at-bat, Clemens voiced "some expletives" according to Cooney. The umpire conceded he didn't warn Clemens before taking action but said he tacitly cautioned Clemens by refusing to remove his mask and be drawn into a discussion.
"Then he said I was a gutless, well, whatever he said," Cooney said. "I had to eject him because everybody could hear it. . . . I'm fully cognizant of the magnitude of the game. I've been in the major leagues 16 years. I'm probably one of the easiest going umpires around. I have very few ejections over the years.
"I thought before I ejected him. What he said was audible to myself, the catcher (Tony Pena), Mike Gallego (the A's next hitter) and all the players in the Oakland dugout. Whatever the magnitude of the game, I still had to do my job. Roger didn't do his job. . . . Umpires feel, when you call a pitch, that's where you thought the pitch was at that time. You don't need a guy out there in front of 50,000 people saying, 'What an imbecile this umpire is.' "
Clemens denied cursing Cooney. "I was looking down at the dirt after I walked the guy, and shaking my head," Clemens said. "He was shaking his head, and I saw his throat guard moving (as Cooney spoke). I heard him say a few words. I said, 'I'm not shaking my bleeping head at you.' I don't feel I showed him up.
"I didn't verbally abuse him. I didn't call him a, well, an adjective. If I'm too intense out there, you can hold that against me. He just took the ball away from me in my final game of the year. A lot of hard work went into this. I can't believe this."
Red Sox Manager Joe Morgan, enraged at losing his starter, argued vehemently with Cooney. Clemens charged toward what had become a cluster of umpires, coaches and players and made contact with umpiring crew chief Jim Evans, whose post Wednesday was along the right-field foul line. Clemens denied shoving an umpire, but Evans confirmed that "there was contact." However, Evans added, "I didn't think of it as an assault on me," and it's not likely to count heavily against Clemens in the umpires' report.
Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett was also ejected for protesting the ejection by tossing a bucket of Gatorade and packets of sunflower seeds onto the field. His ejection was the sixth in playoff records; the ejections were the first since Boston's Bruce Hurst was thrown out of Game 4 of the AL playoffs in 1988.
Tom Bolton took over for Clemens and gave up a two-run double to Gallego that gave Oakland a 3-1 lead. All the while, Clemens remained in the dugout, staying there until the third inning was about to start. Then Evans reminded him that ejected players are prohibited from being in the dugout. On his way off the field Clemens handed his cap to a fan, who asked for it as a souvenir.
"The A's are a great team, and they're well on their way to another World Series championship," said Clemens, who is 1-2 in seven career playoff starts.
Predictably, players reacted along partisan lines. Stewart said he heard the entire exchange between Clemens and Cooney from his seat in the A's dugout and backed Cooney's claim that Clemens had cursed. "If he denies that, he's a liar, and you can tell him what I said," Stewart said. "It warranted his ejection. He said a couple of magic words."