Roger Clemens (Ken Griffey Jr. Hot List), 1998 Upper Deck, #17
It is dusk. A man, clad all in black, wanders the lonely and cavernous hallways of stately Clemens Manor at war with himself.
His internal struggles consume him, as they had since he walked away. Walked away from the only thing he truly understood. The only thing he was ever good at. Maybe even the only thing he ever loved. The game.
His love of the game was not unrequited. Far from it. He can still hear the cheers, from Boston, from Toronto, from New York, from Houston, and…well, New York again. They chanted his name and roared as he reared back and showed his God-given talent for all to see and fear. He was no simple man, he was “The Rocket”, an icon to be revered and respected.
But those cheers have been getting harder and harder to hear lately. They are being slowly replaced in his head with the shouts of the cold, hateful outside world.
“Cheater,” they shout. “You have disgraced the game.”
And now, as he approaches what should be the pinnacle of his career, the crowning achievement that would have made all the sacrifices worthwhile, those voices are trying to deny him what is rightfully his. His name belongs on that wall. His face belongs alongside the immortals. He knows this, but the reality is becoming difficult to ignore.
“Who are they to pass judgment?” he wondered aloud, his voice echoing down the stone hallways of the east wing. “They were privileged enough to watch my greatness. But rather than show me the slightest bit of gratitude, they now turn up their noses in smug superiority.”
They wag their finger at and say, “We stand and protect the legacy of the game.” Cowards. They knew what was happening and now they feign ignorance to help ensure their own twisted legacies are intact. Perhaps he should have played their game. Confessed his sins and thrown himself at the mercy of the ink stained wretches.
No. He would not lower himself to that.
The indignity of it all. The trial was humiliating enough. That sham of a prosecution, as somehow the entire weight of the U.S. government should be brought down on one man for simply being better than everyone else. But they needed a scapegoat. The verdict did not matter, the cruel court of public opinion had already ruled.
So here he stands. His legacy is in tatters. Only one option left. Dignity is a luxury that only the privileged few can cling to and hope for salvation. The time had come. Accept their judgement as final, or…
Become a Skeeter.
He would show them. He would show them all.
“See you in Houston,” he chuckled and descended the grand staircase and walked out into the night.
Everything’s more dramatic when you’re wearing a turtleneck and standing in between two marble columns.