The holiday season brings with it the voting season for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. When the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2022, it will bring an end to the tenth and final year of eligibility for erstwhile right-handed pitcher Roger Clemens, arguably the greatest right-handed pitcher in MLB history, who nonetheless remains outside the Hall for reasons related largely to his alleged use of performance-enhancing substances during his career. As members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America once again debate the merits of Clemens’ on-field exploits and weigh them against his alleged on-field cheating, however, we once again find ourselves watching the vast majority of BBWAA members ignoring the elephant in the room with respect to Clemens’ candidacy, all the more dismaying given this is his final year on the ballot.
Two years ago for Beyond the Box Score, I wrote about Clemens’ “relationship” with the late country singer Mindy McCready. In 2008, the New York Daily News reported that Clemens had a ten-year “affair” with McCready which began when she was just 15 years old.
Roger Clemens carried on a decade-long affair with country star Mindy McCready, a romance that began when McCready was a 15-year-old aspiring singer performing in a karaoke bar and Clemens was a 28-year-old Red Sox ace and married father of two, several sources have told the Daily News.
Barricaded behind tightly drawn blinds at her Nashville home Monday, country singer Mindy McCready confirmed a long-term affair with embattled pitcher Roger Clemens.
“I cannot refute anything in the story,” a tearful but resolute McCready told the Daily News, which broke the story at midnight Sunday.
A few months later, McCready sat down for an interview with Inside Edition, wherein she confirmed the relationship but said that she was 16, not 15, when it began, and it did not become sexual until later. Shortly after that interview, she tried to kill herself. The FBI later spoke to McCready about the relationship as well.
From a legal perspective, whether McCready was 15 or 16 doesn’t much matter; in Clemens’ home state of Texas, the age of consent, unless the parties are within three years of age of each other, is 17 under Section 21.11 of the state’s penal code. In Florida, where the two met, the age of consent is 18, and a person over the age of 24 engaging in sexual relations with a person under 18 is statutory rape. In McCready’s home state of Tennessee, the age of consent is 18 and a person over that age engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor is statutory rape. Those laws were in effect in largely the same form when the two met in 1990. In short, there were few states where Clemens’ relationship with even a 16-year-old McCready was legal. The sole exception could be Massachusetts, where Clemens pitched for the Red Sox at the time and the age of consent was 16, but that assumes that McCready was 16 as she told Inside Edition, and not 15 as she told the Daily News.
When the story broke in 2008, Clemens was in the middle of the defamation lawsuit he filed against Brian McNamee, who countersued the pitcher for defamation after the pitcher denied taking performance-enhancing drugs; Clemens later settled the lawsuit by paying McNamee an undisclosed amount of money. Notably, McNamee and his attorney had made clear they intended to call McCready as a witness had that case gone to trial, calling it “just another example of Roger’s pervasive prevarications which will be at the core of any defamation case.”
Clemens also issued a generic public apology in response to the allegations, specifically denying having a sexual relationship with McCready when she was 15, but admitting “I have made mistakes in my personal life for which I am sorry.”
A sexual relationship with a teenage minor as a married 28-year-old is hardly a “mistake,” but that statement would begin a double standard between Clemens and McCready which persisted long after the singer committed suicide in 2013. Instead of calling the relationship what it was – statutory rape in the home states of both McCready and Clemens, as well as 35 other states, and a repugnant grooming relationship regardless of the legality – the media cast it as an “affair” and thrust McCready into the role of homewrecker and villain. Inside Edition asked McCready to apologize to Clemens’ wife Debbie. Deadspin referred to McCready as Clemens’ “mistress.” Contemporary articles pointing out that the “relationship” was illegal were all too few. Instead, the press wanted to know if Clemens had erectile dysfunction from PED use.
It got worse. As I noted for Beyond the Box Score two years ago, McCready was accused of fabricating the allegations to jump-start her career. Some media outlets congratulated Clemens on his “dalliances” with the “underage blonde bombshell.” One writer, Dan Moore, accused McCready of “ruin[ing] your Roger Clemens memories,” in this article:
Clemens clearly did a lot of sketchy things over the course of his Major League career, but the only one that’s even potentially done anyone material harm is his apparent relationship with McCready, although the details of that are both hazy and not exactly things I’d love to know more about. Baseball’s forgiven worse people for more problems—hopefully, 50 years from now, bloggers and tabloid newsmongers are mostly bothered by Clemens for stealing a Cy Young Award from Freddy Garcia.
And when McCready eventually committed suicide in 2013 at the age of 37, Clemens, having seemingly forgotten his own earlier apology and his own lawyer’s admission of a “long-term relationship,” said this:
“Yes, that is sad news. I had heard over time that she was trying to get peace and direction in her life. . . . The few times that I had met her and her manager/agent they were extremely nice.”
In the best-case scenario – that Clemens waited until McCready was 18 before sexual intercourse occurred – he groomed a child for years for a sexual relationship before discarding her after a decade, and then she committed suicide at 37. After all, this isn’t exactly a platonic gesture:
Sources claimed that Clemens and some of his teammates were in a karaoke bar in Fort Myers, Florida, which is McCready’s hometown, where the teenaged aspiring singer was performing and that it was “love at first sight” for Clemens, who allegedly threw a shirt onstage with his signature on it, which led to an introduction.
In the worst-case scenario, Clemens raped a fifteen-year-old who committed suicide at 37. The truth may well be somewhere in the middle, but there really isn’t a version of events where Clemens’ actions here are even remotely acceptable and only a few where they are legal.
You probably know from this that I don’t believe Roger Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame. He was credibly accused of an “affair” with a 15-year-old, and that can and should be disqualifying under any interpretation of the character clause. But that’s not the issue here. Since Clemens appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot, mention of McCready has all but vanished, with two exceptions. Christina Kahrl courageously took a stand against Clemens because of his actions towards McCready.
After spending more time in the past year looking at the questions surrounding Clemens’ interactions with Mindy McCready, alleged and agreed-upon, starting from when she was a minor, and discussing the issue with other colleagues, I can only say that going forward, should he ultimately get elected, it will have to be without my support.
Jay Jaffe, in his writeup of Clemens for Fangraphs in both 2020 and 2021, devoted a single two-sentence paragraph to her. To my knowledge – and I have made it a point to try and read every ballot explainer post so far in 2021 – no other BBWAA writer has even mentioned McCready in discussing Clemens’ candidacy. Given how the media sullied McCready’s reputation for years, placing blame for the “affair” at her feet, it seems particularly unconscionable now for so many members of the media to pretend she never existed. It is this silence that is so repugnant.
Perhaps you believe that morals and character should have no say in Hall of Fame deliberations. But as so many writers use their votes and the character clause to inveigh against the evils of performance-enhancing drugs, it would be nice to see them spare a few words for a life that ended too early and the impact Clemens had upon that life.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns)