It's Schilling vs. Clemens in Game 7

Posted: Sunday, November 04, 2001

PHOENIX -- Roger Clemens did not mince words. Convinced that a promising pitcher was throwing away his talent, the Rocket dressed him down, calling him every name he could.

It worked. The young guy listened, began making better choices and blossomed into one of baseball's top aces.

A decade after that discussion in the weight room at the Astrodome, they meet for the first time on the mound.

Clemens vs. Curt Schilling in Game 7 of the World Series on Sunday night.

''What has happened in my career, what he's done in my career, I don't know that I'd ever get a ball for a bigger game in my life,'' Schilling said.

Schilling and the Arizona Diamondbacks playing the New York Yankees would be plenty. Now add in the personal history between the two starting pitchers.

''I give Curt all the credit,'' Clemens said. ''He's the one that made the decision to turn and take the game seriously and not waste his time.''

This will mark the first time 20-game winners have hooked up in Game 7 of the Series since 1985, when Kansas City's Bret Saberhagen opposed St. Louis' John Tudor.

''We're all going to go home tomorrow,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said after Arizona's 15-2 victory Saturday night forced the Game 7. ''It should be a marquee matchup -- Roger and Curt. They're both 20-game winners and Cy Young contenders.''

Schilling stood by his prediction that the Diamondbacks would win the Series.

''Absolutely,'' he said Saturday night. ''I don't take the ball expecting to lose.

"If you ask Roger, I'm sure he'd say the same thing.''

Schilling tied for the major league lead with 22 victories this season, and has added four more in a sparkling postseason.

Schilling beat the Yankees in the opener and, coming back on three days' rest, wound up with a no-decision in Game 4 when Byung-Hyun Kim blew a ninth-inning lead. Schilling once again will work on short rest.

Clemens went 20-3 this season, making him the favorite to win a record sixth Cy Young Award. He defeated the Diamondbacks in Game 3 and heads into this start fully rested.

Clemens was already on his way to a glorious career in the winter of 1991 when he went to work out at the Astrodome, near his home in Katy, Texas.

While there, the Boston star noticed Schilling in an adjacent weight room.

Clemens, then 28, said he wanted to talk to the 24-year-old Houston pitcher.

Schilling, a former Red Sox minor leaguer who looked up to Clemens, figured it would be ''cool.''

''What I thought was going to be kind of a sit-down talk about pitching experience turned out to be an hour-and-half half butt-chewing,'' Schilling said.

''He felt at the time that I was someone who was not taking advantage of the gifts God had given me, that I didn't respect the game the way I should, that I didn't respect my teammates the way I should,'' he said. ''He hit every nail on the head as far as I'm concerned.''

Said Clemens: ''I was hoping that I was not going to waste my time. It got pretty heated. We hashed it out a little bit.''

At this year's All-Star game, with both players sharing the podium, Clemens smiled as he recalled the talk.

''It was a pretty good conversation,'' he said.

That's not exactly how Schilling remembered it.

''There wasn't much of a conversation,'' he said. ''It was one of those conversations your father has with you when you are going down a stage in life and you need to make a right turn.''

Schilling said Clemens' words made an immediate impact.

''I walked away saying to myself, 'You know, No. 1, why would he care as much as he did? And, No. 2, if he did care, there must be something there,''' he said. ''I began to turn a corner at that point in my career, both on and off the field.''

After being traded to Philadelphia, Schilling went 14-11 with a 2.35 ERA in 1992. The next year, he was MVP of the NL championship series and pitched a shutout against Toronto in the World Series.

Clemens kept winning, too. And at last, they meet again on the mound.

''Again, give him all the credit,'' Clemens said. ''He's the one that has made himself a tremendous pitcher.''

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