Sunday, October 12, 2003

ALCS Game 3: New York 4, Boston 3

'We've upgraded to a war'; Tempers flare, but Clemens stays grounded as Yankees win

The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News

Boston Red Sox' Manny Ramirez yells at New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens (22) after a high pitch in the fourth inning. At right is home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez and at rear is Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
BOSTON - Fenway Park extended Roger Clemens a peace offering ovation in his final regular season appearance in the cozy ballpark where it all began for him.

However, Saturday afternoon, in the passionate heat of October, it was rescinded by Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, and, when a member of the Boston Red Sox grounds crew took a swing at New York Yankees' reliever Jeff Nelson in the bullpen, Fenway wasn't such a cozy place anymore.

The anticipated duel between Clemens and Martinez materialized in a way never imagined, taking a bizarre turn with headhunting and a brawl in which the temperamental diva pitcher Martinez tossed aside the popular 72-year-old bench coach Don Zimmer the way the Yankees have tossed aside the Red Sox for over 80 years.

And, when it was all over, after the last obscenity was shouted, after an angry exchange between Yankees president Randy Levine and Sandy Alderson, executive vice-president of baseball operations, after Zimmer was examined at a local hospital, and after bitter words between Levine and Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, the most important aspect of the day seemed overlooked: The Yankees, as they always have, had beaten the Red Sox again when it mattered, 4-3, in Game 3 to take a 2-to-1 games advantage in the AL Championship Series.

"Winning the first game up here is enormous," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "I was very proud of my team. They certainly acted like a team.

"I don't care what the headlines are. What's more important is how we feel about it and how we act. There's no question we have to come out here (Sunday) and do business. We cannot have any carryover as far as letting the emotions get in the way of that."

Emotions, however, were the foundation of the day, and they were boiling long before the first pitch.

Levine, citing Martinez hitting Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter July 7 at Yankee Stadium, and Martinez wagging his finger at the Yankee bench, called Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball president, chief operating officer, several days ago to express the organization's concern.

Levine also said the Yankees were concerned over the safety of their players.

"We were assured everything would be all right," Levine said. "We were told the umpires would be warned of the history with Martinez. We were told there would be proper security measures.

"What a national television audience saw was shameful. It was disgraceful, but it was anticipated.

"We have asked for more security, but Sandy Alderson said they think they did a great job. We think they did a bad job. Sandy seems to be in denial."

Levine confronted Alderson in the tunnel leading from the Yankees' clubhouse to their dugout, and Alderson was overheard saying, "I am sick and tired of you going to the media with your problems."

The Yankees had problems early when the Red Sox got to Clemens for a pair of runs in the first on Ramirez's two-run single, but the Yankees responded to tie the game, 2-2, on Karim Garcia's RBI single in the second and Derek Jeter's homer in the third.

The intensity of baseball's greatest rivalry was now simmering, but it boiled uncontrollable in the fourth.

With runners on second and third, no outs, and the Yankees having taken a 3-2 lead, Martinez threw behind Garcia and hit him in the back of his batting helmet.

Garcia yelled to the mound and Martinez screamed back.

"There's no doubt he threw at me," Garcia said. "If you want to go inside, that's fine, but don't throw at my head."

And, Martinez's response?

"There were a lot of bleeps in it," Garcia said, cracking his first smile of the day.

Both benches were warned, and soon after, Garcia was erased on a double-play grounder. Garcia went in hard at second baseman Todd Walker.

"I understand his intentions," Walker said. "Under the circumstances, I'm not sure I wouldn't have done the same if somebody had thrown at my head."

That was the closest admission from the Red Sox clubhouse that Martinez was headhunting.

Martinez, who once addressed the issue of the "Curse of the Bambino" by saying he'd drill Babe Ruth in the butt, as usual wouldn't comment about his actions.

When the benches emptied as Garcia and Walker jawed, Jorge Posada started yelling at Martinez, who pointed to his head, a gesture that implied that's where Posada could expect to find the next pitch thrown to him.

As a player, Zimmer was beaned and has a metal plate in his head.

"That could be part of the reason," Torre said, explaining why Zimmer would confront Martinez later in the inning.

"He was unconscious for a week when he did get hit in the head."

In the bottom of the inning, Clemens, ahead in the count 1-and-2 to Ramirez leading off the bottom of the inning, threw a fastball high, but over the plate.

Ramirez started screaming, and with a bat in hand, had to be restrained.

Clemens was insulted by the question if he was going after Ramirez.

"I was trying to strike him out," Clemens said. "The pitch was actually over the plate. I was okay with it until I looked up and he was coming toward me, mouthing me."

Ramirez, naturally, wouldn't comment.

When the benches emptied, Zimmer lunged at Martinez, who threw him to the ground.

When order was restored, Clemens struck out Ramirez, and got out of a jam in the sixth when he got him on an inning-ending double play.

"I am as proud of him tonight as of any time I have been around him," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. "For him to control his emotions and pitch like he did after that was extraordinary."

The game ended, as they frequently have for the Yankees in October, with Mariano Rivera setting down the final six hitters for the save.

"He doesn't get upset," Stottlemyre said of Rivera. "He's an iceman."

As Rivera shook the hands of his teammates against the soundtrack of a Fenway boo, one couldn't help but wonder if the Red Sox were again melting away.

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