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Take Me Out to the Ball Game
As much a part of an American summer as ice cream and school vacations, baseball has a grip on the national psyche unrivalled by that of any other sport. The game evolved from obscure origins into the huge, multimillion-dollar industry it is today.
The first recorded baseball game took place in 1845, but the sport did not take off until the early twentieth century with the birth of the National and American Leagues and the World Series.
was the golden age for pitchers, and home runs were hard to come by against throwers like Cy Young and Walter Johnson. Offense regained the initiative in the 1920s, when legendary hitter Babe Ruth stamped his explosive presence on the game and blazed the trail for the five-decade domination of the New York Yankees.
After the Second World War came a period of transition for baseball. The majors opened up to ethnic minorities, big name teams the Dodgers and the Giants moved to the west coast from their New York roots, and the leagues eventually expanded to four divisions of six teams each.
Recent years have seen serious strain put on fan loyalty, with skyrocketing salaries and two damaging player strikes. But spectacular batting displays by the likes of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, along with top quality pitching from Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Greg Maddux have kept the spectators coming and the cash flowing through America's favorite sport.
The nickname "Rocket" might seem a tad incongruous for a man who stands six feet four and weighs over two hundred pounds. For New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, however, the reference to speed is purely in association with his devastating ninety-five-mile-an-hour fastball.
Born in Ohio in 1962, Roger Clemens first made his name in baseball by pitching for the Texas Longhorns to help win the 1983 College World Series championship. His next step was joining the Boston Red Sox as a first-round pick in that year's draft.
The Rocket carved out an impressive career with the Red Sox, later moving to Toronto before being traded to the Yankees. He is a five-time winner of the Cy Young Award with more than three thousand strikeouts, and in the 2000 World Series, Clemens threw the first complete-game one-hitter in LCS history to help the Yankees overcome the Mets.
Clemens has his share of detractors. Die-hard Red Sox fans are unlikely to ever forgive his departure, perceived as being inspired by financial greed. Last year's World Series triumph was overshadowed by a bat-throwing incident that sullied his reputation, and he has spent more than his share of time on the disabled list.
At age thirty-eight, the Rocket's days in major league baseball are surely numbered, yet he can still overwhelm even the best hitters, who will likely be feeling his power for a while yet.