to write a profile of Josh Beckett, the Red Sox pitcher.
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He had a 98-mph fastball and a curveball that broke straight down and was unhittable.
My managers used to call my curveball "the unfair one." But that's where Josh and I parted company.
As a young pitcher, I was wild (on the mound) and undisciplined (off the mound).
I didn't have his maturity at such a young age, or his character, or his guts in important games.
I never became Josh Beckett, which is all the more reason why I admired someone who could do with his talent what I was unable to do with mine.
But, alas, in a single-sentence e-mail from his agent, Beckett declined to be interviewed by me or anyone else. Why would he want me poking around in the closet of his life?Maybe I'd spend four days with him, and catch him saying something derogatory, in a moment of weakness or fatigue, about his manager, Terry Francona, or about Manny Ramirez. He had just pitched superbly in the 2007 World Series after compiling a brilliant 20-7 record during the season. He is not into fame, nor is he a custodian of his career in the same way as someone like Roger Clemens.Clemens is very much devoted to his place in baseball history, which is why he was eager to have me write a profile of him for the in 2001 (which he later told me he was not pleased with, despite confessing to never having read it) and, maybe, why he allegedly began taking performance-enhancing drugs in the twilight of his career. I had a long lunch with him a few years ago, when he was with the Florida Marlins, and came away thinking he was an interesting young man.Clemens wanted nothing less than to be recognized as the greatest pitcher of all time. He would leave any recognition of his talents and his career to others. At the time, and even now, Beckett had a reputation for being a surly, hard-ass, rednecked, Texas country boy in the way of old-timey ballplayers.But the Josh I met over lunch was smart, caustic, funny, sophisticated, and a much deeper and more nuanced man than his public gave him credit for.I would have loved to have burnished his image, to have shown his fans that side of him in a profile. His fans then lost an opportunity to know the real Josh Beckett.