Roger Clemens (Courtesy of Jerry Colli / Dreamstime)

June 13, 2003: Clemens reaches 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts at Yankee Stadium

This article was written by Harry Schoger

Roger Clemens (Courtesy of Jerry Colli  / Dreamstime)For the second time in 18 days, a sellout crowd of over 55,000 came to Yankee Stadium hoping to witness right-handed starter Roger Clemens’ 300th career win.1

Clemens, who had begun his career with the Red Sox and won three Cy Young Awards there, had won number 299 in Boston on May 21, beating Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, a right-handed knuckleballer. On May 26 he had squared off against Wakefield again, in the House That Ruth Built, but lost, 8-4.

In the 18-day interim from May 26 to this Friday evening game in New York, he’d pitched twice. He had thrown six innings in Detroit, a no-decision on June 1 in a game the Yankees eventually won in the 17th inning.2 On June 7 at Wrigley Field, he and the Cubs’ Kerry Wood had treated the crowd to a good old-fashioned pitchers’ duel. Clemens clung to a 1-0 lead going into the seventh inning, but he bore the loss after his reliever gave up a three-run homer.3

Clemens’ strikeout totals had continued to grow, and it was likely he would record career strikeout number 4,000. He had 3,996 strikeouts coming into the night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The weather for this evening’s fourth attempt at 300 wins was marginal, but the crowd of 55,214 undaunted fans came prepared. The temperature was 59 degrees. It was a cloudy evening with persistent drizzle mixed with sporadic sprinkles, which were uncomfortable but not detrimental enough to suspend play. Such conditions would not help Clemens’ battle with an upper respiratory infection.

The crowd included a Clemens entourage of some 40 to 50 family and friends, including Roger’s wife, Debbie, and their four boys.4 It did not include Roger’s mother, who was in Texas, suffering from emphysema.5 Her absence was discomforting for Clemens, who lamented it on-air after the game.6 The group had been assembled and in attendance at the three previous games on the 300th-victory trail. Debbie was the busy coordinator of the entourage,7 many of them friends to whom Clemens felt he owed his success.

The game was also notable because it was the homecoming of St. Louis first baseman Tino Martinez, who was a fan favorite during his six-year stint in pinstripes from 1996 to 2001, during which time Clemens was his teammate for three seasons. Handmade signs liberally peppered the stands heralding Tino’s welcome back.8 Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, “The Boss,” took the evening off from attending the fifth game of the Nets-Spurs NBA Championship final in the Meadowlands to root his ace to victory and applaud the Yankee fans for turning out in such numbers despite the inhospitable weather.9  

Clemens’ batterymate this evening was Jorge Posada, who had caught him more than any other Yankees catcher. Clemens had asked him to catch his 300th game during spring training.10 Posada was exhilarated by this profound honor in front of the Yankee fans. The opposing battery for the St. Louis Cardinals was right-hander Jason Simontacchi, a 29-year-old in his second major-league season. His catcher was veteran Gold Glover Mike Matheny, the Cardinals anchor at the position in his 10th major-league season.

The first inning started with the crowd on its collective feet in a vigil to cheer Clemens on to magic strikeout number 4,000. He rewarded their encouragement by striking out the side, dispatching Miguel Cairo, J.D. Drew, and 2003’s major-league batting champion, Albert Pujols. In the bottom of the frame, Posada hit a double, driving in Derek Jeter, giving Clemens a one-run edge. Yankees 1, Cardinals 0.

Jim Edmonds evened the score in the Cardinals’ half of the second with his 18th home run of the season. Scott Rolen followed with a double. He was stranded at second as Clemens proceeded to again strike out three batters. His first victim was Edgar Renteria, who, depending on one’s perspective, gained the dubious distinction or the honor of being Clemens’ 4,000th strikeout victim.

Clemens became the third pitcher to achieve a milestone only enjoyed then by Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton.11 There was a brief intermission while the crowd acclaimed the historic event. Posada stopped play to go to the mound and congratulate his pitcher. Clemens doffed his cap and then went back to work, punching out Martinez and Matheny. Hideki Matsui added a solo homer in the Yankees’ half of the inning to regain the lead. Yankees 2, Cardinals 1.

Clemens held the Cardinals scoreless in the third while getting his seventh strikeout at the expense of Drew. However, the Yankees could do no better.

In the top of the fourth, the Cardinals knotted the score with a sacrifice fly by Martinez, driving in Rolen, who had led off the inning with a single. The tie was short-lived, as Ruben Sierra hit a two-out solo home run deep into the right-field stands for the Yankees in the bottom of the inning.

There was no scoring in the fifth or sixth inning. Clemens added two more strikeouts as he moved further beyond the 4,000 milestone. In the sixth inning, both teams went down in order.

In the seventh, Kerry Robinson and Cairo hit consecutive fly outs to center. Suddenly manager Joe Torre popped out of the dugout, signaling for Chris Hammond out of the bullpen. The crowd vehemently expressed its disfavor for the decision to lift Clemens at the threshold of Valhalla. However, he had already thrown 120 pitches and did not protest his manager’s strategy, turning the ball over without incident. He walked coolly to the dugout to celebrate with his mates, tipping his hat twice to the formerly booing but now wildly cheering crowd. He took a seat between Torre and his pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre, who was battling cancer. Hammond did his job, getting Edmonds to ground out and end any Cardinals threat.

In the bottom of the inning, Yankees hitters padded their one-run lead to provide some insurance for a Clemens win. Sierra singled to center and Raul Mondesi followed with a home run. Juan Rivera singled to left. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa lifted Simontacchi for Esteban Yan, who dispatched three of the four batters he faced, giving up a harmless walk to Posada. Yankees 5, Cardinals 2.

Antonio Osuna replaced Hammond to start the eighth inning. The Cardinals went down in order. Steve Kline replaced Yan on the mound for the Cardinals. Robin Ventura singled to right as did Matsui, holding the former to second base. Sierra flied to left, Mondesi lined to third, and Rivera forced Ventura at third.

Closer Mariano Rivera relieved Osuna. The Cardinals went down in order in the top of the ninth to end the contest. Clemens’ 300th victory was secured.

It was the first time in 13 years that a new member had entered the hallowed circle of 300-game winners. The most recent to do so was Nolan Ryan in 1990. Clemens joined Phil Niekro, who did it as a Yankee in 1985, as the only players to reach the lofty milestone in pinstripes. But Clemens was the only one to achieve it at home.12

Clemens had gone to the showers and shaved while the Yankees relief corps dispatched the Cardinals. He returned to the dugout. After the final out, he emerged onto the field as the audio team played Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” Clemens happily and good-naturedly greeted each of his teammates and coaches with hugs, back slaps, and fist bumps. His two elder sons acknowledged their triumphant father, and the two younger jumped into his arms. He sent them off to gather dirt from the mound as a memento of the occasion. Debbie then gave him a long hug. At last, she was free from her duties as commander of the entourage.

The fans were in no hurry to exit. Most stayed to celebrate with the hero of the night and savor the iconic moment. Clemens, grinning from ear to ear, took off his cap and waved it to the fans as they cheered and chanted from the still-packed stands. He made no signs of leaving early.

The game was arguably pedestrian by many standards but momentous in the accomplishments it heralded, a game to be no doubt treasured in the memories of many.


Photo Credit

Courtesy of Jerry Colli / Dreamstime.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted,,, and



1 Only 20 major-league pitchers had reached 300 wins as of that date. As of 2023, that number, including Clemens, was 24.

2 The Tigers game drew 44,095 fans to Comerica Park, an attendance record for the ballpark, which opened on April 11, 2000. The 17-inning, 5-hour and 10-minute game also was a ballpark record. Gene Guidi, “Tigers Deny Clemens, but Lose in 17th,” Detroit Free Press, June 2, 2003: 25.     

3 Clemens had been “huffing and puffing” from a respiratory infection, manager Joe Torre lifted him for Juan Acevedo, who immediately served up a three-run homer to Eric Karros, leaving Clemens with the loss, 5-2.

4 Krista Latham, “Chicago Next in Clemens’ Quest,” Detroit Free Press, June 2, 2003: 25. 

5 Ronald Blum, “Clemens makes History with Career Win No. 300,” Scranton Times-Tribune, June 14, 2003: 32.

6 Blum.

7 T.J. Quinn, “Mrs. C, Fans Miss Out,” New York Daily News, June 8, 2003: 70.

8 Video: Accessed September 30, 2022.

9 Peter Botte, “Rocket Has Boss Beaming,” New York Daily News, June 14, 2003: 51.

10 Don Amore, “Bullpen Doesn’t Fail Him,” Hartford Courant, June 14, 2003: 187.

11 Randy Johnson became the fourth to join the 4,000 club, on June 29, 2004.

12 Niekro got his win, 8-0, on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays in the last game of the season. In the process, at age 46, he became the oldest major-league pitcher to throw a shutout, passing Satchel Paige. It was also Niekro’s final game as a Yankee. He achieved his 300th on his fifth try.

Additional Stats

New York Yankees 5
St. Louis Cardinals 2

Yankee Stadium
New York, NY


Box Score + PBP:

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