BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady left New England two months ago, but the move is still being digested by Patriots fans. It’s not that Brady’s departure was surprising, just that the QB trading in his Patriots uniform for a Tampa Bay Buccaeneers’ uni is a little bit stupefying.
Many franchise stars have come and gone from the Boston sports scene over the years, either leaving via free agency or by way of a trade. Some have gone on to enjoy success with their new team, while others have faded in the twilight of their career. One of the most notable departures came in December of 1996, when Roger Clemens signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rocket very much proved to Dan Duquette and all of his Boston doubters that he wasn’t falling back to earth, winning 41 games and two straight Cy Young awards north of the border. He went 162-73 with a 3.31 ERA for the Jays, Yankees and Astros in 11 seasons after leaving Boston, winning a total of four Cy Young awards in the process. He even won a pair of World Series titles for Boston’s biggest rival — although there is some question over how legit most of those numbers truly are.
Regardless, Clemens knows a thing or two about returning to Boston as an enemy. The fans who once chanted “ROG-ER! ROG-ER!” while begging for another strikeout soon changed that tune to a more sarcastic and taunting jingle.
It didn’t seem to bother Clemens in his first return to Fenway Park. Clemens tossed a gem in his first start against his former team, striking out 16 over eight innings of one-run ball. He discussed that return with WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche, touching on the emotions of playing against the only team he had ever played for for the first time.
“[Blue Jays catcher] Charlie O’Brien said he was in World Series games, but that was the most happening event. It wasn’t a game, it was an event,” explained Clemens. “I was in one place for so long and had never had to face my ex-teammates, [John] Valentin, Mo [Vaughn] — all the guys. When they were stepping in the box, they knew how things were going to go.
“But O’Brien said it best in the third inning, saying ‘Boys, this game is over.’ The ball was exploding and moving,” Clemens said of his stuff that afternoon at Fenway. “It was an emotional return. My wish was to play four more years in Boston and then shut it down, work with Jimmy Fund or work with pitchers. But that was a crazy game.”
That wish obviously did not come true, but Clemens went on to have some of the best years of his career.
Brady won’t have the same opportunity, as Clemens left town when he was 34 while Brady will play his first game with the Bucs at 43. While the odds are against Brady matching any level of the success he enjoyed in New England, Clemens believes the quarterback will still play at a very high level to finish out his career, which will lead to a lot of fun Sunday afternoons in Tampa Bay.
“You could see their excitement rise above everything. If you’re a wide receiver for Tampa Bay and see Tom Brady roll in there, you know you’re going to run some routes and the ball is going to arrive right on time. He’s in great shape and will be ready to go,” he said of Brady. “He knows what he is doing, knows how many throws he needs to get ready. He’s already got that playbook and when he rolls into camp those receivers are going to have so much hop in their step.”
New England and Tampa Bay don’t play during the 2020 season, but Brady and the Bucs are slated to visit Gillette Stadium in 2021.