Roger Clemens wore his dark glasses flipped up the day after. Al Nipper used his to hide his eyes. They walked into their Fenway Park clubhouse yesterday afternoon and began to empty their lockers.
“It’s going to be a quick winter,” Clemens said, bending over a box. ‘’The fun part is ahead. We’re having our baby (due Nov. 27). That’s the thing I’m looking forward to.”
Nipper was quiet.
He had inherited a 6-5 deficit when he came in for the eighth inning of World Series Game 7. He had thrown a home run to Darryl Strawberry (7-5) and yielded a Jesse Orosco RBI single (8-5). And his best friend, Clemens, had been available the whole inning in the bullpen.
“If the game got tied up or (the Red Sox went) ahead, I could have been in there . . . for as long as I needed to,” Clemens said.
Why wait that long? The Red Sox had chosen Clemens over Nipper throughout the postseason. In their most important game, the Red Sox only had to prevent the Mets from scoring in the eighth if they wanted to bring the tying run to the plate three times in the ninth. Instead, Boston’s Cy Young-to-be sat and watched the splintering of his team’s last chance, at the hand of his best friend.
“I’ll dwell on my inning that I pitched,” Nipper said. “That home run to (Darryl) Strawberry . . . it was a slider in. I didn’t get it in enough, I guess. I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. If I don’t give up those two runs, it could have been a different outcome. You can blame it all on me, I guess.”
No, he was told. Nipper was only one of many reasons.
He was asked upon whom he will lean the next few days. “Rocket,” Nipper said, nodding toward Clemens. “We talked . . . a little. The whole night was just kind of a downer. And then Jack Rogers, our traveling secretary, gets hit in the head with a bottle. That’s just absolutely cruel from the fans of New York.
“I don’t care if I ever see New York again. The fans there are animals. They don’t have any class whatsoever. I shouldn’t say all of them. There are a few with class. But for a guy to throw a bottle at Jack, that’s unbelievable, crazy.”
Nipper accused New York police and Shea Stadium security of harassing players and their wives.
“After Game 6, the police officers and security guards are taunting the wives, saying, ‘Boston bleeps,’ taunting us through the tunnel,” Nipper said. ‘’As far as I’m concerned, they can all (expletive). The wives have got to listen to it. They don’t have any recourse. They (the police) are supposed to be suppressing the crowd from doing that, and here they are, doing it themselves. The guards are in the dugout taunting you and cursing you. What kind of bull is that?”
Nipper’s opinions about Boston seemed as strong, and sad. “All I know is that our fans and everybody were looking forward to a world championship,” he said. “We have great, tremendous fans. They’ve been very loyal all year.”
“We played 180-some games and we gave a lot of great moments to our fans,” Clemens said. And what of Boston’s renewed reputation for “choking” ? “People who say that, they don’t like the Red Sox then,” Clemens said. ‘’This team’s a lot younger. We don’t have anything to associate with those past teams.
“This was nice because of all the disbelievers and doubters who figured we were going to finish fifth. We knew we were going to finish higher than that. I knew it was going to happen this year, because that’s the way it’s always worked out wherever I’ve been. That’s why we’re disappointed that we didn’t win it all.
“I’m sure it’s tougher on some of the other guys who feel they were the main reason we lost.”
He did not nod toward his friend, carefully emptying a locker of memories. Nipper was studying a large ashtray inscribed, Nibble with the Nipper.
“It’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate over a season, isn’t it?” someone told Nipper.
“Yup,” he said, tossing the ashtray into a garbage can.