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Texas-Sized Showdown for Clemens, Wood

June 07, 2003|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — After electrifying baseball by striking out 20 batters in his fifth major league start, Kerry Wood got many congratulatory phone calls.

One stood out among the others.

It came from the only big league pitcher to dominate a game the way Wood did. Roger Clemens, who was on the other end of the phone, also fanned 20 batters in a nine-inning game. Twice. Ten years apart.

Clemens and Wood could hook up for some more history today. Unlike that call five years ago, they can talk in person this time. Two tall Texans with sizzling fastballs tangling at Wrigley Field.

The veteran Clemens, at 40, will be going for his 300th win, a feat that would cap his Hall of Fame career in what he said is his final season.

Wood, 25, grew up idolizing another great from the Lone Star State -- Nolan Ryan, whose No. 34 he wears -- and will be trying to get his 50th win. He hasn't won since late April.

As a boy, Wood first wanted to be like Ryan, the last pitcher to get 300 wins, back in 1990. Then, along came Clemens, who pitched his first major league game when Wood was 7.

"It makes me feel old," Clemens said Friday when the Yankees made their first appearance at Wrigley Field since the 1938 World Series.

Clemens failed in his first two attempts to get No. 300, including Sunday when the Yankees blew a 7-1 lead in Detroit.

"I'd like to get it done, so we can cut down on the travel and the hoopla that goes with it," said Clemens, adding he expects 40 family and friends to be in attendance Saturday.

"I appreciate the fact everybody is excited about it. I am, too."

The Yankees' history at Wrigley Field also includes the 1932 World Series, another Yankee sweep that featured Babe Ruth's alleged called shot off Charlie Root.

Now it's today's matchup between Clemens and Wood.

"Wrigley is a special place," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said.

"You think about Roger Clemens, the consummate American Leaguer, trying to win his 300th here in a National League park. But I guess if you gotta pick a National League park to do it, this would be pretty memorable."

Clemens was raised and pitched in high school, junior college and college in Texas. Wood was born in Texas and had a great high school career. Comparisons were inevitable. Now they get to face one another, for the first and probably last time.

And Wood figures everyone wants to see Clemens, not him. Clemens also needs only nine strikeouts to join Ryan and Steve Carlton with 4,000.

"No one is going to be coming to watch me pitch and that's a good thing for me," Wood said. "I'm going to try to do my job and let all the pressure be on him."

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