Category: Baseball Published on Sunday, 03 June 2012 14:10 Written by Lee Davis
Roger Clemens’ defense team began its case on Wednesday as former catcher Charlie O’Brien took the stand. O’Brien was less than clear about some points up for discussion but provided compelling testimony that Clemens was not a cheater and the secret to his career longevity was not drugs, but the split-finger fastball.
After Clemens was let go from the Red Sox after 13 years in 1997, many thought his career was over. The general manager of his former team, Dan Duquette, was quoted as saying Clemens was in the twilight of his career. It was around this time, when he moved to the Toronto Blue Jays that he first met his strength coach and, according to the government, drug supplier, Brian McNamee. McNamee is alleged to have injected Clemens with steroids and HGH over the next three years, helping to breathe new life into a sagging career. The illegal performance-enhancing drugs allowed an aging Clemens to recover more quickly from injuries and the stress of professional baseball.
Clemens’ attorney, Rusty Hardin, asked O’Brien to explain how the split-finger fastball revolutionized Clemens’ game. O’Brien responded by saying that, “It just totally changed how he could approach each hitter.”
During cross the defense’s first witness held up especially well, volunteering that Clemens would refuse to throw scuffed baseballs because he deemed it cheating. “I don’t think he’d cheat,” O’Brien said. Pressed on the issue later and asked whether Roger Clemens would do anything to cheat, O’Brien responded succinctly: “No sir.”
O’Brien was also there to testify to seeing multiple needles of the vitamin B12 lined up in the Toronto clubhouse for Clemens to use. The testimony bolsters a point long made by the defense.
Another catcher from the Blue Jays, Darrin Fletcher, was called to testify. Fletcher told the jury that he never say Clemens at a pool party held by teammate Jose Canseco in Florida in 1998. Fletcher did admit that he left the party early, around 1:30 p.m., and may have missed Clemens. As we discussed here, a government witness testified to seeing Clemens at the party later in the day. Though the issue seems so trivial, one of the charges Clemens is facing is that he lied when he told Congress he was never at the party.
The day contained testimony from other former teammates who came to speak to Clemens’ talent and work ethic. The praise was glowing at times, causing one of the prosecutors to point out to a witness that, “You understand he’s not on trial for how great he was in baseball.”
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Read: “Roger Clemens defense begins,” by The Associated Press, published at ESPN.com.