WASHINGTON -- The strikes kept piling up. Three, four, five and more against both men, almost too many to count over the span of 41/2 hours. And after all that, nobody was called out.
Roger Clemens stuck to the same story Wednesday he's repeated a handful of times since the Mitchell Report was released. He never took any performance-enhancing drugs. The end.
He was reminded more than once that he was under oath. Yet Clemens simply brushed back the damning testimony of perhaps his closest friend in baseball, Andy Pettitte, and another former teammate, Chuck Knoblauch, then glossed over several other inconsistencies in his version of events and simply ignored the rest.
Clemens walked out of Congress with lawyers at both elbows and his head held high. And when he finally stepped out under an appropriately gray sky, he still had his seven Cy Young Awards, his supporters and his millions intact -- just about everything except his reputation.
Brian McNamee, Clemens' former personal trainer and chief accuser, was called a cheat and a liar and just for good measure, a "drug dealer" at one point by overzealous Republican Christopher Shays. He was mocked as an opportunist, derided for using the title "doctor" in business dealings after getting his Ph.D from a diploma mill and was told, at the end of a particularly contentious exchange with California Republican Darrell Issa, "Shame on you."
McNamee says he's out of money, his son is very sick, he's having trouble holding his family together and he'll never get another job anywhere training athletes, which became his life's work after leaving the New York City police force.
But when he walked out into that same chilly afternoon, his reputation was intact -- maybe because it couldn't go much lower. And McNamee wasn't about to let go of that.
"I told the investigators I injected three people -- two of whom I know confirmed my account," McNamee said. "The third is sitting at this table."
So now the whole matter could be turned over to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges and to find out who was telling the truth.
Or maybe not.
"I haven't reached any conclusions at this point," said California Democrat Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
If you want a score, this is as close as anybody came to providing one. On his second go-round with Clemens, Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings was frank, essentially repeating McNamee's contention.
"If I walked in here, and it was even-steven, you and Mr. McNamee, I must admit that the person I believe most," he said pausing, "is Mr. Pettitte."
"When Mr. McNamee gave his testimony about Knoblauch and Pettitte, those allegations turned out to be true," Cummings resumed. "But for some reason ... when it comes to you, it's a whole 'nother thing. ... How do you explain this?"
Clemens went into his mangled English defense, saying Pettitte must have "misheard" him, as opposed to "misremembering," which is the word he used to shrug off the discrepancy when it came up a few times earlier.
"I've listened to you very carefully," Cummings persisted, "and I take you at your word and your word is Andy Pettitte is a credible man. You said you were misunderstood. All I'm saying is it's hard to believe you, sir. I hate to say that. You're one of my heroes, but it's hard to believe."
What's hard to believe is that this farce took place. The questions broke largely along party lines with the Democrats, led by Waxman, trying to prop up McNamee and Republicans, with former committee chairman, Tom Davis of Virginia, throwing softballs at Clemens. It became apparent enough at one point that a Republican committee staffer conceded in a note to a reporter that "our guys" are trying to "re-center the conversation."
But Clemens' finest moment came when Missouri Democrat William Lacy Clay asked the pitcher what he should tell his kids about his Hall of Fame-worthy achievements.
"Somebody is trying to break my spirit in this room," Clemens responded without a glance at his accuser, sitting at the same table. "And they're not going to break my spirit."
A moment later, his voice rising, he added, "You can tell your boys I did it the right way, and I busted my butt to do it."
The one thing both sides agreed upon was that unlike the 2005 hearing, which shamed baseball into closing loopholes in its drug policy and toughening it up, this one had little chance of producing any worthwhile change.
"If we called everyone in sports accused of using steroids before this committee," Georgia Republican Lynn Westmoreland said, "we'd have to shut this place down. That's not our role in this process and I hope this show trial teaches us that very important lesson."
Just as he was about to finish his questions, Rep. Clay blurted out, "A colleague of mine, Mr. Capuano of Massachusetts, wants to know what uniform will you wear into the Hall of Fame."
Something tells me that's a question he won't have to worry about for a long time.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press.