I can remember the day vividly. I was a senior in college and I heard the announcement on KDKA radio,
“Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente, who was overseeing the delivery of supplies to earthquake-ravaged Managua, Nicaragua, died when his relief plane crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off Isla Verde, Puerto Rico.’’
Clemente, who had completed his 18th season with the Pirates – a trailblazer for the hundreds of Latin players in the game today, had an arm no contemporary player could match. A strikingly handsome man, he had a commanding presence, still visible in Baseball’s Hall of Fame, to which he was elected in a special procedure in 1973.
Sure he batted .317 for his career – for those who prefer sabermetrics, his OBP was .834 – but one memory of Clemente and baseball remains a highlight more than four decades later.
Early in the 1970 season, as the Pirates prepared to say good-bye to Forbes Field (Three Rivers Stadium would open July 16, 1970), a group of us went to see a game i...