The strange journey of Schilling and Clemens

Updated: March 25, 2009, 2:38 PM ET
The young pitcher had no idea whether the star player would agree to meet with him, but he had let it be known he was around, just in case the star had time for him. And quite frankly, the star player wasn't really that interested in talking with the young player. He wondered if it would be a waste of his time.

The star had seen and heard enough about the young player to believe that the kid was intent on wasting his talent, that he wasn't really that serious about his work, and nothing frustrated this particular star more than somebody who would soon throw it all away. The star had played seven years in the big leagues and had earned a reputation for being very serious about his work, about being very serious about his pursuit of greatness.

In the end, he decided to talk to the young player, a kid then 24 years old. He let the young guy have it, as both would recall years later. No punches were pulled. The star told the kid pitcher, to his face, everything he thought about his work ethic; blunt words that hit deep into the soul of the younger player. The star intended to jar his nerves, feeling as if he owed it to the kid pitcher -- to baseball -- to be as honest as possible.

The kid pitcher took it all to heart; he had too much respect for the star to not take it seriously, too much respect for his accomplishments and for his approach to the game. The pointed words of the star became his fuel, and in the years that followed, he pursued greatness in the way the star had talked about, preparing himself physically, mentally, disciplining himself.

There would come a day about a decade later that the younger pitcher -- no longer a kid -- would climb a mound and pitch against the star in one of the most famous games in history. The day before that game, the younger pitcher made it very clear that this moment might never have come without the tough words from the star. "When you look at the by-lines of the game … Game 7 of the World Series, and all that that entails," he said, "and what has happened in my career, what he's done in my career, I don't know that I'd ever get a ball for a bigger game in my life."

The conversation with the star was a turning point in his career, the younger pitcher believed, a watershed moment in his life. And after the matchup with the star, it would be the younger pitcher who would be left to hoist the World Series trophy. The star pitcher was deeply hurt by the loss, but he made his way over to the younger pitcher's clubhouse and congratulated him on his success.

The star pitcher, driven by his thirst for greatness for decades, would wind up compiling many more victories than the younger pitcher, many more strikeouts, many more awards. The younger pitcher would go on to retire after his own excellent career.

Forty-five months from now, a Hall of Fame ballot will be printed and the star's name -- the mentor -- will appear on the ballot for the first time, in the far-left-hand column: Roger Clemens.

In the far-right-hand column, the name of the younger player will also appear for the first time: Curt Schilling.

Their respective journeys through baseball have brought them together again, and will separate them, again, because it may be that Schilling, and not Clemens, will receive more votes. What a long, strange trip it's been.

• Dan Bickley thinks Schilling is a Hall of Famer.

Derek Jeter looked his age at the WBC, writes Jack Curry.

Jimmy Rollins had some parting words for David Wright as they parted ways at the WBC, all in good fun, writes Peter Botte.

• The Marlins' proposed stadium has the players all fired up, as Joe Capozzi writes. Time will tell what the club's payroll is going to be, says the Marlins' president.

• The Cubs want to play more night games.

The rest of Buster's blog -- stories in which players are fighting for jobs, news on the latest moves and deals, and which pitchers are rounding into form, among tons more -- is available exclusively to ESPN Insiders. Insider