Today it is hard to imagine Roger Clemens stepping before a podium in Cooperstown beside a plaque bearing his image. One day, however, it will happen.
Twenty five years from now Clemens will step up to the podium and not know exactly what to say. At age 70, the Texas stubbornness has subsided a bit and "I told you so" wouldn't be the appropriate response to a moment like this.
Clemens looks to his left and sees fellow Hall of Famers Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken and home run king Alex Rodriguez, who are now the elder statesmen of the game. He looks to his right and sees his sons and reflects on the strained relationships that were caused back in 2008.
Clemens stands there silently and receives another standing ovation. The moment is monumental. Not since Pete Rose was inducted after his death, has there been such a buzz around an induction. For twenty years Clemens' fate has been debated and his stories rehashed.
Back in 2008 it seemed impossible that Clemens would ever be inducted. There were too many questions and the court of public opinion had made up their mind about Clemens. It wasn't only the allegations of steroids but his refusal to admit it and waste taxpayer dollars insisting on a Congressional hearing with no way to re butt credible evidence.
Twenty-five years, however, leaves a lot of room for penance and forgiveness. Ten years before his induction, Clemens finally came clean. In a heartfelt interview Clemens detailed his use of HGH and steroids and the rest of his sorted past.
Clemens described his intense competitive edge and watching the younger and larger players coming up from the minors. He described standing on the mound feeling washed up, holding a ball designed for hitters in the center of stadiums with shorter fences, throwing to chemically enhanced batters. "It's the most hopeless, I've ever felt. Baseball was all I ever did, I knew nothing else and I needed to stay in the game", Clemens told the reporter.
Since 2008, there had been a litany of top players from the steroid era that had come clean. Sooner or later forgiveness was going to come for Clemens. Forgiveness came because people remembered how much they loved Clemens. Clemens as an older man was easier to love than the middle aged, drug using liar they all came to hate. Clemens was softer now and easier to like, and once people started to like him again they remembered why they loved him.
The power pitcher excited baseball fans for twenty years with exciting stuff. He was the ace for the two most dominant teams of his era and people remembered why they stood and cheered at each of his "last pitches". We always return to our heroes, no matter how flawed.
Clemens also benefited from the fact that the secrets that lie within the Veteran's Committee. His peers knew the pressure he felt and the rampant use of steroids by hitters and pitchers in his era. There were silent voices within the commitee's souls knowing they had gotten away with things. Clemens was just unfortunately linked to the few club house attendants and trainers that talked, it could have easily been members on that committee.
There is now something charming about Clemens in his old age. He has dropped the tough guy act and is left with a genuine southern charm. Clemens knows the best baseball stories and is still considered to be one of the best, steroids and all. No one would miss a chance to hear Clemens speak about baseball.
So on the day Clemens enters the Hall of Fame, there will be discussion and a little bit of outrage. Clemens will line up with old teammates and coaches. They will chant his name and he will sign autographs.
Clemens will stand before the crowd, alongside his bronze likeness wearing an interlocking NY hat. He will thank the committee, his managers, his teammates and the fans. He will apologize for any harm he did to the game and thank the game for all it's given him. He will smirk and say " there's one more thing I'd like to set straight before I go...I really never intended to throw that bat at Piazza."
He will return to his seat and recieve an ovation. He will smile and chat with the players to his side and he will watch as the next inductee steps up to the microphone. Clemens will look upon that man and silently think, "His plaque doesn't nearly capture the size of his head."