Last modified on 26 May 2015, at 22:07

Roberto Clemente

Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth.

Roberto Clemente Walker (18 August 193431 December 1972) was a Major League Baseball right fielder. He elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 1973; Clemente was the first Hispanic American player to be selected.

SourcedEdit

  • Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth.
  • "In a way, I was born twice. I was born in 1934 and again in 1955 when I came to Pittsburgh. I am thankful to say that I lived two lives."
    • Quoted on "Roberto Clemente Day" July 25, 1970 [1]
  • The first hero that I have … I would say was Monte Irvin, when I was a kid. And I used to watch Monte Irvin play when I was a kid – I idolized him. I used to wait in front of the ballpark just for him to pass by so I could see him.
  • I think he had the best eye, best stance and sharpest cut of all the big leaguers playing in Puerto Rico. He also field real good and throw like a bullet.
    • Recalling Monte Irvin, as quoted in “CHANGE OF PACE: Scribes Now Rate Clemente as 'Best'" by Bill Nunn, Jr., in The New Pittsburgh Courier (24 February 1962)
  • How do you measure a man? How can you compare one man with another unless you’ve seen them both? I cannot tell about other men who played long ago. I saw Mays. To me, Willie Mays is the greatest who ever played. But he is forty and has had his days – he is tired. San Francisco is all tired. For them it was not easy. For twenty days, they were in a tight pennant race and don’t know where they are. Mentally, they were going to be tight. You could see Mays is tired.
    • Speaking with reporters after the 1971 NLCS, as quoted in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, pp. 194-195

Quotes about ClementeEdit

As a playerEdit

HittingEdit

  • We talked about pitchers a lot. He’d want to know what I did against a certain pitcher. He had his own ideas, of course, and liked to use reverse psychology. He would take about five bats to the on-deck circle and sometimes changed bats. He would make the pitcher think he was going to use a heavier bat to punch the ball to the opposite field or something. Then he’d take a big cut.
    • Hank Aaron in “Superstar Label Fit Clemente" by Wayne Minshew, in The Atlanta Constitution (2 January 1973) p. 1-C
  • He had a batting stance that was a little peculiar. He had a little crouch in his stance, and when he swung at the ball, his rear popped out and he looked like he was almost jumping at the ball. He always got a lot of the fat part of the bat on the ball, though, and he hit more and more long balls at the end of his career.
    • Hank Aaron in Aaron (1974) by Aaron with Furman Bisher, p. 171
  • There’s only one way to classify Bob Clemente and that’s as the strangest hitter in all baseball. Figure him out one way and he’ll kill you another. You can be having your best day against everybody else and he’ll treat you as though you had nothing. It’s so hard to say what he’s going to hit or what should be thrown to him. He’s very strong and is extremely quick with his hands. You look at him swinging sometimes on his front foot, sometimes on his rear, sometimes with both feet off the ground, and you’re inclined to think, ‘This guy can’t hit the ball.’ That’s the biggest mistake you can make and I’ve made a few of them against him.
    • Sandy Koufax in My Toughest Batters by Koufax, in Sport (May 1965)
  • Mays always told me how hard it was to get a hit off me and every time I looked up, he was on second base. Yet, even with Mays, I had an idea what to do. When I pitched to Clemente and Aaron, I had no idea. They seemed to hit everything.
    • Sandy Koufax in "Koufax Still a Champion" by Lester J. Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press (8 May 1967)
  • Amazing. The only other batter I ever saw who gets good wood on the ball as consistently as Clemente was Ted Williams.
    • Johnny Pesky (longtime teammate of Ted Williams who served as Pirates batting coach from 1965 to 1967) in “Roberto Hot On the Trail Of Bat Title" by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (24 July 1965)
  • I’d say he’s the best hitter I’ve seen since I’ve been in the big leagues. I remember a game with the Pirates two years ago – we beat 'em 8-7. He knocked in all seven runs for 'em with three homers and a double. He hit one of his homers to left field, another to center and the third one to right Unbelievable! It was the finest exhibition of hitting I've ever seen in one game."
    • Pete Rose in "Red's Rose is worth it: A goal, not a plateau" by Milton Richman, in The Bucks County Courier Times (17 March 1970)
  • If someone asked [Catfish] Hunter if I was a super hitter, he'd say no, because I'm not. The only super hitters I've seen are Billy Williams and Roberto Clemente.
  • In [sic] all due respect to Henry Aaron, Stan Musial and Willie Mays, the best hitter I ever played against was Roberto Clemente.

PowerEdit

  • Some of you fans may remember the ball he knocked out of Wrigley a few seasons ago, just to the left field side of the scoreboard. That’s the longest one I’ve seen hit there and we all agreed it must have traveled more than 500 feet on its trip into Waveland Avenue.
  • Clemente's first hit was one to remember. It started on a line toward the right-center fence and came within inches of clearing the wall at the 436-foot sign. The ball bounced off the wall right back into Bob Murphy's hands and he was able to hold Clemente to a double. But the blast caused a rumble through the stands and no doubt unnerved Jack Fisher.
    • Sportswriter Les Biederman in "Clemente Shows He's Bat-Man: Hitting Mets Like Robbin' for Roberto" by Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press (2 May 1966). Also see Ron Swoboda and Dick Young quotes in this section.
  • The thing that amazed me is that sometimes one of his legs would be up in the air and he’d be hitting, and it’d still go out of the ballpark. He was just strong.
  • I saw him hit that darned thing with his back foot off the ground. He one-footed that thing. I thought I was watching Roberto Clemente in his heyday.
  • He could have adapted his hitting style if he wanted to be more of a home run hitter, but [Pirates batting coach] George Sisler wanted him to spray the ball around and be a high percentage hitter.
    • Teammate Dick Groat (1955-1962) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 223
  • The longest ball I ever saw hit to the opposite field was hit off me by Clemente at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1961. [sic ✱] It was a fastball on the outside corner, and he drove it out of the park – not just over the fence, he knocked it way out. I didn’t think a right-handed batter could hit it out of the field just at that point but Clemente did.
    • Sandy Koufax, in “My Toughest Batters” by Koufax, in Sport (May 1965). ✱ Koufax is mistaken on the date; of the two home runs hit by Clemente off Koufax at the Coliseum, only the first – hit on 30 August 1960 – was hit to right field. The 1961 home run was also hit a long way, but to left.
  • Even when I brought my record up to 5-4 by getting a win in Pittsburgh, I was hit very hard and knocked out of the box in the eighth inning. Roberto Clemente hit an outside fastball that was still rising when it hit against the light tower in left center field, 450 feet away from home plate. And on a 1-2 pitch at that."
    • Sandy Koufax, in Koufax (1966) by Koufax and Ed Linn, p. 220
  • Clemente always chose average over power. He could have hit a ton of home runs. Playing around in batting practice, he’d hit one ball after another over the fence. But in the games, he just wanted to make hard contact.
  • Don’t let anybody kid you he couldn’t hit for distance. When he wanted to, he could power one as far as anybody in baseball. He was usually smart enough to go for line drives at Forbes Field.
    • Teammate Dick Stuart (1958-1962) in Roberto! by Bill Christine, p. 103
  • I saw him hit line drives off the brick wall at Forbes Field. One of them was the hardest ball I ever saw hit. I saw Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey and Dick Allen hit some long balls against us, up and out, but Clemente's was different. I just never saw a ball hit so hard."
    • Ron Swoboda (most likely referring to May 1, 1966 double) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 270 Also see Dick Young, below; Les Biederman, above.
  • The second Buc run, just before the burst of five, was set up by Roberto Clemente’s blast high off the [right] center wall, above the 436-foot marker. The ball got there so fast, and bounced back to Murphy so hard, that the speedy Roberto got only two bases.
    • Sportswriter Dick Young (on the May 1, 1966 double which is almost certainly the above-mentioned "hardest [hit] ball" of Ron Swoboda) in "Veale Chokes Met Streak, 8-0" in The New York Daily News (2 May 1966). Also see Ron Swoboda and Les Biederman in this section.

SpeedEdit

  • He was the best in so many aspects of the game. He could go from first to third as fast as any player I saw or played against, and that included some of the best – Lou Brock, Maury Wills and Willie Davis.
    • Teammate Vernon Law in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 310
  • Around the seventh inning Montreal was behind, and who should go up to pinch hit but this kid? He hits a routine ground ball to shortstop and turns it into a bang-bang play at first base. God, he could run. He could fly. Well, I said to myself, there’s a boy who can do two things as well as any man who ever lived. Nobody could throw any better than that, and nobody could run any better than that.
    • Coach/scout Clyde Sukeforth in A Donald Honig Reader (1988), pp.145-146; reprinted from Baseball When the Grass Was Real: Baseball from the Twenties to the Forties Told by the Men Who Played It (1975)

FieldingEdit

  • With two out in the eighth and Pittsburgh leading 1-0, I was on first with our left fielder Bob Watson at the plate. Clemente was playing medium deep in right center field when Bob hit a laser beam toward the right field corner. It looked as though the ball would strike just above the yellow home run line, which was 'only' 10 feet above the ground. Most right fielders would have positioned themselves to play off the wall a ball hit that high, that far, and that fast. Clemente, who was 36 at the time, wasn’t having any of that. He galloped at full stride into the corner, leaped, and caught the drive while crashing into the fence.

ThrowingEdit

  • Raul Mondesi is a 40. Clemente and Shawon Dunston were the only 60s we ever had. Dave Parker was a 40.
    • Scout Howie Haak (rating arms as per Pirates' system, in which 30 was average; 35, average-plus; 40, above average; 50, outstanding; and 60, the absolute best) in "The New Arms Race" by Dennis Tuttle, in Inside Sports (August 1997)
  • Clemente could field the ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pennsylvania. He was a great player and deserved a longer life.

MiscellaneousEdit

  • Mays was the best player I ever saw. Aaron was the best hitter. But that raises the question of where you put Clemente – with Willie, with Henry? He’s right there.
  • I think I was the best ballplayer I’ve ever seen. I feel nobody in the world could do what I could do on a baseball field. I hope I’m not saying anything wrong, but you have to think you’re the best. The next one would be Roberto Clemente.
  • People who didn’t see him play look at the stats and say, ‘Well, he didn’t hit 500 homers, and he didn’t do this or do that.’ But again, if you hear the players who played against him, you realize the kind of respect they have for him. Willie Mays always said that for him, Roberto Clemente was the greatest all-around player he played against.
  • Over and over again, I have said Willie Mays is the greatest baseball player I ever saw. But Mays always says Roberto Clemente was the greatest player he ever played against. And other players have agreed with his opinion.
  • What was incredible about Clemente was not only how skilled he was at each part of the game, but this kind of ferocity that he played with on each play of the game — even in years when they were pitiful and they had no chance to get into the pennant or anything like that. He would throw it in, he would pick guys off who got a single who took too much of a turn going around first; there was just something intense about this guy that was not necessarily what was going on in Baseball at that moment.

As a personEdit

  • We became quite friendly, and he even began to ask my advice, informally, on legal matters. The next year [1970], a man Roberto loved very much died in an auto accident and left a large family. Their family lawyer had to leave the case because he was appointed to a government job. He asked me to take over the case. The family was offered $30,000 to settle, which was about the maximum ever paid before in Puerto Rico. Roberto had been financing the family for quite some time, with considerable amounts of money, and if they won the case they could pay him back; if not, he said forget it. I explained to Roberto that $30,000 wasn’t really equal to the economic loss of the person, and in the course of the conversation he displayed such a degree of logic that he even gave me a few pointers that I used in arguing the case! Finally, we settled for $348,000, although the Supreme Court later lowered it to $95,000.
    • Efren R. Bernier (Prominent Puerto Rican attorney, avid baseball buff, and – from 1968 on – close friend of Clemente) in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 208
  • Elroy Face and all those different guys – they’re partying types. These individuals were drinking, they were out having parties – they have fun. Clemente was not that type of individual. Clemente said, "If I’m here to do a job, the job must take precedence. Now after the season is over, I can have all the parties I want. But if I’m here to do a job, I’ve signed a contract to do a job." But the American mentality is not that way.
    • Joe Christopher in Roberto Clemente: The Great One (1998) by Bruce Markusen, p. 110
  • One of the things that he really liked to do was go to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh and visit kids. That’s something that many people don’t write about. That’s where his real passion was – making other people feel important.
  • The Pirates were a loose, fun bunch of guys. Dave Giusti was the player rep in 1972, but Roberto Clemente was the real leader of the clubhouse. He himself was known to stand up to the owners. Dave Giusti told me a Clemente story that I’ll always treasure. Pirates’ owner Dan Galbreath was in the locker room talking to the players. The club would draw better, he said, if the players signed more autographs and made more public appearances. Galbreath piled it on, claiming that the players weren’t appreciative enough of the fans. According to Giusti, the team had had enough, but nobody had the audacity to speak up. Finally, Clemente said, "Mr. Galbreath, I had a dream last night about this. I had a terrible neckache, and suddenly I had become so old and tired and injured that I could no longer play. But those wonderful fans out in right field banded together and said, ‘Even if the Great One can’t play, we can’t let him go. He belongs in right field.’ So the fans presented me with a rocking chair and said that I should sit comfortably between the stands and the right field foul line and relax all through my retirement." The rest of the Bucs didn’t know what to think. Was he buttering management up? Had he gone loco? But Clemente continued in his heavily accented English. "You know, Mr. Galbreath, what that dream is?" Galbreath hesitated. "No, what?" Clemente replied firmly, "It is boolsheet!" Everybody busted up. Except Galbreath.
    • Marvin Miller in A Whole Different Ball Game: The Inside Story of the Baseball Revolution (1991) by Miller, p. 216

External linksEdit

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