- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2003

Pedro vs. Roger at Fenway Park in the American League Championship Series.

It doesn’t get any better than this.

This is King Kong vs. Godzilla in the middle of Tokyo.

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden.

Kendel Ehrlich vs. Britney Spears at 50 paces.

Today Roger Clemens — the former Red Sox icon, now Yankee icon — takes the mound at Fenway in Game 3 of the ALCS against the icon who replaced him, Pedro Martinez.

Clemens, who despite going 17-9 at the age of 41 says he is retiring at the end of this year, will be pitching in the ballpark for the last time where he wore a Red Sox uniform for 13 seasons. Martinez, who went 14-4 this year but dominated nearly every time he took the mound, with a 2.22 ERA in 29 starts, will be pitching for a chance to eclipse the legend of Clemens at Fenway and get Boston one step closer to the World Series, which the franchise has not won since another overpowering star pitcher named Babe Ruth wore a Red Sox uniform.

Between the two of them, they have won nine Cy Youngs, a total of 476 games and struck out 6,565 batters. They are among the most feared pitchers in baseball, and both of them welcome the opportunity to take the ball in as big a game as this one is with the series tied 1-1.

There has been no bigger baseball drama in recent memory — certainly not in the postseason. There have been many exciting postseason moments, of course, and the results of today could prove to be anticlimactic.

But as far as setting the stage, there can be no bigger matchup in all of sports. And based on past performances, I fully expect both pitchers to live up to the hype.

I will forever cherish a moment that Roger and Pedro created in their first showdown at Yankee Stadium in 1999. I was sitting on the porch of a mountain cabin, with my youngest son sitting on my lap, as we both listened to each pitcher shut down the other’s lineup until Trot Nixon finally broke it open and gave the Red Sox the win. You could feel the excitement coming through the radio. It felt like being part of something that people would talk about 50 years from now.

Today could be something they talk about 100 years from now.

“I remember when they faced each other in 1999, and it was staged as the tale of the tape, like two heavyweights going at each other,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “I suspect this will be the same. It doesn’t get any better than this. Roger has been the best through most of his career, and Pedro is the best.”

That is the kind of matchup this is — the players are juiced up about it. “It’s going to be electric,” Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe said.

Even Clemens, who is reluctant to get caught up in the hype, acknowledged that today’s starters in the ALCS represented something special.

“I think it’s a great matchup,” Clemens said. “This is what playoff baseball is about. You’re going to have great matchups. Like they talk about, if Pedro is on and I’m on, then it’s going to be exciting. If one of us doesn’t make pitches, it’s not going to be that great of a game. It will be great for one team or the other. I think it’s just the way you play. That’s why you get up in December to work, to do my work, for these moments to come back after 20 years and the manager hand me a ball and telling me to go get ‘em. That’s what I’ve done my entire career and what I look forward to.”

The Red Sox and Yankees didn’t need any more hype. Heck, John Burkett vs. David Wells, the likely Game 4 starters, is a big game, just because it’s Boston and New York. But today’s game transcends hype. It goes beyond the Curse of the Bambino and the Evil Empire and the rest of the rivalry hoopla.

It’s Beethoven vs. Bach in a clash of the composers.

It’s Caruso vs. Pavarotti in a tussle of the tenors.

It’s Roger vs. Pedro.

“Isn’t it really supposed to come to this?” Boston pitching coach Dave Wallace said.

Yes it is.

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