Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Garner a Character Witness as Part of Clemens' Defense Former Manager Tells Stories of Hard Work, Intensity

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Garner a Character Witness as Part of Clemens' Defense Former Manager Tells Stories of Hard Work, Intensity

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Phil Garner told one great Roger Clemens story after another.

Garner was sitting on a witness stand, but he sounded at times as if he were again a major league manager, spinning yarns in a casual pregame dugout chat.

None of those stories involved Clemens using performance- enhancing drugs.

"Scrap Iron," the nickname Garner earned as a player, gave "The Rocket" a boost Thursday as he testified for the defense in the perjury trial of the seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

Garner, the longtime infielder and Clemens' manager for 21/2 years with the Astros, became the latest in a string of witnesses to speak of Clemens' leadership and work ethic. The testimony is part of an effort to portray the former pitching star as an athlete who achieved great success late in his career through hard work, intelligence and unrivaled intensity.

"Ever see Roger Clemens cut corners?" Clemens' lawyer Rusty Hardin asked.

"Never did," Garner replied.

Prosecutors say Clemens used steroids and human growth hormone to help prolong his career. That claim is supported firsthand by only one witness, Clemens' former strength coach, Brian McNamee. Clemens is charged with lying when he told Congress in 2008 that he never used either substance.

To counter McNamee, the defense has called friends and associates of Clemens from high school, college and his years with the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and now the Astros.

Garner regaled the court with insider baseball tales, including the time that players' wives danced on the dugout when the Pirates were on the way to winning the 1979 World Series. It's uncertain how such talk was received by a jury consisting mostly of Washingtonians who don't follow the sport.

During Garner's first spring training with the Astros in 2005, he recalled seeing Clemens at the ballpark at 7:30 a.m. working out in a heavy flak jacket, then going for a run before returning outside after lunch for some "PFP" (pitchers' fielding practice). Garner thought it all "totally weird" because Clemens was supposed to pitch that day. …

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