If the prosecution at the Roger Clemens perjury trial hoped for a dramatic showdown on Tuesday, the day was a big disappointment. The prosecution’s star witness, Clemens’ friend and onetime pitching ace Andy Pettitte, provided as much, if not more ammunition for the defense.
Clemens is charged with lying to Congress when he testified that he had never used performance enhancing drugs.
Pettitte testified, as he has before, that in 1999 or 2000, when the two men were working out at Clemens’ home gym in Texas, Clemens “mentioned” that he had taken human growth hormone and that the drug helped with recovery from injury. Clemens has said repeatedly that Pettitte must have misunderstood him.
The tenuousness of Pettitte’s recollection was underscored during Tuesday’s cross examination. Questioned by defense lawyer Michael Attanasio, Pettitte acknowledged that the remark he heard was not during what the defense lawyer called a “focused conversation,” but more in passing during an intense workout. Were both Clemens and Pettitte “huffing and puffing?” the defense lawyer asked. “Yes,” said Pettitte.
During the prosecution’s questioning, Pettitte said the only other conversation the two men had about HGH was in 2005 when a House committee was holding hearings investigating the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball. Pettitte and Clemens were then at spring training, both playing for the Houston Astros, and Pettitte said he was concerned that reporters would ask him if he ever had used performance enhancing drugs. He had in fact been injected with HGH after two separate injuries, and he said that when he asked Clemens what he was going to do if approached by the media, Clemens replied, “What are you talking about?” Clemens then told Pettitte he must have misunderstood their earlier conversation, that it was Mrs. Clemens who had used HGH.
“Obviously I was a little flustered because I thought that he told me that he did,” said Pettitte.
For all his discomfort, Pettitte seemed looser when questioned by the defense, extolling Clemens’ unsurpassed work ethic, rigorous training, and devotion to studying the habits of his adversaries at the plate, and even the “strike zone” called by different umpires. Pettitte said he continues to be Clemens’ friend, though he acknowledged the two men have been instructed not to talk while the Clemens case is in progress.
The defense even managed to use the cross examination to point out Clemens nearly unsurpassed pitching skills — including a record seven Cy Young awards, three of them after, even in the prosecution’s telling, Clemens stopped using HGH.
Defense lawyer Attanasio noted that Clemens has always been what he called “country big,” as opposed to “weight-room big.” You trained and played with Clemens thousands of times, the defense lawyer said to Pettitte. “Was there ever one moment that you looked at that man, dressed or undressed, and said, ‘ he’s doing something funny,’” meaning that he is using performance enhancing drugs. “No,” replied Pettitte.
Clemens and Pettitte first became teammates in 1999, when they were both starting pitchers for the New York Yankees. They played nine seasons together, six in New York and three with the Houston Astros, before Clemens retired as a Yankee after the 2007 season. Pettitte, who is 39 years old, is attempting to come out of retirement and pitch for the Yankees this season.