So, at (relatively) long last, “The Rocket That Fell To Earth” finally hits stores on Tuesday. This is my fourth book, and in many ways it was the most challenging. My first book, “The Bad Guys Won!” was tough because I was a rookie, and relatively clueless. My second book, “Love Me, Hate Me,” was tough because Barry Bonds is so universally loathed, I had to mentally redefine my definition of the word “balanced.” (Explanation: One naturally wants to find an equal helping of pro and con representations. Yet Bonds’ cons came in at, oh, 90%). My third book, “Boys Will Be Boys,” was tough because it involved football, a sport I’ve rarely covered. “The Rocket That Fell To Earth” was tough, because Clemens turned out to be a truly fascinating, truly mysterious, truly … deep figure.
Initially, I relied heavily on details from his 1987 autobiography, “Rocket Man,” until I started to see that Clemens’ documented life story was filled with myriad inaccuracies (Not necessarily all his fault: Clemens was turning 25 when the book was released, and my guess is he spent five hours talking into Peter Gammons’ tape recorder, then moved on with his life. It’s a pretty standard method of the celebrity “autobiography”).
I dug deep, deep, deep into his Ohio childhood, which proved arduous because almost nothing has been written of that time period. Even less was written about his season at San Jacinto Junior College, and his Texas Longhorn yearsâ€”two, to be exactâ€”areÂ documented in mere bits and pieces.
Really, though, I’d say the tough thing about Clemens is that, come day’s end, he inspired a lot of loyalty. Teammatesâ€”especially those in Bostonâ€”liked and respected Clemens, and if you like and respect someone, you’re significantly less likely to truly open up on that person’s full character. You’ll say great things if you love someone unconditionally, terrible things if you hate someone unconditionally. But it’s that middle ground that makes a biography … finding the people who see all sides to someone.
If you’re planning on reading this book to learn how to hate Roger Clemens, wellâ€”bad news. It’s not an ode to slamming the man. Instead, I wanted to find out what makes him tick, and how he wound up taking the path he did …
OK, I’m babbling.