Clemens working out in a flak jacket with 60 pounds of weights. Clemens yelling at himself. Clemens yelling at others. Clemens noticing that home plate was a little bit out of line.
Garner was sitting on a witness stand, but he sounded at times as if he were again a major league baseball manager, spinning yarns in a casual pregame dugout chat.
None of those stories involved Clemens using performance-enhancing drugs.
“Scrap Iron,” the nickname Garner earned as a player, gave “The Rocket” a boost yesterday as he testified for the defense in the perjury trial of the seven-time Cy Young Award winner.
Garner, the longtime infielder and Clemens’ manager for 2 1/2 years with the Astros, became the latest in a string of witnesses to speak glowingly of Clemens’ leadership and work ethic. The testimony is part of an effort to portray the former pitching star as an athlete who achieved great success late in his career through hard work, intelligence and unrivaled intensity.
“Ever see Roger Clemens cut corners?” Clemens’ lawyer Rusty Hardin asked.
“Never did,” Garner replied.
Prosecutors say Clemens used steroids and human growth hormone to help prolong his career. That claim is supported firsthand by only one witness, Clemens’ former strength coach, Brian McNamee. Clemens is charged with lying when he told Congress in 2008 that he never used either substance.
To counter McNamee, the defense has called friends and associates of Clemens from high school, college and his years with the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and now the Astros.
Garner regaled the court with insider baseball tales that any fan would enjoy, including the time that players’ wives danced on the dugout when the Pirates were on the way to winning the 1979 World Series. It’s uncertain how such talk was received by a jury consisting mostly of Washingtonians who don’t follow the sport.
Clemens was in his 40s by the time he was playing for the Astros. Garner said Clemens’ fastball wasn’t as fast as it used to be, but the pitcher made up for it by pitching smarter. Clemens won his seventh Cy Young Award with Houston in 2004.
Roger Clemens, Clemens, Phil Garner, Astros, Cy Young Award, major league baseball, Toronto Blue Jays, Rusty Hardin