Roberto Clemente Walker (18 August 1934 – 31 December 1972) was a Puerto Rican Major League baseball player from 1955 through 1972, exclusively with the Pittsburgh Pirates. A posthumous inductee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame (following his fatal plane crash on December 31, 1972, en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua), Clemente became both the first Latin American and the first Caribbean player to be enshrined. The National League's Most Valuable Player in 1966, as well as the 1971 World Series MVP, Clemente was also a 4-time NL batting champion, 12-time Gold Glove winner, and 12-time All-Star.
Chronological, by original publication date.
- I hit many what you call the "bad bol" pitches, and get good wood. The bol' travel like bullet. That remind me, I hit 565 foote hum-rum in Chicaga last year; the bol' disappear from centerfield, and Raj Hornsby tell me it longest drive he ever saw hit out of Wrigley Field. The bol' feel good on the bat but I feel bad at heart, when no writer with our team play up the big drive. I feel effort not appreciated.✱
- As quoted by Bill Nunn, Jr. (quoted phonetically, in fact, as was - much to Clemente's understandable chagrin - the frequent practice, especially during the pre-MVP years) in The New Pittsburgh Courier (June 25, 1960); reproduced in Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero (2006) by David Maraniss, p. 98
✱ Clemente is not entirely correct. At least nationally (via TSN's weekly Pirates report), one veteran Pirates beat
writer did do his part. See Les Biederman (5/27/59 and 6/6/66) in Media, as well as Ernie Banks in Opponents.
- Many people tell me I want to play like Willie. From little boy up, I always play like this. I always want to run fast, throw long and hit far.
- As quoted in "Clemente 'Cool' Corsair With Keen Cutlass: Buc Fans Tag Lashing Latin More Exiting Than Mays" by Harry Keck, in The Sporting News (July 6, 1960)
- I Jus' try to sacrifice myself, so I get runner to third. If I do, I feel good. But I get heet and Willie scores, and I feel better than good.
What makes me feel most good is that the skipper let me play the whole game. I think maybe he take me out after a few innings for Aaron but no, he pay me big compliment. I stay in game and that gave me confidence. I think I don't let him down, no?
- As quoted in "All-Star Clemente Wins MVP Award" by Joe Reichler (AP), in The Michigan Daily (Wednesday, July 12, 1961), p. 4
- Sometimes I get mad at people. But only once here in Pittsburgh. That when I was hurt and everyone call me Jake. I don't like that. I want to play but my back hurt lots of times and I can't play.
Then that year in St. Paul when I throw the ball in exhibition game the elbow started to puff up. That when some people write that I was in fight with Face in St. Louis. You know that not right. You can still feel bone chip in my elbow. That's why I throw the ball underhand sometimes. That way it don't hurt my arm. If I throw real hard lots of times overhand in game, the elbow hurts and swells up.
The back is okay too. Sometime it hurt me when I run. But I find out it is bad disc. If it goes out on the right side I can push it back in easy. But if it hurts on the other side, sometimes I have to work long time to get it back in place.
- As quoted in "Roamin' Around: Look Out, Joe Brown" by Jack Hernon, in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Sunday, August 13, 1961), p. D3
- I have friend in Puerto Rico who studied to be a doctor but did not finish. He has lots of money now and just likes to work as doctor sometimes. He has helped lots of fellows playing winter ball in my home. He fixed me up an I know chiropractor in St. Louis who is good for me. I think my friend in Puerto Rico can help Vernon. He can tell when it hurts without touching the spot. He do that with me just in exercise he asked me to do. I make face once and he said you have bad disc. And he right.
- As quoted in "Roamin' Around: Look Out, Joe Brown"
- I was mad last year. I played as well as anyone else on our team and I didn't receive one vote for MVP. Don't get me wrong; I didn't say I was the best last year or that I should have won the MVP award. But nobody seemed to care about me. But you win the batting title yourself. They can't take that away from you.
- As quoted in "Clemente Will Seek Raise in Pay Next Year" by Lou Prato, in The Gettysburg Times (Tuesday, October 3, 1961), p. 5
- 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 his boyhood idol Monte Irvin, as quoted in “CHANGE OF PACE: Scribes Now Rate Clemente as 'Best'" by Bill Nunn, Jr., in The New Pittsburgh Courier (February 24, 1962)
- I know more about Virdon than any other player because we're so close in the outfield and I think it would be a big mistake to trade him. Virdon is an underrated outfielder. I know. He doesn’t get the headlines because he makes everything look so easy. He would be a hard man to replace. Many times I look up on a tough chance and there’s Virdon near me in case something goes wrong. He is always backing me up on the one side and Bob Skinner on the other. If you don’t want to take my word for it how valuable Virdon is, ask some of our pitchers. Virdon has kept quite a few in the big leagues with his fielding. That's how good he is.
- As quoted in "Virdon Would Be Difficult to Replace" by Les Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press (August 20, 1962)
- In 1956 I was doing good until I hurt my back. Since then I step to the side with my left foot faster so I don't have to twist my body so much.
- I believe I can hit with anybody in baseball. Maybe I can’t hit with the power of a Mays or a Frank Robinson or a Hank Aaron, but I can hit. As long as I play in Forbes Field, I can’t go for home runs. Line drives, yes, but not home runs.
- As quoted in “Clouter Clemente: Popular Buc; Rifle-Armed Flyhawk Aims At Second Bat Crown” by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (September 5, 1964)
- I'm a better fielder than anyone you can name. I have great respect for Mays, but I can go get the ball like Willie and I have a better arm.
- As quoted in “Clouter Clemente: Popular Buc; Rifle-Armed Flyhawk Aims At Second Bat Crown”
- I threw the javelin in high school, but that’s only part of the reason for my good arm. I got my good arm from my mother. Today she’s 73, yet she can throw a ball from second base to home plate with something on it. Last year, when they opened the amateur winter league in Puerto Rico, she threw out the first ball from a box seat to home plate. She had something on it, too. She’s in good health.
- As quoted in “Clouter Clemente: Popular Buc; Rifle-Armed Flyhawk Aims At Second Bat Crown”
- Good public relations. When I was a rookie in 1955, I was lonesome and had no place to go. So I didn’t mind staying to sign autographs. I have found people treat you like you treat them.
- As quoted in “Clouter Clemente: Popular Buc; Rifle-Armed Flyhawk Aims At Second Bat Crown”
- I carried this rubber ball with me all the time. I squeezed it to strengthen my fingers and wrists and my friend and I would walk to and from school throwing the rubber ball back and forth. Many times at night, I laid in the bed and threw the ball against the ceiling and caught it. Baseball was my whole life. I would forget to eat because of baseball and one time my mother wanted to punish me. She started to burn my bat, but I got it out of the fire and saved it. Many times today she tells me how wrong she was and how right I was to want to play baseball. I bought my parents their home in Puerto Rico and gave them possessions they never thought they’d ever see. All from baseball.
- As quoted in “Clouter Clemente: Popular Buc; Rifle-Armed Flyhawk Aims At Second Bat Crown”
- I listened to the San Juan games on the radio and my idol was Monte Irvin, because he not only was a good hitter but had a very good arm. Even my friends called me Monte Irvin as a nickname. I never thought I’d be good enough to play pro ball. I always felt you had to be like Superman to play professionally. But in 1952, at age 17, I signed a contract with Santurce. My bonus? It was $500 and one glove. They also paid me $30 a week. Two years later – when I was 19 – there were eight or nine big league teams after me and I signed with the Dodgers for a $10,000 bonus. This was a big day in my life.
- As quoted in “Clouter Clemente: Popular Buc; Rifle-Armed Flyhawk Aims At Second Bat Crown”
- It was a much bigger thrill to play on a winning team in 1960 than for me to win the batting title in 1961 when we finished sixth. When you’re with a bad team, you don’t have the incentive to keep going. Winning is such fun.
- As quoted in “Clouter Clemente: Popular Buc; Rifle-Armed Flyhawk Aims At Second Bat Crown"
- They think it is an act. When I said I had back trouble, they call me Mama’s Boy. Goldbrick. When my elbow was swollen as big as a softball, they say it was in my head. If I am sick, I do not deny. If my back is hurting me and I am forced to punch at the ball with no power, I tell the truth. I tell them I am hurting.
- As quoted in "Roberto Clemente: Man of Paradox" by Arnold Hano, in Sport (May 1965)
- I have more respect for this man than any of my previous managers, and I played for Fred Haney, Danny Murtaugh and Bobby Bragan. This fellow makes me feel that he really appreciates what I do. When he has something to tell you, he tells you in front of everybody. You don’t hear it from some newspaperman.
I don’t see why people say he has a big mouth. He knows this business real good and he is doing a great job. He works with the players and he gives them more confidence. Matty Alou never did anything until he came to this man. Donn Clendenon is having his best year and also Willie Stargell. And me, too. That is the reason I want to win so bad.
I never played with a club that put out 100 percent like this one. If somebody gets down he comes and talks to the others. No matter what happens, we get together and solve everything. I don’t even think we tried this hard to win in 1960 when they won the pennant and the World Series.
- As quoted in "Clemente And Walker Respect Each Other; Hard Feelings Gone" by the Associated Press, in The Milwaukee Journal (September 28, 1966)
- Everybody, they say Roberto just swings the bat and hits the ball. I work hard. No one works harder than I do. People think things come easy to me. They don't.
- As quoted in "Clemente Says Hitting Does Not Come Easy" by Ralph Bernstein (AP), in The Reading Eagle (March 26, 1968)
- Why you think I play this game? I play to win. Competition is the thing. I want to play on a winning team. I don't want to play for sixth place. I like to play for all the marbles, where every game means something. I like to play for real, not for fun.
- As quoted in "Clemente Says Hitting Does Not Come Easy"
- We play too many games with too much traveling. We should stay in one city longer and have a day off now and then. It would be beneficial for the teams, keep them in top physical shape more.
- As quoted in "Clemente Says Hitting Does Not Come Easy"
- Listen, I shouldn't even be playing. I showed up at spring training and I told the ball club about my accident. I said my shoulder had been damaged and the ballclub said "Sh-h-h, don't talk,so loud. Somebody might hear you; Now, don't tell anybody about this." They said, "I don't want to know about it." Well, I tell you, it hurts me to swing a bat and, when I know it is going to hurt, it bothers me mentally and I do not swing the same and I wince when I.think of hitting.the ball. I should be home, not here in the dugout, because [sic] I would rather play even if I am crippled than to sit and watch a game.
- As quoted in "Living or Dead, Clemente is a Tough Man to Beat" by Jim Murray, in The Los Angeles Times (August 9, 1968)
- I give you bastards four minutes to get outside. They are honoring the greatest second baseman the game has ever known and anyone not out there in four minutes will have to fight me.
- Addressing unnamed cards-playing teammates on June 14, 1969, Bill Mazeroski Day; as quoted in Reflections on Roberto (1994) by Phil Musick, p. 29
- I was not trying to be smart when I did that. I was trying to tell them that they could do whatever they want. The fans of Pittsburgh have cheered me a lot through the years. There’s always a first time for booing. But I don’t say to hell with the fans because of this. I am not swinging the bat the way I should. It is just one of those things. I am not the way I should be. I do not feel sure when I swing. I am trying to adjust so that I will swing well even though my shoulder still hurts. If a player doesn’t try hard, he deserves to be booed. I try hard. Maybe I was booed today because I have not played that bad before.
- As quoted in “Clemente Still Loves Pirate Fans” by Bill Christine, in The Pittsburgh Press (Monday, April 14, 1969), p. 32
- These were great fans when I first play here, and they are still great. These fans never boo. They become frustrated because the Dodgers used to bring up some of the better minor-league players from here, but they never boo. Now, they are happy to have a big league team, and they are willing to wait five years, like the Mets' fans did, for the team to begin winning. But the thing that amazes me more than the players not being booed is the umpires. They never hear it from the fans, either, no matter if it does seem to be a bad call.
- On revisiting Montreal, 15 years later; as quoted in "Sports Beat: Expo Fans OK -- Clemente" by Bill Christine, in The Pittsburgh Press (Friday, July 18, 1969), p. 22
- Last year when I hurt my shoulder, I couldn't hit high pitches, but they kept throwing me low and away, and I could hit that pitch without much pain. "Look, he gets three hits, but he says he's in pain," they say, but they don't know that I can't go for the high pitch, and I'm not about to tell them!
- Speaking with the San Juan Star in September 1970, as quoted in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 178
- They pay for their ticket, let them do what they want to do. I get mad. One of these days, I’ll leave my uniform on the field and keep on walking. If I don’t hustle or something like that, I’d say that it would be good for me to be booed. The problem with me is hitting. You hit .280, it’s a pretty good average. But I used to hit .350, so .280 is not good enough. A lot of times in my career, I play when I shouldn’t play. I say as long as I can run and swing a bat, I play. That was my biggest mistake. One time I play with a shoulder – it hurts so bad, I can’t lift it. I hit into a double play. Then they hit a ball to the outfield and I can’t bend down to pick it up, so they boo me. The season start, I hurt my finger the last weekend of spring training. I couldn’t grip the bat right and I was trying to pull everything. They would like for you to start every year from the beginning, right on top, boom, boom, boom. Now I start a season a little bit slowly, so they boo.
- As quoted in ".280 Not Good Enough: Clemente's Bat Answers Boos" by Ian McDonald, in The Montreal Gazette (Friday, May 21, 1971), p. 17
- Look, here is the way I swing. I swing hard. I don’t punch the ball. I have bat control, and I don’t go for home runs, but I still swing as hard as some fellows who swing for the fences. My back is practically to first base when I finish the swing. I have to turn around before I can start running. Sometimes the ball is in the fielder’s hands before I drop the bat.
- On how being right-handed negatively impacted his chances of batting .400, as quoted in "Aches, Pains... and Base Hits" by Jim Murray, in The Los Angeles Times (August 10, 1971). Also see the above comment re "stepping in the bucket."
- 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
- Everybody started cheering but I didn't know why. I didn't know what was going on until I looked at the scoreboard and saw the message. When I singled in the first inning, the second base umpire told me, "If you get another hit it looks like I'll have to give you the ball." I wondered what he was talking about. I have so much bad press in Pittsburgh. Whatever I have done, I have done myself, and with the help of the fans. When somebody like Richie Hebner hits a home run, the press gives him a big build-up. All they say about me is that I am hard-headed and don't get along with anybody.
- As quoted in "Clemente Ties Wagner; Heads Toward 3,000 Hits", in Jet (September 21, 1972)
- 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.
- From A Conversation with Clemente, hosted by Sam Nover (aired October 8, 1972 on WIIC-TV in Pittsburgh); this and other excerpts were reproduced in Roberto Clemente: The Great One (1998) by Bruce Markusen, p. 5
Chronological, by original publication date.
- The first thing the average white Latin American player does when he comes to the States is associate with other whites. He doesn't want to be seen with Latin Negroes, even from his own country, because he's afraid people might think he's colored.
- As quoted in "Roberto Clemente: Man of Paradox" by Arnold Hano, in Sport (May 1965)
- The Latin American player doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Neither does the Negro player, unless he does something spectacular, like Willie Mays. We have self-satisfaction, yes. But after the season is over, nobody cares about us. Zoilo Versalles was the Most Valuable Player in the American League, but how many times has he been asked to make appearances at dinners or meetings during the winter? Juan Marichal is one of the greatest pitchers in the game, but does he get invited to banquets? … I am an American citizen … but some people act like they think I live in the jungle someplace. This is a matter of sports, of a man’s ability and his accomplishments. What matters what language he speaks best?
- As quoted in "A Flame in Pittsburgh" by Arnold Hano, from Baseball Stars of 1967 (1967); Ray Robinson, editor, p. 50
- I've had two lives: the first one when I was born in Puerto Rico in 1935 and the second when I came to Pittsburgh to play baseball in 1955. I have been very lucky and I feel gifted to be able to play well.
- Addressing fans at Three Rivers Stadium on Roberto Clemente Day, as quoted in "Pirates, Puerto Rico Pay Clemente Honors" by Vito Stellino (UPI), in The El Paso Herald-Post (July 25, 1970)
- A lot of my countrymen are here tonight, and I don't really know whether I love you more or them more, but I do know this: you people in Pittsburgh are the greatest fans in the world!
- Addressing fans at Three Rivers Stadium on Roberto Clemente Day, as quoted in "Bear-ly Speaking: World's Greatest Fans Thanked by Clemente" by Sam 'Bear' Bechtel, in The Indiana Gazette (July 25, 1970)
- I have had two lives: when I was born in Puerto Rico in 1935 [sic] and when I came to play baseball in Pittsburgh in 1955. I have two loves: my family – my mother, my father and my wife and three sons – and my fans.
- Addressing reporters at post-game press conference on Roberto Clemente Day, as quoted in "Roberto Clemente's a Man of 2 Lives ... and 2 Loves" by the Associated Press, in The Sarasota Herald-Tribune (July 26, 1970)
- We are on the field doing what we love to do. They have to work in the mill or other places eight hours a day, and work much harder than us and they pay their way in.
- Explaining to reporters why it's the players who should pay the fans, and not vice versa; at post-game press conference on Roberto Clemente Day, as quoted in "Roberto Clemente's a Man of 2 Lives ... and 2 Loves" by the Associated Press, in The Sarasota Herald-Tribune (July 26, 1970)
- I really don't know if I cried. If I did, it was tears not of pain, but of the sentiments my people are made of.
- Addressing reporters at post-game press conference on Roberto Clemente Day, as quoted in "Roberto Clemente's a Man of 2 Lives ... and 2 Loves" by the Associated Press, in The Sarasota Herald-Tribune (July 26, 1970)
- I am a very proud person. Baseball has helped send my brothers and nephews to school. But more than that, baseball has become my whole life. Accomplishment is something you cannot buy. If you have a chance and don’t make the most of it, you are wasting your time on this earth. [emphasis added] It is not what you do in baseball or sports, but how hard you try. Win or lose, I try my best.
- Clemente's oft-cited – and frequently misquoted – "wasting your time on this earth" admonition, from the opening of his Tris Speaker Memorial Award acceptance speech, delivered on January 29, 1971; as quoted in "800 Turn Out for Baseball Dinner" by Joe Heiling (The Houston Post, January 30, 1971, p. 1-B) and "Post Time: Clemente's Catch Proves Point" by Houston Post sports editor Clark Nealon (The Houston Post, June 18, 1971, p. 5-D).
- If we have respect for our fathers and we have respect for our children, we will have a better life. I watched on TV when America sent men to the moon, and there were a lot of people whose names weren't given who helped make it possible. You don't have the names of those who run the computers and other things. But they worked together and this is what you have to have ... Chinese, American, Jewish, black and white, people working side by side. This is what you have to do to make this a better life. When you can give opportunity to everybody, we won't have to wait to die to get to heaven. We are going to have heaven on earth.
- Conclusion of Tris Speaker Award acceptance speech, as quoted in "800 Turn Out for Baseball Dinner" by Joe Heiling, in The Houston Post (January 30, 1971, p. 1-B)
- We must all live together and work together no matter what race or nationality. If you have an opportunity to accomplish something that will make things better for someone coming behind you, and you don't do that, you are wasting your time on this earth. [emphasis added]
- A very different excerpt from the Tris Speaker speech – featuring a very different version of the "wasting your time" admonition ✱ – as quoted in "Standing Cheer for Roberto" by Houston Chronicle sportswriter John Wilson, in The Sporting News (February 20, 1971), p. 44.
✱ In contrast to so many versions of Clemente's "wasting your time on this earth" quote that have circulated over the years, this one and the one published by the Houston Post three weeks earlier have the distinction of being written by persons actually present at the speech in which Clemente uttered the now ubiquitous phrase. The fact that two eyewitness accounts are so different – in terms, both of wording and of the latter's crucial inclusion of the now familiar altruistic emphasis – might suggest that both are genuine and that Clemente simply repeated the phrase in different contexts at different points during his talk. If so, it should come as no surprise, given both the circumstances of Clemente's death and the nature of his off-field concerns, that it is the latter version, along with countless variations thereof, which has gained more currency.
- When I came here, you seldom saw a black player get together with a white player and go someplace together after a ball game. Now it is more common. yes, there has been improvement but some things still remain the way they were. I cannot, for example, go up to a white player and say to him, "Are you for real?" or "Are you concerned with me at all?" But now, once in a while, they will come to you and ask you about it. They don't turn their backs on you like they used to.
- As quoted in "Sports Parade" by Milton Richman, in The Hendersonville Times-News (Wednesday, April 21, 1971), p. 9
- My greatest satisfaction comes from helping to erase the old opinion about Latin American and black ballplayers. People had the wrong opinion. They never questioned our ability but they considered us inferior in our station of life. Simply because many of us were poor, we were thought to be low class. Even our integrity was questioned. I don't blame the fans for that; I blame the writers. They made it look like we were something different entirely from the white players. We're not. We're the same.
- As quoted in "Sports Parade"
- I have made a great study of the spine ever since I had my spine trouble, and now I know what to do and it doesn’t involve doctors, operations or anything like that. Why, in Puerto Rico last winter I helped 29 people who had back trouble and one of them was a doctor who couldn’t get medical relief. Ask Willie (Stargell), ask Danny Murtaugh what I did for them. They had back trouble and I fixed them, not by any tricks or anything, but because I know how to manipulate and bring relief.
A lot of people think if you have a pain or tightness here, it can be worked out by rubbing that area. It can’t. The way to do it is to know the trigger points. Sometimes you have to manipulate a few inches from the spot that’s hurting because that's maybe where the muscle that controls the soreness is. It’s all very complicated, but believe me, it works.
I was suffering so bad I could hardly walk [in 1957]. All the x-rays and medical doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong. Then a man in St. Louis, a chiropractor, called me and offered to help. The ballclub was against it and said they wouldn’t be responsible, but I was desperate and the pain was driving me crazy. But the man, who told me I had a curvature of the spine, was able to fix me up. It was after that I became interested in studying the human back and ever since I’ve never had trouble I couldn't take care of. Back trouble is a painful thing and people who don’t have the problem don’t know how lucky they are. But there are a lot of people who have it and can’t get relief because they don’t know what to do. It’s a terrible thing.
- As quoted in "Clemente a Doc" by Red Foley, in The New York Daily News (October 10, 1971), pp. 69, 75
- You see a skeleton in a lab, and they need wires to hold the spine in place. Well, in your body the wires are muscles. When there is a loosening on one side, your pelvis tilts. A spasm occurs when this tilt results in one side of the body supporting more weight than the other. Look at a telephone pole. If the supporting wire on one side is slack and loose, then the wire on the other side becomes tense and tight. In the case of the body, this is the muscle. And it will give you pain. If a man weighs 180 pounds and one side of him supports 90 and the other side 90, he is able to function. If one side supports 110 and the other supports only 70, a problem arises. For one thing, your leg on one side is shorter than the leg on the other.
- As quoted in "Dr. Clemente, I Presume" by Jim Murray, in The Los Angeles Times (March 24, 1972), p. E1
- I sent eleven people there. All of them have families in Puerto Rico. The least I can do is be with them tonight.
- Speaking on New Year's Eve, 1972; as quoted by Ruth Fernández in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 242
Quotes about Clemente
As a player
Alphabetical, by author/speaker.
- It used to really piss me off when the writers called Clemente a hypochondriac. I tried over the years with many writers and announcers to clarify a lot of those things about Roberto’s injuries, but it seems to have gone right over their heads. Every time he was injured – every time – you would read this hypochondriac bit, about him always being injured, always being out of the lineup. Well, any man that can hold the Pirates’ all-time record for games played in no way can be called a hypochondriac. A hypochondriac is a man who is constantly afraid of illness, who can’t perform. Mr. Clemente performed – and he performed as well as, if not better than, any player in this game’s history.
- Tony Bartirome in "C'mon Dago–," from Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 142
- He played with injuries other guys wouldn’t have come to the ballpark with because he knew his presence made a difference. I’ve seen him play with Achilles tendons stretched tighter than a drum. One year he had a bad knee, all swollen and stiff. I told him not to play, that he could be out for weeks if he did, or jeopardize his whole career. ‘No, we need a few wins,’ he said. And that kind of thing was not unusual. He got hurt by the drive he put into a game. He didn’t know how to pace himself. He played every game the same: hard. A lot of guys played winter ball too, but for them it was a vacation – good money, their wives came down, a chance to sit in the sun. They don’t give a damn – win, lose, or draw. He played a whole season down there every year, and for him there wasn't any difference between the winter league and the big league. Hell, he played twice as many games as Aaron or Mays. Aaron's one of the greatest, but I’ve seen him hit a thousand ground balls and then trot down the line. You ever seen Clemente do that – even once?
- Tony Bartirome (Pirates trainer, 1967-1985) in "Dr. Clemente" from Who Was Roberto? A Biography of Roberto Clemente (1974) by Phil Musick, p. 189
- 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.
- That shutout belongs to Clemente.
- Steve Blass (Teammate, 1968-1972), speaking with reporters following a game-saving catch (described directly below) in "Greatest Catch? This One by Roberto Will Do" by Charley Feeney," in The Sporting News (July 3, 1971), p.7
- When Clemente was out there in right field, there was nothing more a pitcher could want. I figured if the ball was hit to right and stayed in the ballpark, I had a chance. Some way, if it was humanly possible, he would get there. If they had a rally going, I knew he might make an impossible catch and double off a runner and the rally would die. With him, it was like having four outfielders.
I hope somebody has the film of a catch he made a few years ago in Houston. He was playing in right center and Bob Watson hit one down the line. Robby went into the wall – not just running but leaping into it – and made a catch that saved the game.
- Steve Blass in “A Teammate Remembers Roberto Clemente” by Blass, with Phil Musick, in Sport (April 1973), p. 90
- You saw him going all out on every day at 38 and it embarrassed you if you didn’t try as hard as he did. Whether you’d been playing 12 years or you were a rookie, a little bit of that rubbed off on you. And he was consistent; day in and day out he led us. You knew that if you didn’t pitch well or didn’t hit well, he would be great almost every day. In his last three years, we went to the ballpark every day expecting to win. His consistency was a big part of that.
- Steve Blass in “A Teammate Remembers Roberto Clemente,” p. 92
- It passes into a phase where it’s just such a delight to watch him play, and a delight to have him in right field when you’re pitching. He had that gift – he was an exciting enough ballplayer that he could turn a 10-year veteran into a 10-year-old kid watching baseball.
Most times in between innings, when I'd come off the field from pitching, I'd go into the clubhouse and wander around because I was always kind of high strung. But when Clemente was going to bat, I'd make sure I was out on the bench watching.
- Steve Blass in "A Challenge from the GM", from Roberto Clemente: The Great One (1998) by Bruce Markusen, p. 123
- The best way to describe Roberto Clemente is to say that if he were playing in New York, they’d be comparing him to DiMaggio. I would say his greatness is limited only by the fact that he does not hit the long ball as consistently and by the fact that he is not playing in New York – or even in Chicago or Los Angeles.
- Bobby Bragan (Pirates manager, 1956-1957) in “Aches and Pains and Three Batting Titles” by Myron Cope, in Sports Illustrated (March 7, 1966), pp. 76-80
- Clemente was just a kid then, his second year up. He was a real introvert – very quiet, morose almost. But he performed – man, did he perform! And he had tremendous pride. But I learned one thing about him early on – if he didn't feel like playing, you'd better let him sit. Wherever I managed, two hours before the game started, that lineup was posted on the board. I always wanted a man to know if he was starting. Now and then Clemente would come to me and say, ‘I don't feel like playing.’ If it had been somebody else, I would have asked him what the hell he was talking about. But not Clemente. When he didn’t want to play, he wouldn’t play – and that’s all there was to it. It didn’t happen very often, but it happened. It was usually a backache that he complained about. How serious it was, I don’t know – but I do know that he believed it was serious and that he was sincere about it. Remember – this was before he was a great star, so you had to believe he was sincere about his aches and pains and not trying to take advantage of his status.
- Bobby Bragan in The Man in the Dugout: Fifteen Big League Managers Speak Their Minds (1977) by Donald Honig, pp. 19-21
- Roberto Clemente was the best right fielder I saw play in the majors. Not the best hitter, but the best right fielder!
- Bobby Bragan in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 347
- The quality of his play was directly indicative of his values. He gave all he had every game. He was kind and helpful to all of us younger players. He had a desire to be appreciated and drove himself to higher levels of performance than others. He recognized the need to excel in all phases of the game, and he encouraged everyone to do the same. Some others could do what he could, but nobody matched his flair. I loved watching him play because he loved playing.
- Ronnie Brand (Teammate, 1963) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 351
- Along with Stan Musial, Roberto Clemente was the best player I ever played with. He could do it all. He had a great year at bat [in 1960], but what really amazed me was his arm. He was in a different class than Mays, Colavito, all of them. I saw him make throws like no one I have ever seen, and he was accurate. Dick Groat and Bill Mazeroski were bruised all over their arms, legs and chest from his throws into second. He threw so hard that he’d throw a ball that one-hopped from near first base to home and still handcuffed the catcher.
- Tom Cheney (Teammate, 1960-1961) in We Played the Game: Memories of Baseball’s Greatest Era (1994) by Danny Peary, p. 474
- Clemente was the kind of man that I’d like to have on my team. We were playing one time in St. Thomas, an exhibition game. This was for nothing and here’s a guy making over 100,000 bucks a year. Somebody hit a short fly ball into right field. Here’s Clemente – he took off for the ball, there was a whole pile of rocks there, and the guy makes a helluva diving catch. How many guys are gonna do that, making the kind of money he was making? When he put a baseball uniform on, there was only thing [sic] that Clemente thought: "Give my best and give my all." When he played with the Pirates, that’s all he did.
- I can see now why Clemente was such a great hitter. He hit the same way that Rogers Hornsby said things should be done: "Make the outside part of the plate the closest part because all great pitchers pitch you away, they don’t pitch you in." And Clemente hit most of the balls from shortstop to first base. The left knee would be his strength. The left knee he would always bring back, and when he’d bring his left knee back, he would cock the back at the same time. He would never swing the bat at the baseball; he would always throw the bat at the baseball. Sometimes he would say to me in Spanish: "Joe, look at me, what I’m doing. Always try to drive the ball, don’t swing. When you swing the bat, actually your hands tighten up. If you would just cock the bat and throw the head of the bat ahead of you, it would stop your body from lunging forward." Clemente was a great hitter in that way.
- Joe Christopher in "The Hat Falls Off" from Roberto Clemente: The Great One, p. 169
- Clemente had the ability, no doubt about it, but he was, for instance, always trying to show off his arm. He was always trying to throw out runners at the plate, instead of throwing the ball to the cut-off man and preventing the hitter from taking the extra base. Instead of having runners at first and third, and still having the chance to get a double play, you’d have runners at second and third and no chance to get the double play. It makes it a lot tougher on the pitcher.
He wouldn’t throw the ball down where Groat could grab it as the cut-off man or let it go if he thought Clemente’s throw could get the lead runner out. Clemente had a strong arm, but he was always trying to show it off. Early on, he used to throw the ball into the stands, but he got more accurate as he went on. He made some great throws and got some guys out, but there were more times he didn’t get the guy.
Little things like that. As a player, you realize the significance of such things. The fan just sees him getting a guy out at home plate. But he did that two out of ten times. It looked great to the fans, and it was great for the Pirates if he got someone out like that. But more often than not, he was putting more pressure on the pitcher.
- Elroy Face (Teammate, 1955-1968) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 156
- Clemente was a great ballplayer. He could hit, run and throw. He was a great ballplayer, one of the better ballplayers I ever saw. Willie Mays was the best; he could beat you more ways than anyone else. As a ballplayer, whenever he wanted to play, there were few who could compare to Clemente. He had God-given talent and ability..
- Elroy Face in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 166
- If a guy is getting paid to play, he should be out there. You don’t sit out because you’ve got an upset stomach. Another guy who will tell you the same thing is Groat.
In 1959, when I went 18-1, I cut my hand and had to have stitches. I missed some games, but I came back, with the stitches in my hand, and pitched. I still had scars. I had dropped a glass in a sink, and tried to grab it, and cut myself. I was out ten days. There was a story in the papers that Clemente had pulled a knife on me in an argument and had cut me. It never happened. We never got into any kind of a fight. I was never a fan of Clemente the whole 14 years we were around each other. But it didn’t affect me. I knew he had the ability to play his position. I didn’t let my personal feelings affect my approach. In all the years I played with him, as a person, he just wasn’t my kind of person. Clemente and I never had a disagreement. But we never got close together, either. We talked and associated with each other in the clubhouse. I guess he was something of a hypochondriac, and he wouldn’t play unless he felt perfect.
- Elroy Face in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 165
- I think the way Clemente played – running out every hit and running recklessly into the wall – he realized he needed some time off and he took it. So many times I saw him catch balls that went into the gap and he’d personally keep the other guy from getting that extra base. For a pitcher, that was something that was really appreciated. An average outfielder many times will give up the extra base. Often that’s the difference between winning and losing. At Forbes Field, we had one of the toughest right fields to play in baseball. Clemente could play the ball off that cement wall. Clemente would cut off the ball before it could get to the wall; he’d keep it from being a triple – he’d hold it to a single.”
- Bob Friend (Teammate, 1955-1965) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 151
- He looked so unorthodox at the plate. He was always gyrating, his ass would fly out, and he’d fall down when he swung and missed. Somebody like Don Drysdale would knock him down. He’d get up and hit a line drive. The knockdown didn’t bother him.
- Bob Friend in Remember Roberto, p. 151
- I know Roberto Clemente was a special ballplayer. In San Francisco, for instance, the visitors’ bullpen was along the sideline in right field. I watched the outfielders from there, and all the other outfielders had their backs to the wall in Candlestick Park. Not Clemente. He played at normal depth. If anyone went around the bag at first base too far, he’d throw them out. I saw him do it many times. I don’t remember other right fielders doing that. He had some arm. He might have been quite a pitcher himself.
- Joe Gibbon (Teammate, 1960-1965, 1969-70; with San Francisco Giants, 1965-1968) in Fantasy Camp: Living the Dream with Maz and the ’60s Bucs (Pittsburgh Proud Series, All-Star Edition) (2005) by Jim O'Brien, p. 294
- I don’t know of anybody who played on the same team with more superstars than I did. I was with ’em all, all except Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax, whom I don’t count because he was a pitcher. I played with Musial with the Cardinals, Clemente with the Pirates, Richie Allen with the Phillies and Willie Mays with the Giants. The best of ’em? For natural tools, I’d have to say Clemente. All around he was the best ballplayer I ever saw.
- Dick Groat (Teammate, 1955-1962) in "Now Steel Executive, Groat Recalls Playing Days With Super Stars" by Milton Richman, in The Lexington Dispatch (February 6, 1968)
- There was nothing on the baseball diamond that he couldn’t do if he wanted to. 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.
- Dick Groat in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 223
- If he wanted to lead the league in stolen bases, he could have done that. He was a marvelous base runner and had great instincts. He also had a great, great arm. And he had a great body, strong at the top and a thin waist.
- Dick Groat in We Played the Game: Memories of Baseball’s Greatest Era (1994) by Danny Peary, p. 293
- No doubt about it, Bobby had the greatest God-given talent I ever saw. Bobby was a complete player. What he didn’t understand was the fact that the Most Valuable Player award is not necessarily for the greatest talent. A lot of other things go into it. He was certainly the greatest talent on that team, and you can be both the outstanding player and the MVP. None of us was as gifted as Bobby was. Everybody tries to make a big deal about us, but it was never any problem between us. We never had a cross word. I wasn’t even conscious that he resented me winning it so greatly until deep into the 1961 season.
- Dick Groat in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 223
- As a fielder, I never saw anyone play balls off the right field wall the way Bobby did. And I remember going to Forbes Field as a kid, when it was Paul Waner out there. It was spooky, how Bobby knew how to play that wall.
- Dick Groat in Remember Roberto, p. 223
- If he hadn’t been killed, I could see him playing another five years. Bobby was always in great shape. He worked at it year round. He had a great body, and that was evident from the first day I ever saw him at Fort Myers training camp.
- Dick Groat in Remember Roberto, p. 223
- Now if you ask me which player I’d pick first in that same era, I’d go with Henry Aaron and I’d take Mickey Mantle. Aaron could hurt you so many ways and he had that consistent power. Mantle played when he couldn’t walk. Clemente was one of the all-time great players, but I’d take those guys over him.
- Dick Groat in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 224
- [Branch] Rickey was a fanatic about speed, and I guess I am too. And you can see for yourself: the [teams that] are built on speed win. I like to get a stopwatch time on a kid in a sixty-yard dash, because in baseball you run sixty yards more than you do anything: first to third, second to home, center field to right-center. But I never time a hitter from home to first. What good does it do you? Clemente – I don’t think he ever ran to first base under 4.4 or 4.5. That follow-through of his brought him up and toward third base, so it took him three tenths of a second just to get out of the batter’s box, but he was still the fastest man on our club.
- Howie Haak (Pirates scout, 1950-1988) in Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Baseball Scouting (1984) by Kevin Kerrane, pp. 77-78
- Raul Mondesi is a 40. Clemente and Shawon Dunston were the only 60s we ever had. Dave Parker was a 40.
- 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)
- His hand looked like it was about twice as long as anybody else’s. That’s what…why he could throw the ball – he just had such a wrist movement. And the same way with the bat – he had very good wrists to play ball.
- I look at my hand and see my World Series ring. It takes 25 guys to make a team, but I know who put that ring over my knuckle – Roberto Clemente.
- Richie Hebner in “Press Ignored Clemente, Cooperstown Won’t” by Harold Kaese, in The Boston Globe (Wednesday, January 3, 1973), p. 51
- Me and some of the other guys were probably making the minimum, $12,500, and here’s Clemente – a guy making $150,000. Some guys who make this money might dog it a bit, but when he hit one back even to the pitcher he’d run to first like the cops were chasin’ him. I remember thinkin’ to myself, ‘Hell, if that guy can do it, I’m gonna do it.’ Let me tell you, it’s hard to go out there every day, but once Clemente crossed over the white line onto the field, I think his philosophy was: If you’re going to go half-ass, no sense doing it. Maybe he made mistakes when he was younger, but in my years with him I don’t think he made a handful of mental mistakes. He threw to the right base, hit the cut-off man, took the extra base when he should, hit behind the runner, sacrificed himself at the plate. Guy on second he’d hit the ball and move the runner along. Next thing, there’s a wild pitch or a sacrifice fly and we win the game. A lot of people leave the ballpark and say, ‘Well, Clemente didn’t do nothing today.’ But Clemente was the guy who hit the guy over to third. And out in the field, not many guys tried going from first to third on him. He’d fire it in accurate, right on the bag. I tagged plenty of guys with two minutes to spare!
- Richie Hebner in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, pp. 159-160
- It was my first year in the Pirate organization; I signed with them in ’71. I lived in Pittsburgh, so when our season was over the Pirates let me come out for batting practice and take ground balls. So I took BP with those guys. Just to watch him take batting practice was something that youngsters should watch and learn. Because with his first round, he would just inside-out the ball and hit everything to right field. Then the next round, he’d move the ball around and start hitting the ball up the middle a little bit. And then in his last few rounds, he’d just start turning on the ball and stinging the ball.
He used such a big bat, I recall – a big, long, heavy bat. He was so strong with his hands; the ball just jumped off the bat. When him and Stargell hit – when they were in the cage – you actually didn’t even have to be around the cage to know that one of those two was in the cage hitting. The ball had a different sound coming off their bats. It was like a rifle shot. When the rest of us were in there hitting, it didn’t sound quite like that.
- Art Howe in Roberto Clemente: The Greatest (1998) by Bruce Markusen, p. 220
- I remember seeing him in the clubhouse. He was 38 years old when I got to come in there. He had a washboard stomach. He had the body of a 21-year-old.
- Art Howe in Roberto Clemente: The Greatest (1998) by Bruce Markusen, pp. 292-293
- 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.
- Vernon Law in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 310
- Brooks Robinson had that great Series with the glove in 1970, but you’ve got to be lucky to field like he did. By that, I mean you’ve got to get the tough chances, and if Roberto had had some in this Series, he really would have shown them something.
- Don Leppert (Teammate, 1961-1962; and as a coach, 1968-1972) in "Clemente Drives Pirates to Title" by Bill Christine, in The Pittsburgh Press (Monday, October 18, 1971), p. 25
- Everybody pitched him the same way. They pitched him away and shifted the defense the other way and made him hit into the defense – and he still hit .350.
- Milt May (Teammate, 1970-1972) in “Pride and Petulance” by Gene Collier, in The Sporting News (Dec 28, 1992, Volume 214, Issue 26), p. 34
- As a young player, I was in awe of Roberto Clemente’s ability to hit in a seemingly unorthodox manner. As a hitting coach, I am in awe of how fundamentally sound a hitter he actually was.
- Milt May in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 351
- I didn’t do it. This man next to me did it. Talk to him.
- Willie Mays, redirecting to reporters to Clemente, following the All-Star game, July 11, 1961, as quoted in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 95
- It’s the little things he does that amaze me. I’ve seen him play in a new park and you’d think he had been playing there all his life. He plays the caroms off the wall like he knows exactly where the ball is going to bounce. He doesn’t have to throw out runners with his arm. They respect it and rarely run on him. Clemente makes opposing runners play safety-first baseball. Often, this helps the Pirates win a ball game. The box score never tells Clemente’s true value to the team.
- Bill Mazeroski in "Clemente" by Charley Feeney, from "Clemente: Permanent Defensive Fixture," edited by Ben Henkey, in The Sporting News (November 21, 1970), p. 41
- He is a thinking outfielder. Some guys go to particular spot for a particular hitter and stay there. Clemente doesn’t. He adjusts to the situation each time a guy comes to the plate and then readjusts with the count.
- Bill Mazeroski in a 1972 interview with Phil Musick, quoted in "Slaying the Giants", from Roberto Clemente: The Great One (1998) by Bruce Markusen, p. 242
- When he was throwing to third, his throw was low enough to hit the cutoff and still get to third in the air. Coming home sometimes, he’d miss the cutoff man and try to get it all the way to the plate. Didn’t hurt him because he got it there quicker than most people. Roberto was one of the very few right fielders who could field the ball with the runner rounding first and throw behind that runner, without him taking second. He threw out quite a few guys that way.
- Bill Mazeroski in Twin Killing: The Bill Mazeroski Story (1995) by John T. Bird, pp. 288-289
- For a long time, he impressed me as an individual; now he is more of a team player. Maybe he was that way before and just couldn’t get it across to the other players. I thought he was playing for himself, but now he works with all of us, the young players, and he’s our intermediary with the front office. And that’s what a superstar’s supposed to do – spread himself around. Robbie has realized his importance, taken control, looked after us. Now he’s everybody’s player. He’s come into his own.
- Al McBean (Teammate, 1961-1968), interviewed in April 1967, reproduced in "The Leader," from Who Was Roberto: A Biography of Roberto Clemente (1974) by Phil Musick, pp. 217-218
- Clemente was an absolute natural in everything he did in baseball. He picked up things on his own very quickly. He was a great self-teacher. He told me one time that when he threw homeward to nail runners trying to score, he never threw to the catcher. He threw to the unpire because the ump always positioned himself to see the slide at home. He felt it gave him an advantage because the ump could easily see the ball’s arrival in front of his face.
- Art McKennan (Pirates public address announcer, 1947-1987) in "An Interview with Art McKennan" by Ed Luteran and Jim Haller, in Baseball in Pittsburgh: The SABR '95 Research Publication (1995)
- Clemente played every winter game hard – to win. He played 150-plus big league games plus spring training. It had to be tough for him even though it was in front of his home fans. To see him come there and work so hard was very impressive.
- When I was 15, he came to my hometown for a clinic. I remember everything, particularly the things he taught me about playing the outfield. It helped me my whole career. He showed me the way to throw the ball, and the way to catch it, and the best way to hit the cutoff man, and he taught me how to learn to anticipate where the ball would come. [... A few years later,] I was playing center field, right next to him in right field. It was a thrill. Everything he taught me helped me my whole career, and I try to teach the kids the same way.
- Sure, Clemente runs through signs once in a while. But on our club, we encourage daring baserunning. It pays off. Sometimes Clemente doesn’t even see the coach’s signal. When he’s on base, he’s concentrating on only one thing – reaching home safely.
- Danny Murtaugh in “Clemente Keeps them On Their Toes” by Larry Klein, in Sport (October 1960), p. 97
- Clemente’s quite a ballplayer, isn’t he? Now you know why he was picked on the All-Star team. He’s as good an outfielder in right field as your Willie Mays in center. There isn’t anything he can’t do.
- Danny Murtaugh in “The Big Grand Slam: Clemente Was All Set” by Phil Berman, in The San Francisco Chronicle (Saturday, July 15, 1961), p. 1
- If Clemente were a selfish player, he could hit 25 to 40 home runs a season. But he’s always been content to set up a lot of runs for the fourth and fifth place hitters. That’s why I always hit him third in the lineup. That has been my argument all along with the press. I’ve told the writers time and time again; nobody ever takes into consideration the amount of runs he sets up with singles and doubles. He takes great pride in hitting behind the runner and he does everything possible to help a ballclub. All the players look up to him. He helps a manager in so many ways, starting with spring training. When the young Latin players come into camp, he takes them under his wing and advises them as if he were their father.
- Danny Murtaugh in “Best He’s Seen: Murtaugh Lauds Clemente” by Frank Eck (AP), in The Hagerstown Morning Herald (Tuesday, October 5, 1971), p. 12
- There was a language barrier at the start, ignorance on both sides. But time took care of that. He was such a truthful man it backfired on him sometimes. If you asked him if his shoulder hurt, he’d say "Yes, it does." Then he’d go out and throw a guy out at the plate. That’s how he got the hypochondriac label.
- Danny Murtaugh in "Roberto Clemente 'was the best'" by Milton Richman, in The Boca Raton News (Friday, February 16, 1973), p. 11A
- Two catches Roberto made stand out in my mind. Each came at the risk of great personal injury and each had a vital part in the winning of a pennant although they were eleven years apart.
We were in a scoreless tie with the New York [sic] Giants in Forbes Field late in the 1960 season when Willie Mays tagged one. Roberto turned his back on the ball and raced back, knowing he could not avoid crashing into an unpadded wall. He still made the catch, saved the game and wound up with a dozen stitches.
Late in a tie game [actually the Pirates were ahead 1-0] with Houston during our pennant drive of 1971, Bob Watson hit one deep along the right field line. Two were out and the winning run was on its way home when Roberto tore across the field at full speed and made the catch as he crashed [leaped face-first] into the wall. He was knocked groggy, but still hit a game-winning home run in the next inning.
- Danny Murtaugh in "The Daley Report: Enshrining Roberto" by Arthur Daley, in The Warren Times Mirror and Observer (Thursday, February 22, 1973), p. 8
- There’s one thing I can’t understand. I’ve read many articles about who is the most valuable player on the Pirates. But I never see Roberto’s name mentioned. I don’t know how he can be overlooked when you talk about players on the club. Actually, there is no one player that can be classed as the most valuable, in my opinion. There are about five fellows on the team we couldn’t get along without. I mean individually, there’s Dick Groat and Don Hoak and the Deacon and Elroy and Clemente. But he doesn’t get a call. He’s been consistently around .320 all season. He has hit more home runs than ever. He just might be the only player here to drive in over 100 runs. And certainly he is the best right fielder in the league. Sure, those others are valuable to the team, but no more valuable than Clemente. He’s won more games for us with his bat, with his arm, with his speed on the bases. What more can you ask a player to do to be recognized? If Roberto beefs about not being mentioned, I wouldn’t blame him. He’s done as much as any other player on this team to keep us in first place.
- I'll tell you one way they are going to miss him. When he was not playing and sitting on the bench, the other team not only knew he was there, they saw Roberto waving to the right fielder to show him where to stand. Nobody knew better how to play the batters.
- During the Series, after arriving in Baltimore, Roberto practiced for hours studying how the ball caromed off the right field fence at different angles and locations. His determination was of such a magnitude that one could be excused for believing he’d gone crazy. Crazy like a fox is more like it, as the World Series would ultimately demonstrate; time after time, Roberto, having left nothing to chance, would appear in precisely the right spot to field each carom. For me, Roberto Clemente has to be the greatest right fielder of all time.
- José Pagán in Roberto Clemente: Aun Escucha las Ovaciones (1987) by Luis Mayoral, p. 32
- 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 (July 24, 1965), p. 9
- Clemente simply is a natural hitter. He’s hard to fool and ready at all times.
- Johnny Pesky in “Clemente Hot Candidate for 3rd Bat Title” by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (August 14, 1965), p. 11
- [On Clemente's wasted 3-HR-7-RBI performance of May 15, 1967]:
He hit one to right field and then to right-center. Then he homered over the left field fence. It was fantastic – absolutely sensational.
[On the following day's 5-HRs-on-6-pitches batting practice clinic]:
It’s the first time I’ve seen that since Ted Williams’ days with the Red Sox.
- Johnny Pesky in “Roberto Clemente: He's 'Good Good-Ball Hitter But Better Bad-Ball Hitter” by Rudy Cernkovic (UPI), in The Kingsport Times (Tuesday, June 20, 1967), p. 8; and “Hats Off! N.L. Player of the Week – Roberto Clemente” by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (June 3, 1967), p. 23
- He has to be one of the greatest who ever lived, in a class with Williams, DiMaggio, Aaron and Mays.
- Johnny Pesky in "A Tribute To Clemente: Murtaugh Proclaims Him as the 'Greatest'" by the Associated Press, in The Kentucky New Era (January 2, 1973)
- I used to tell Roberto that he was as good as Ted Williams. And that was something from me. Williams was a god to me and I was putting Roberto in the same class with him. I saw him make plays that were just about impossible, and I was forever praising him and he loved every second of it. Great kid, wonderful player. Probably as good a player as ever played the game. He could run, hit, throw, hit home runs. I had Stargell out a couple of times for extra hitting, but Clemente didn’t need it. He was just so good. When you talk about Clemente, you’re talking about Mays. He was a hell of a player.
- Johnny Pesky in Mr. Red Sox: The Johnny Pesky Story (2004) by Bill Nowlin, p. 241
- In the finals against Mayaguez, I had a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth. Boog Powell was at the plate. I threw him a fastball. It was some 420 feet to dead center in Mayaguez and quite dark. The lights weren’t too bright in that part of the stadium. Powell got hold of it, but Clemente was playing in center. He turned around, slid into the fence. It must have been dead quiet for five minutes, when I realized he caught the ball with his back facing the infield. The game was over.
- 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.
- Bob Skinner (Teammate, 1956-1963) in "The Gamers -- Driven by Competitive Fires / Bonds seems aloof, but it's all a big lie" by Bruce Jenkins, in The San Francisco Chronicle (April 25, 1995)
- The best and most complete ballplayer I’ve ever seen is Roberto Clemente. He responds in any situation and the guy will come up with a base hit in any situation, or a catch, or a throw, or whatever you need.
- Willie Stargell (Teammate, 1962-1972) in "Why the Pirates Are Champs" by Jack Smith, in The San Francisco Chronicle (Thursday, August 24, 1972), p. 56
- I especially respected and admired Clemente, who later became one of my best friends. Roberto was superhuman on the ball field. He played right field with the grace and style of a ballet dancer. His agility and strength enabled him to perform plays some fans thought to be impossible. But he was also an intensely fierce warrior who played each game as if it were his last.
- Willie Stargell in Willie Stargell: An Autobiography (1984) by Stargell, with Tom Bird, p. 99
- It was something that he worked on. First of all, he would make sure he had good balance in throwing. Everything was across the seams. And he knew how to throw the ball so it could land in a certain spot and take one perfect hop to the infielder or the catcher so that it doesn’t handcuff him. He would take a garbage can and put it at third base where the opening was facing him. He would have somebody hit him the ball in right field, he would run in, bring his body under control, pick up the ball, and throw it one-hop into the can. Tough to do. But that’s what made him shine a little brighter, stand a little taller.
- Willie Stargell in "The Arm," from Roberto Clemente: The Great One by Bruce Markusen, pp. 75-76
- He worked at it. One of the things that he taught me was every time we’d go into a stadium – or even at home – to spend a little extra time working on things: have balls hit to you, not just fly balls or ground balls, but hit ‘em off the wall at different angles. Find the sun, hit the ball into the sun and be able to shield the sun in such a way that you don’t lose the ball in the sun. His ability was no accident. He put a lot of time and effort and intelligence into his game. And what people saw was the finished product.
- Willie Stargell in "Fallback," from Roberto Clemente: The Great One', p. 117
- We were taking extra hitting. I was throwing to him and he was throwing to me. So the time I was throwing to him, he said, "Look, this round, I’m gonna hit everything back up the middle, so be alive." Maybe three out of ten pitches a guy could do that, hit the ball right back at the pitcher. The first pitch I threw, as soon as I threw it, a bullet went right by my ear. Phew. I said, "Whoa!" The next one – phew, by this ear. The next one was coming directly toward me, and I had to duck. That’s three out of three. Then I got the message – I’m gonna be alive ten out of ten.
- Willie Stargell in "Integration's Team," from Roberto Clemente: The Great One', p. 220
- There must be the best 165-pound slugger in baseball.
- Dick Stuart (Teammate, 1958-1962) in "Clemente’s Clouting Keeps Corsairs Hot on Trail of Treasure" by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (May 31, 1961)
- 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.
- Dick Stuart in Roberto! (1973) by Bill Christine, p. 103
- 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.
- Clyde Sukeforth (Pirates coach/scout, 1952-1957) 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)
- Clemente would just plop down on the grass and hold court. He loved to talk about hitting. He’d be sitting there, talking to all these young kids. It wasn’t about mechanics, you know – like how to hold the bat, or where to stand, or stuff like that. It was more about theory, what he was trying to do as a hitter. It helps explain his unorthodox style. You’d never teach anyone to stand up at the plate like he did, or to hold the bat like he did, or to swing at some of the pitches he lashed at. He wanted to hit the ball with the bat going down through it. The ball would come off the bat with backspin. It will carry that way. I realized it more when I played golf because the same thing applies there. If you hit up at it you get topspin and the ball goes down.
Most guys just want to make contact; they’re happy if they can put their bat on the ball. But Clemente was more precise in what he wanted to accomplish. He wanted to keep his hands back, and hit down on the ball with that heavy bat he used. Hearing him talk, you knew he was somebody on a separate level. They say Ted Williams was like that. He’d sit there four or five innings a day, just talking about things. Like balance, things he was trying to accomplish at the plate. I probably learned more about pitching to good major league batters from Clemente than I did from any pitching coaches.
- Kent Tekulve (signed with Pirates in 1971), recalling Clemente's spring training seminars in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, pp. 229-231
- That '79 team was Stargell's team. he was 'Pops' and we were the 'Fam-i-lee,' and all that stuff. But all the things that Stargell showed us he learned from Clemente. Whenever I'd question Stargell about something, he'd smile and say, "That is Roberto. You're getting it secondhand from Roberto. That's what he told me. He was like Clemente in many ways. He didn't say much. "just watch me," that's what he was saying. I sat on the other side of the clubhouse from Stargell. Looking at him after a game, you couldn't tell if he was 4-for-4, 0-for-4, whether he struck out four times or whether he had 7 RBIs. There was a consistency about his behavior. Not too high, not too low.
We all drew from his personality. And he'd say, "That's the way I got it from Roberto." What I really got from Roberto, and from Stargell, is how analytical you have to be. What are you trying to do? That's what you have to ask yourself, whatever sport you are playing. Whatever job you are doing.
- Kent Tekulve in Remember Roberto, p. 331
- Just watching him play [when he first came up in 1955], his actions, right then and there you knew he was a pretty good little player. I said the same thing about Hank Aaron when I first saw him … I just felt that the way Clemente and Aaron swung the bat, so quick, and the way they handled themselves, that they had it. They had God-given ability. They just had to work to bring it out. I played with both of them. I liked Roberto, but people ask me, "Which one would you take if you had to make a choice?" and I’d take Henry. He could hit the ball harder, with more power, and he hit a lot more home runs. I’d love to have both of them on my team.
- Frank Thomas (Teammate, 1955-1958) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 130
- I used to get mad at Clemente in his early years with the team. He was a great ballplayer, and he had a great arm, but he did things that hurt the ballclub. He’d throw the ball over the head of the cut-off man to home plate. If he didn’t get the guy, the hitter would get to second base instead of having to stop at first. That could lead to more runs. I was playing first base at times, and I’d holler to him, "Throw the ball down!"
- Frank Thomas in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, pp. 132-133
- He played the wall as well as anyone I’d ever seen. I saw Paul Waner play the wall well, too, when I was a little kid, but Clemente knew every nuance of that wall.
- Frank Thomas in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 133
- He played his best baseball when we played the Giants. He tried to outdo Willie Mays, and he did many times. He worked at being a great outfielder, just like Virdon worked at it to become the great center fielder he became.
- Frank Thomas in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 133
- There were many guys on the Pirates who had leadership qualities: Roberto Clemente, Dick Groat, Don Hoak, Vernon Law, even Smoky Burgess. Clemente led with his play. There wasn’t a better player than Roberto Clemente. Clemente, Mantle and Kaline were the best all-around players I ever saw, and I think Clemente was the best.
- Coot Veal (Teammate, 1962) in We Played the Game: Memories of Baseball's Greatest Era (1994) by Danny Peary, p. 545
- There’s no doubt that Roberto’s the greatest right fielder in baseball. It’s phenomenal the way he plays the tricky wall in Forbes Field. He takes ordinary doubles off it and throws the runners out at second. He’ll snap throw to first and pick them off when they round the bag wide. He has real strong hands and the best arm in the business.
- Bill Virdon (Teammate, 1956-1965; manager, 1972) in "Roberto Clemente: Pounder from Puerto Rico" by John Devaney, in Baseball Stars of 1964 (1964), edited by Ray Robinson
- Baseball won’t be the same in Pittsburgh without Clemente. When you think of baseball in Pittsburgh, you think of Clemente. There’s no way to replace him. We will just fill the spot. I’ll see Roberto every time I see a great play. That’s where we’ll miss him most – on defense. We’ll have to do the routine flawlessly because we won’t get the spectacular as often.
- Bill Virdon in "Clemente Remembered" by Ross Newhan, in The Los Angeles Times (March 9, 1973), p. D8
- Everything has been harder this year. Tempers have gotten away. We haven’t been able to hit the tough pitchers like [Wayne] Twitchell and Seaver. That is where we miss Clemente more than anything, because he could hit the good pitchers. He hit them better than anybody else. [Al] Oliver can hit them maybe in the seventh inning, but Clemente would hit them right off. His steady bat set the tone for our other hitters.
- Bill Virdon in Out of Left Field: Willie Stargell’s Turning Point Season (1974) by Bob Adelman and Susan Hall, p. 126
- There was never anybody better at his position than Clemente. In my time playing, managing, watching, he was simply the best in the business, not only because he could catch a ball better than anyone – which he could – or because his arm was so strong, but in every phase of play. He did everything exceptionally well and then his judgment was even better than that. He always threw to the right base, he was always where he was supposed to be, backing up, taking balls off the most difficult fences. His arm was powerful, but it was also deadly accurate. Nobody ran on him and when they did, it was from ignorance, not knowledge. Usually the ones who tried him were the young guys or the guys who were just coming into the league – the rest of the league simply didn’t run on him. He knew the outfields he played in, he knew the hitters and pitchers, what was going on in a game perfectly. He came in on a ball, went back to the wall, always knowing what he was doing.
- Bill Virdon in Nine Sides of the Diamond: Baseball’s Glove Men on the Fine Art of Defense (1990) by David Falkner, pp. 230-231
- In a game at Forbes Field, he caught the ball over his shoulder and ran into the concrete wall in right field where the fence angled out. There were some ornaments on the fence that jutted out, and he was going headfirst into it. Somehow he threw his head back and he got cut under the chin instead of getting hit in the throat. It probably saved his life. He caught the ball and hung onto it. When I got there and turned him over, all I could see was the gash under his chin. But other than that, he didn’t hurt himself.
- I played in the outfield with Roberto Clemente all ten years I played with Pittsburgh. Usually a center fielder will call off the other fielder on a catchable ball, but with Clemente on your side, you don’t get carried away with that. And you’d know Roberto would be there if you were not able to get it.
- Bill Virdon in Twin Killing: the Bill Mazeroski Story (1995) by John T. Bird, p. 41
- We had some very good young ballplayers – Maz, Groat, Clemente, Dale Long – though Clemente was a big piece of nothing his first years. Virdon and I would get all over Clemente. If a tough right-hander was going to face us, Clemente all of a sudden would get a headache or a bad back. I challenged him one day – I said, “You don’t want to play tonight because Drysdale’s pitching and he might knock you on your ass.
- Lee Walls (Teammate, 1956-1957) in You Can’t Hit the Ball With the Bat on Your Shoulder: The Baseball Life and Times of Bobby Bragan (1992) by Bobby Bragan with Jeff Guinn, p. 209
- I had played against Clemente for years and I always realized he was an outstanding player. But after playing 162 games a season with him for two years at Pittsburgh, I realized I hadn’t rated him high enough. As a fielder he is as great as anyone in baseball. When it comes to hitting, I think Clemente is the only batter in our league who is a real match for Bob Gibson. He has outstanding power to all fields. I know Tommy Helms has said that the hardest ball ever hit at him was a ball hit by Clemente, a righthanded hitter hitting to the right side.
- Maury Wills (Teammate, 1967-1968) in "The National League's 9 Most Underrated Players" by Wills, in Sport (July 1970), p. 59
- I’ve been asked if I ever saw anyone better than Willie Mays. The answer is, yes. Roberto Clemente was much better than Willie Mays. It wasn’t just his arm. He could do everything better.
- Maury Wills in On the Run: The Never Dull and Often Shocking Life of Maury Wills (1991) by Wills and Mike Celizic, p. 185
Alphabetical, by author/speaker.
- Clemente has the misfortune of playing in a big park. If he played in a smaller one, there’s no telling how many home runs he’d hit.
- Hank Aaron in “Viva Roberto: Clemente wins raves from fans, players” by George Vass, in Ebony (September 1967), p. 39
- 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
- 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.
- Ernie Banks, in "The Wonderful World of Ernie Banks: Clemente Toughest in Banks’ Opinion" by Banks, in The Chicago Tribune (Sunday, July 6, 1969)
- I saw Roberto when I was trying to get into the big leagues. I was impressed that he gave 100 percent in winter ball, just as he did in Pittsburgh. Some people used to say he was a crybaby – that he wouldn’t play if he had an injury. But I saw him play hurt and he was better then than most players when they’re healthy. He was all business on the playing field.
I was pretty quick then. I was on second base and tried to score on a hit up the right center alley. Roberto scooped up the ball and got it to the plate so fast I didn’t have a chance.
- Clemente was an awesome talent. He was a right-handed batter, but he would hit the ball to me at second as hard as any power-hitting left-hander. He used a very heavy bat and had an inside-out swing. He was very difficult to defense. He would hit shots at you, and the balls would come out of his uniform. The second baseman and the first baseman really had to be on their toes when he was hitting.
- You’d have to go with each club. Everybody has a couple of fellows who can really hurt a pitcher. If I had to name one guy on each club, I’d say Williams on the Cubs, Rose or Vada Pinson on the Reds; with the Dodgers last year it was Gilliam, with Pittsburgh it’s Clemente.
- Bobby Bolin in “Toughest Hitter in the Clutch? Giants’ Hurlers Name Toughies” by Harry Jupiter, in The Sporting News (April 23, 1966), p. 11
- I never saw him make an easy out in the year and a half I’ve seen him.
- Dave Bristol in “Young Reds Manager Most Successful So Far” by Les Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press (May 16, 1967), p.35
- The best player in the game today. I’d have to take him over Aaron and all the rest.
- Dave Bristol in “Hats Off! N.L. Player of the Week – Roberto Clemente” by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (June 3, 1967), p. 23
- Clemente is the best player I’ve ever seen. I said so when I first came into the league and I still say so.
- Dave Bristol in “National Nuggets: High Praise for Roberto,” The Sporting News (September 13, 1969), p. 32
- Roberto is one of the toughest hitters in the league – the kind you can’t pitch to any certain way. You may get him out on one pitch, but throw him the same pitch again and he’ll hit it for a bullet.
- Tony Cloninger in “Viva Roberto: Clemente wins raves from fans, players” by George Vass, in Ebony (September 1967), p. 41
- There were four home runs in the game – two by Willie McCovey, the MVP, and one each by Frank Howard and Johnny Bench. With all of the long balls, the one I remember most was hit by Roberto Clemente. The Great One hit it all the way into the upper deck, but it was foul. I had seen balls hit farther, but I had never seen a ball hit that far to the opposite field!
- Larry Dierker: "All Star Monday / Commentary / ON BASEBALL / Hanging with stars in summer of '69," The Houston Chronicle (July 12, 2004), p.
- I didn’t have much trouble with Roberto. I threw him a few fastballs inside to keep him from leaning in. One of those fastballs broke his wrist in my rookie season. I saw him that night at a banquet in our hotel, the Pittsburgh Hilton, and tried to apologize, but he waved my words away. "Don’t worry about it," he said. "It’s part of the game." It was also a part of the game that I continued to throw fastballs inside the inside corner to him as a reminder and got him out mostly with outside sliders.
- Larry Dierker: My Team: Choosing My Dream Team from My Forty Years in Baseball (2006) by Dierker, p. 136
- If the score had been closer, I probably would have pitched Clemente and Stargell differently. I hope those guys didn’t hurt anybody with those homers. I fed Clemente a slow curve, and he made a believer out of me on one pitch. He’ll never get another one.
- Don Drysdale in "DODGERS EXPLODE EARLY, WHIP BUCS, 5-3; L.A. Leads By 2 1/2 Games on Five-Run 1st" by Frank Finch, in The Los Angeles Times (September 16, 1966)
- Ball four!
- Don Drysdale (in response to reporters' queries as to what kind of pitch Clemente had hit for his game-wining three-run homer, the second of 2 hit by Clemente off Drysdale in a 4-1 Pirates victory on June 4, 1967) in Who's Roberto: A Biography of Roberto Clemente (1974) by Phil Musick
- I was so drugged up at times that I couldn’t see the scoreboard from the mound. I was a walking drugstore. I had to cover one eye, like a drunk driver does when he wants to see the road. Roberto Clemente hit a line drive back through the box that could have killed me. I never saw it. I still haven’t seen it. I was that fuzzy, that blurred. But I heard it. Did I ever hear it. And I felt it, too. After I escaped being hit, I felt a little sensation on the left side of my neck – like I had a mosquito sitting there, waiting to bite it. I brushed the area with my hand and looked down and my hand was dripping with blood. Clemente’s drive had taken the skin right off the edge of my ear. How’s that for a gentle reminder that you’ve about had it?
- Don Drysdale (recalling the play that prompted his 1969 mid-season retirement, experienced while heavily medicated to relieve pain from a torn rotator cuff) in Once a Bum, Always a Dodger: My Life in Baseball from Brooklyn to Los Angeles (1990) by Drysdale, with Bob Verdi, p. 197
- My book on pitching to Clemente was that you wanted to drive him back off the plate. When he started falling away, make sure he kept falling away, and then go down and away with him. But establish enough in here where you try and take that left shoulder and make it follow that left leg. If you don’t, look out.
- Don Drysdale in Roberto: A Video Tribute (1993)
- [T]o get him out with fastballs, you had to keep it tight. Otherwise, Willie’d get his hands out. Roberto Clemente was a little bit like that. You heard about stepping in the bucket – when you pull the left foot out on the swing and then your body comes away. But both of those hitters, Mays and Clemente – both Hall-of-Famers – they had the knack of stepping away and throwing the top of their body at the ball, and they had some leverage there. So they hit with power to right or right center.
- Carl Erskine in "Carl Erskine" from We Would Have Played for Nothing (2008) by Fay Vincent, p. 146
- Among all the players on other teams, the only guy I had anything to do with was Roberto Clemente, who was a special case. One reason I talked to Clemente was to explain to him why I always threw at him. He swung way too hard against me, flinging himself at the ball and spinning around in the batter’s box like he was on the playground or something. I had to demonstrate to him that I was no playground pitcher, and to that end I made a point of throwing at least one fastball in his direction nearly every time he came to the plate.
In most cases I wouldn’t have felt compelled to provide a reason for knocking a batter down, but somehow Clemente brought out my soft side. It was virtually impossible to ignore him because he was always talking. Usually, it was to complain about how much his back or his shoulder or some other damn thing was hurting him. "Oh, my back," he would say, "ees keeling me." He would go on and on until you had no choice but to say, "Clemente, shut the fuck up!" Then he would step in the batter’s box and swing so hard that the flagpoles on top of the stadium would bend. He was so full of shit that you had to laugh, and you couldn’t help liking the guy.
- Bob Gibson in Stranger to the Game: The Autobiography of Bob Gibson (1994) by Gibson, with Lonnie Wheeler, p. 115
- I came out throwing hard against Pittsburgh, and we were ahead 1-0 when my old pal Clemente led off the fourth with the Pirates’ first hit – a line drive off my right shin. I couldn’t get up right away, and Bob Bauman rushed out to check my leg and spray ethyl chloride on it. I said, "I hate to tell you, Doc, but you’re spraying the wrong place." He advised me to take a look, and I saw what he saw – a dent in the skin the shape of a baseball. It was odd that I couldn’t feel where I had been struck, but since I couldn’t feel it, I wasn’t particularly worried. I told Doc to put a little tape on it and let me get back to work.
Willie Stargell was the next batter, and I walked him. Then Bill Mazeroski popped out, and the count was three and two on Donn Clendenon when I tried to put a little extra on the payoff pitch and collapsed. The fibula bone had snapped above the ankle. I was taken to Jewish Hospital, my leg was put in a cast, and I was out of the pennant race for nearly eight weeks.
- Bob Gibson in Stranger to the Game, p. 135
- There were very few superstar hitters whom I pitched away, an exception being Roberto Clemente. He was completely unorthodox in the batter’s box and would rip a pitch high and away – like the one he broke my leg with – but I could get him out low and away.
Bear in mind that when I say I could get somebody out a certain way, or I had luck with him by doing this or that, it wasn’t an exact science. The good hitters all had strategies for me, too, and there wasn’t a single one of them whom I knew I was going to put away every time. The kind of guys I’m discussing here – the money players – demand special consideration because they basically couldn’t be intimidated, but I always held out hope that I could somehow throw them off their games.
- Bob Gibson in Stranger to the Game, p. 179
- Roberto was a fine natural athlete, but he lacked training. The years went by and he became a magician with the bat, despite the fact that he had a ‘wrong’ way of hitting; he would step far away from the plate – in the bucket as they say – but he kept his arms and torso close to the plate, which is what made him so great. He was very dedicated to the game. I’m that way, too; any player who doesn’t respect the public that pays to see him doesn’t deserve to be in uniform. In that sense he was a 105 per cent professional. I’ve seen many players and if I had to choose an all-star outfield, it would be Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, and Clemente – I’d also somehow find a place in the lineup for Hank Aaron because of his bat, although he’s not as great a fielder as the other three.
- Rubén Gómez in "The Divine Madman" from Clemente! by Kal Wagenheim, p. 87
- What a ballplayer! He had great speed, and could hit the ball like a rocket anywhere. He stood way back in the batters’ box. Rogers Hornsby liked that about Clemente because he used to do the same thing. Clemente would stand in the back corner on the outside, away from the plate so he stepped into everything. You couldn’t throw him a ball away from the plate and get him out because he could reach them all. He could bust that inside ball, too. He didn’t take a big stride, but he was always moving into the ball so that when he hit it, he hit it with everything in his body.
- Jimmy Greengrass in That Was Part of Baseball Then: Interviews With 24 Former Major League Baseball Players, Coaches & Managers (2002) by Victor Debs, Jr., p. 182
- It was a fastball. It got about six inches of the plate. It was high, about eight inches over his head and I just couldn’t see how he could possibly hit that ball, let alone hit it out of the park. That guy is absolutely incredible.
- Ross Grimsley in "SPORTS SCOPE; Grimsley Came Of Age Tuesday" by Chuck Bell, in The Lima News (October 11, 1972), p. 26
- [O]ne night in St. Louis, he almost threw me out after I had singled solidly to right field. He almost got me at first. His throw got by the first baseman, otherwise he would have thrown me out. I knew I couldn’t run, but that would have been humiliating – to be thrown out from right field on what is supposed to be a single.
- Dick Groat in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 224
- He must have fouled off six curves, and the ball he hit out was the same kind of curve I struck him out [with] in the previous inning. It was a good pitch. The one Stargell hit was a bad one. Heck, I supplied half the power myself.
- Ken Holtzman, discussing pitch sequence culminating in Clemente's game-tying home run, in “Pirates Beat Cubs Again; 3-2 Defeat Fifth in Row For Leaders” by George Langford, in The Chicago Tribune (Monday, May 31, 1971), p. C6
- I don’t give up any cheapies. I make ’em bring out the tape measure. I thought I had Clemente this time, because the Pittsburgh park is big and I made him hit the ball where I wanted him to – to the deep part of the outfield.
- Al Jackson in “Homer Off Little Al is Long Shot” by Neil Russo, in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (June 10, 1966)
- He was the only player I ever saw who would hit a single to left field and round the base so hard he would get halfway to second and have to hit the dirt and slide to stop himself, then pop up and get back to first base. If the left fielder bobbled the ball, he would be into second easily – but he always got back to first if he had to. He played that hard and intensely all the time.
- Al Jackson in Roberto Clemente (1994) by Norman Macht, pp. 48-49
- I think Clemente is the only superstar in our league. Well, he and Hank Aaron. Today, he just hit everything I had. He hit a slider for a single, a fastball for a triple and another slider for the home run. He’s something.
- The two best batters in my first seven years in the National League were the late Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron. These men were gifted with natural ability more than others. Each one of them, day in and day out, year after year, did his job superlatively. They made very few mistakes as hitters; they did not try to overpower the ball, but they hit it as far and as often as any batters ever have.
Aaron and Clemente were the true superstars of the National League. They ran, threw, hit, and did everything required of a baseball player as well as it could be done. If they went without a hit on one day, you knew that they were going to get three or four the next. Their ability was natural, but they worked hard to maintain it.
- Ferguson Jenkins in Like Nobody Else: The Fergie Jenkins Story (1973) by Jenkins and George Vass, p. 210
- The best hitter I ever saw was Clemente. He could hit from line to line, line drives and long balls.
- 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: “My Toughest Batters,” 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 August 30, 1960 – was hit to right field. The 1961 home run was indeed hit a great distance, but to left.
- 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: "My Toughest Batters"
- 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
- 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 (May 8, 1967)
- 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.
- Clemente is one of the three best hitters I’ve seen among those I’ve had a chance to watch on a regular basis. The others were Stan Musial and Hank Aaron. I never had a chance to see much of Ted Williams.
- I don’t know what they mean about not hitting home runs. In the All-Star game two summers ago at Tiger Stadium, Clemente swung at my outside pitch and put it up in the center field bleachers.
- Before I threw the ball I prayed a little bit to God: "Please let this pitch be in a good spot for him not to hit it too hard." I think I was lucky enough to throw the ball in a good spot. It was a ground ball out. I remember one time in Pittsburgh – I struck him out three times. I think that was the greatest day in my life.
- Juan Marichal in "The Late Roberto Clemente Remains Symbol of Latin Baseball" by T.J. Quinn, in The New York Daily News (September 21, 2005)
- It should have been a home run. The error makes no difference to me and I don’t really care if the ruling’s changed. But I was playing Roberto in right centerfield and I had no chance to catch up to it, it was hit so hard. I guess they gave me an error because they thought I touched it. But it was at least a foot away from my glove when it bounced past me.
- Willie Mays in “McCovey Slams Pirates in Ninth” by Bob Stevens, in The San Francisco Chronicle (Thursday, July 22, 1971), p. 47.
- 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.
- Willie Mays in "Sports of the Times: The Most Natural Ballplayer" by Dave Anderson, in The New York Times (January 24, 1979)
- Steve Stone says Willie Mays was the best he ever saw at intentionally looking bad on a pitcher’s curve to make sure the pitcher threw him another one in a key situation. Roberto Clemente was like that, too. He’d take a first-pitch breaking ball and look as if he were shocked by the pitch. That was so he’d get a similar pitch from the pitcher during that at-bat.
- Tim McCarver in Tim McCarver’s Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans: Understanding and Interpreting the Game So You Can Watch It Like a Pro (1998) by McCarver, with Danny Peary, p. 124
- I can still see Roberto Clemente, who had the strongest and most accurate arm I ever saw, throwing one-hoppers from the fence to home plate. Some right fielders have rifles for arms, but he had a howitzer.
- Tim McCarver in Tim McCarver’s Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans, p. 244
- There is only one right fielder – with the possible exception of Larry Walker – that I’ve seen who is as good as Ichiro and that is Roberto Clemente.
- Tim McCarver in "Matsui vs. Ichiro: How Do You Say 'Must Watch' in Japanese?" in The New York Post (April 25, 2003), p. 75
- When Roberto Clemente hit a line drive and broke Gibson’s foot in 1967 (it happened in the first inning and Bob threw five more pitches with a broken foot),✱ Clemente considered it justice because Gibson often knocked Roberto down. Clemente figured that what goes around, comes around. Clemente used to tell Gibson, "If I were a pitcher and you were a hitter, how would you like it if I knocked you down?" Gibson would just look at him with a smile and say, "Well, that’s not the case, is it?"
- Tim McCarver in Few and Chosen: Defining Cardinal Greatness Across the Eras (2003) by McCarver, with Phil Pepe, p. 126
✱ Actually it was Gibson’s fibula (located just above the ankle) that was broken; he didn’t realize it was fractured until several
pitches later when it snapped and he collapsed in a heap. (See the second Bob Gibson quote in this section.)
- For some players, the off-speed pitch is a definite weakness. There are certain big league hitters, though, who have no weaknesses – players such as Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, and Tony Oliva.
- 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.
- 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.
- Joe Morgan in "Clemente carried himself with dignity" by Morgan, at ESPN.com (September 30, 2002)
- I was managing the other team. They had a man on base and this skinny kid comes out and well, we had never seen him, so we didn’t really know how to pitch to him. I decided to throw him a few bad balls and see if he’d bite. He hit the first pitch. It was an outside fastball and he never should have been able to reach it. But he hit it down the line for a double. He was the best bad-ball hitter I have ever seen, and if you ask major-league pitchers who are pitching today, they will tell you the same thing. After a while it got so that I just told my pitchers to throw the ball down the middle because he was going to hit it no matter where they put it, and at least if he decided not to swing, we’d have a strike on him.
- Oliva hits strikes but Clemente hits everything.
- Jim Palmer in "Cuellar Goes Against Blass Again Today; Answer Is Yes, Better Than Oliva" by Bob Addie, in The Washington Post (Sunday, October 17, 1971), p. D5
- I never really pitched against him until the World Series. The scouting report said you can go up and in with him, but don’t go there twice. You can pitch him low and away, but don’t stay out there. So what does that leave? Throw it down the middle and hope he hits it at someone. Clemente beat us. The reason they won was Steve Blass’s two games and Clemente. He ran the bases as well as you could run them, made great plays and great throws. And he hit the home run to right field against me, the triple to left-center – he had 12 hits.
- Jim Palmer in "Jim Palmer Looks Back on the Weaver Regime" by Dan Donovan, in Baseball Digest (April 1983), p. 72
- They said don’t pitch him inside. I didn’t pitch him inside for three or four years. When I did pitch him inside, he hit a home run, the wind blowing 30 miles per hour against him. He hit it 25 rows deep.
- Mays rounds third and screeches to a halt. When the world’s best baserunner puts on the brakes on a hit to right, you know it’s because the world’s best arm is in right. And it was a close game – we needed that run.
- Gaylord Perry in Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero (2006) by David Maraniss, pp. 99-100
- No matter where I threw it, he’d hit it. He would hit pitches thrown over his head, down by his ankles, inside, outside. I’d get two quick strikes on him and never get the third one.
- Johnny Podres in Roberto Clemente (1994) by Norman Macht, pp. 42-43
- If a double was needed, he would go for that. If there were two out and the Pirates needed a run, he would go for the home run. But he would not swing for the fences if his team was down by 3 or 4 runs. He would just try to get on base. That’s a team player.
- Johnny Podres in Roberto Clemente (1994) by Norman Macht, p. 43
- Clemente and Orlando Cepeda hit balls to right as hard as any left-handed hitter in the game.
- Pete Rose in "Viva, Roberto! Clemente wins raves from fans, players," Ebony (September 1967), p. 40
- 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 (March 17, 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.
- Pete Rose in "Rose Shrugs Off Misunderstanding with Hero Effort" in The Anderson Daily Bulletin (October 21, 1972)
- In all due respect to Henry Aaron, Stan Musial and Willie Mays, the best hitter I ever played against was Roberto Clemente.
- Pete Rose in "Rose Claims Clemente Was Best Hitter" by Norm Clarke, in The Park City Daily News (May 13, 1976)
- After Stan Musial, Clemente was the best all-around ballplayer I ever saw. I placed him slightly above Willie Mays. Could Clemente ever throw! Even better than Mays – he was more accurate.
- Hank Sauer in We Played the Game: Memories of Baseball's Greatest Era () by Danny Peary, p. 398
- Is he keeping his hands behind him on the bat, even while he strides forward with his front foot? This is usually the sign of a great hitter, who can commit part of his body to a pitch while maintaining sufficient control and arm strength to do you damage at the last split-second. Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente had this superior ability to wait on a pitch with their arms back, even as they stepped forward. There was no set way to pitch them except to vary your pitch selection while remaining alert to signs of particular strengths, weaknesses, or preferences that they exhibited in any given at-bat.
- Tom Seaver in The Art of Pitching (1984) by Seaver, with Lee Lowenfish, p.19
- He had developed great wrist strength, and not only could he jerk one out of the park even when swinging late, but he could also drive an inside pitch to the opposite field. Take it from me: he was almost impossible to pitch to.
- Tom Seaver in Great Moments in Baseball: From the World Series of 1903 to the Modern Records of Nolan Ryan (1992) by Seaver with Marty Appel, p.272
- He stood there, far away from the plate with that great big long bat, and with those strong hands he controlled it like crazy, hitting pitches on the other side of the plate. There was that one area out there at the knees off the outside corner. If you hit that spot with a pitch, he’d look and walk away. If you missed it, he’d hit the ball very hard.
- Tom Seaver in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 286
- Clemente and Mays and Aaron. These are the guys who, when you weren’t pitching, you just sat there and watched them play, watched what they did. Anybody who watched the ball when Willie Mays was on the field was crazy. And Clemente was very much the same.
- Tom Seaver in Talkin’ Baseball: An Oral History of Baseball in the 1970s (1998) by Phil Pepe, pp. 42-43
- Carl Furillo was the best right fielder I ever saw until Roberto Clemente came along, and Clemente was possibly the best ballplayer I’ve ever seen. And just think that we could have had Clemente in our outfield.
Imagine if the Dodgers had Clemente all those years. I don’t know if Clemente would have played left and Furillo right, of if Furillo would have moved to left to allow Clemente to play right. Either one of them could have been a great left fielder, and that would have given us a great outfield for years. With both of them, we might have won a few more world championships in Brooklyn.
- Clemente has fantastic power, fantastic speed, a fantastic ability to hit the ball to the opposite field, a fantastic arm – he is the complete ballplayer. Roberto is not merely good at everything, but great at everything. He just beats you, and beats you at everything you can do in baseball. I know of no other player comparable to him.
- Rusty Staub in “Clemente is Staub’s Selection as Greatest All-Round Player” by John C. Wilson, in The Sporting News (April 27, 1968), p. 5
- Clemente's the best defensive outfielder I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been on his ballclub and I don’t know what he’s like as a team player, but this guy can do just everything to beat you – run, hit, throw, catch, and just kill you with power. He’s the best player I’ve seen in the big leagues.
- Rusty Staub in “More to Defense Than Catching the Ball” by John Robertson, in Baseball Digest (December 1971), p. 56
- He made the greatest throws I ever saw in my life. He would go into that bullpen (along the right field line in Forbes Field) where you couldn’t see home plate. One time, he went for a ball that spun into the bullpen. A guy was tagging up from third base with one out. He knew he had it made, he didn’t run hard. All of a sudden this rocket came from nowhere. It was like a strike, right across the plate. He (Clemente) couldn’t even see home plate!
- Rusty Staub in “Outfielders: Armed and Dangerous” by Steve Marcus, in The Los Angeles Times (Tuesday, July 3, 1990), p. 4
- One time in spring training, I was pitching against Clemente and Wes Westrum came out and said, ‘He can’t hit the fastball inside off the plate.’ I threw a fastball about a foot inside and he hit it on a dead line. It was still going up as it went over the center field fence.
- 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."
- Roberto Clemente was such an awesome hitter. I never knew how to pitch him. You could throw the ball a foot inside and he’d hit a line drive down the left field line. Throw it a foot outside and he’d hit a home run over the right field fence. Dick Selma was pitching in Forbes Field one time and it was a tight spot late in the game. Roberto was up with a chance to beat us, and Westrum came out to the mound. He knew that if you threw the ball inside or outside, Roberto could still hurt you. So he said, "Throw one right down the middle of the plate, letter high. He won’t be looking for it there.” Sure enough, Roberto hit it 400 feet, but he hit to dead center field for an out.
- The good hitters, it just steeled their resolve. I saw Henry Aaron get knocked down, maybe twice in a row, and then they’d make the perfect pitch, a low outside slider, and he’d hit the most awesome line drive homer over the right center field fence. Same thing for Willie Mays. Knock him down and you just made him a better hitter. Same for Willie Mays. Same for Roberto Clemente.
- Hawk Taylor in The Amazin' Mets (2008) by William Ryczek, p. 208
- I got a hit to right field and rounded first base as most runners do. Clemente picked up the ball, faked a throw to second and threw it so fast behind me to first base I was caught and tagged out. It was my most embarrassing moment on the field.
- It all began with Clemente hustling to first. He knows only one way to play this game.
- Joe Torre on a pivotal 7th inning throwing error in Game Thee of the 1971 World Series, in Remember Roberto: Clemente Recalled by Teammates, Family, Friends and Fans (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 438
- Back then, there were few hitters who could hit the ball with any authority to the opposite field. The ones that went to the opposite field were Punch-and-Judy hitters, but Clemente could drive the ball. I didn’t know how to pitch to somebody like that so I stayed off the plate and that’s where he hit. I had no clue how to pitch to Clemente. I just tried to keep it down.
- Arnold Umbach in Cup of Coffee: The Very Short Careers of Eighteen Major League Pitchers (2002) by Rob Trucks, p. 128
- We can beat the Pirates because they no longer have Roberto Clemente. Nobody will know what Clemente meant to them until this year when they have to do without him. We can beat the Pirates without Clemente, and we are better than the Cubs.”
- Rube Walker (New York Mets pitching coach, 1968-1981) in “Nice Guy Rube Still Thinks of Hodges Every Day” by Merrell Whittlesey, in The Sporting News (March 10, 1973), p. 54
- The first start I ever got in the big leagues was in Pittsburgh for the last three games in 1967. I knew Dock Ellis and I met Clemente through him. We talked every time we met in the following years. He gave me a few pointers. I felt if a guy like Roberto could tell you something, it was wise to listen. I always like to talk to outstanding players about hitting – Roberto Clemente, Joe Torre, Tommy Davis. Guys who have the same hitting style as I do.
But I remember Roberto for one thing he did with his glove, not his bat. In 1971, he took a home run away from me here in the Dome. Steve Blass was pitching and we were behind, 1-0, in the ninth.✱ Joe Morgan walked and I hit a ball to right that was going over the yellow line. I know the game is tied for sure. If [it’s gone], we win. But Clemente went head-on into the wall, and fell to the ground, almost on his neck. He was motionless. Al Oliver came over and took the ball out of his glove. I couldn’t believe he caught the ball.
- At least, I got robbed by one of the best in the business. It’s like if you were a trainman in the old days and Jesse James held you up. You know you’ve been robbed by the best highwayman in the business.
- Bob Watson in "Astrolog" by Joe Heiling, in The Houston Post (May 4, 1972), p. 3D
- Roberto Clemente was the greatest ballplayer I have ever watched. He could do it all. In fact, last year, Gonzalo Marquez, one of our young outfielders, told me he was going to copy Clemente. I told him if he could become one third of the ballplayer Clemente was, he would make me very happy.
- Dick Williams in “Pittsburgh Mourning Loss of Hometown Hero” by United Press International, in The Philadelphia Inquirer (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. 4D
- I’m more convinced than ever that there aren’t as many good hitters in the game, guys who can whack the ball around when it’s over the plate, like an Aaron or a Clemente. There are plenty of guys who can hit the ball a long way, but I see so many who lack finesse, who should hit for average but don’t.
- Ted Williams in It's Only Me: The Ted Williams We Hardly Knew (2005) by Williams, with John Underwood, p. 109
- One day at the Polo Grounds a pitch got away from me and I yelled, ‘Look out, Robert [sic].’ It was a high fastball. Clemente just put up his bat and fouled off the pitch. He was an amazing hitter.
- My first major league game [sic ✱] was at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh,and Roberto Clemente almost killed me! Not many people know this, but I came up as a shortstop. Clemente hit a screaming line drive, and I got my glove up just as the ball hit the left field wall. I was one heck of a high school shortstop, but the majors were another story. After that, I told the coaches and manager to get me out of the infield.
- Jimmy Wynn in "Jimmy Wynn: former Dodger has many memories of his 15 years in the majors, including his grand slam in 1974 to help L.A. win N.L. West Division – The Game I’ll Never Forget" by Al Doyle, in Baseball Digest (March 2003).
✱ It appears this play actually occurred during the 8th inning of Wynn’s second major league game, followed immediately thereafter by a throwing error by Wynn. Whether at his own request or his manager's discretion, Wynn was in fact moved to the outfield less than two weeks later.
- It was against the Pirates in Houston. I pitched five innings and I remember Roberto Clemente. I don’t remember Willie Stargell. The one to remember, though, was Roberto Clemente. Bob Lillis was playing shortstop and Clemente hit a rocket, a one-hopper, that almost took Lillis from shortstop and put him in the left-field stands.✱ Lillis wound up throwing him out, but he hit a rocket off me.
- Larry Yellen in Cup of Coffee: The Very Short Careers of Eighteen Major League Pitchers (2002) by Rob Trucks, p. 115
✱ The play took place in the third inning; the endangered shortstop was actually Glenn Vaughan. Lillis, Houston's every-day
shortstop, happened to have this day off, although he would enter the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth.
- Yogi, and all the Yankees, for that matter. But I saw Clemente when I was coaching for the Mets. I believe he was the best I saw.
- Eddie Yost, recalling the players who really stood out during his 40 years in baseball, in Baseball Stars of the 1950s: Interviews With All-Stars of the Game’s Golden Era (1993) by Brent Kelley, p. 187
Alphabetical, by author/speaker.
- Roberto Clemente boomed a 500-foot home run high over the 30-foot green fence at Terry Park today [...] Clemente's tremendous blow came in the eighth inning off Darrell Sutherland on the first pitch and brok up a 5-5 tie. [...] Sutherland was so shook up by Clemente's drive that he gave up a triple to Donn Clendenon and walked three men in a row to force in a superfluous run as far as the game was concerned. It was only the third time in the [12-year] history of Terry Park that any hitter cleared the high green fence.
- Al Abrams (Post-Gazette sports editor, 1947-1974): "Clemente's 500-Foot HR Beats Mets, 7-5," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (March 25, 1966). Also see Darrell Sutherland in Opponents.
- I was trying to waste a pitch,” he said of Roberto Clemente’s home run. “I wanted to have him swing on a bad pitch. I didn’t care if I walked him. I wouldn’t even care if I hit him. I had two bases open.” Clemente is the kind of fellow who drives pitchers crazy. Stallard fired a fastball near Clemente’s ear. Roberto swung and missed. The crowd cheered. They like that kind of extravagance. Then came the next pitch. This was up near Clemente’s eyes and a foot outside. He flicked his bat, lined a ball upstairs. Foul, motioned umpire Ed Sudol. This confused the crowd. Some cheered. Others booed. They were obeying orders. One of the signal-men held up a bedsheet. It said: BOO.
“I knew the two bases were open; I figured if maybe I could get him to swing again at a pitch around his head,” said Stallard. Stallard, a marvelous Met in his own right, just couldn’t let the drama build any longer. He threw a real pitch to Clemente, the kind any human being hitter would duck away from and scream for the umpire. Naturally, Clemente hit it upstairs [i.e. right field upper deck]. “He never gets a strike to swing at,” said Danny Murtaugh. “He likes those kind."
- Maury Allen: “Don’t’ Mention Clemente to Stallard,” The New York Post (Sunday, July 7, 1963), p. 34
- It was ‘shot night’ at Candlestick last night, and the popular theory that the Giants’ new park is a home run cemetery was thoroughly shaken up – if only for one game. Four hitters, three of them Giants, slugged baseballs over the distant fences, and every one of them was smashed with velocity comparable to the winds which whipped through the park all night. Easily the most satisfying homer was hit by the ‘birthday boy,’ Willie Mays, who reached the age of 29 with an off-field shot in the sixth inning off shell-shocked Pirate pitching ace, Vernon Law. The line drive just eluded the acrobatic leap of Roberto Clemente, hit the top of the right field barrier and bounced high over the fence.
“That was the first (censored) hit I ever got on my birthday. But that second one I hit (which Clemente caught) was the hardest one I hit. I’m a better hitter when I go to right, but I haven’t hit a good one to left center, where my real power is, since I played in this park.” The lost balls were belted, in order, by Willie McCovey (a 410-foot liner to right center), Willie Kirkland (a 430-foot job that bounced into the right field parking lot), Mays’ birthday hit, and then the biggest shot of them all, and that one belonged to Roberto Clemente.
Roberto’s blow traveled 410 feet, but it was hit into the treacherous cross-wind in left center. Pittsburgh manager Danny Murtaugh said afterward that he’d ‘like to see Clemente’s hit on a clear day with no wind and see how far it really would go.’”
- Mike Berger: “Shots Are Heard at Candlestick,” The San Francisco Chronicle (Saturday, May 7, 1960), p. 27. Also see freelance writer Arnold Hano's account in this section.
- There aren't many bright spots on the last-place Pirates, but one of the brightest is Roberto Clemente, the 20-year-old Puerto Rican whom the Bucs drafted from the Dodger farm at Montreal. Although he has only a working knowledge of English and speaks with some difficulty, Clemente has no trouble at all playing the National Game. Until he ran into a recent slump, during which he went through eight games with only one hit, Clemente was the leading Buc hitter. But even in his slump, he hit the ball hard, although right at some fielder. The Pittsburgh fans have fallen in love with his spectacular fielding and his deadly right arm. In the first 50 games Clemente played, he turned in ten assists, in addition to some sparkling catches in the outfield. The Forbes Field customers have singled him out as their favorite and he always draws cheers when he steps into the batters box.
Although still hitting the ball hard, Clemente claims he won't be at his best until he plays in mid-summer weather. "I no play so gut yet," he tried to explain recently. "Me like hot weather, veree hot. I no run fast cold weather. No get warm in cold. No get warm, no play gut. You see." Clemente likes Forbes Field because of the spacious playing area in right field but has developed a strong dislike for Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds since he can't fathom the way the balls ricochet off the walls there.
- Les Biederman (Pittsburgh Press Pirates beat writer, 1938-1969; TSN Pittsburgh correspondent, 1950-1969): "Clemente, Early Buc Ace, Says He’s Better in Summer: Puerto Rican Thrills Fans With Throws," The Sporting News (June 29, 1955), p. 26
- Clyde Sukeforth actually was the first man connected with the Pirates who saw Roberto Clemente when the Puerto Rican was playing for Montreal last summer. Sukeforth, a Bucco coach, was sent to Richmond, Va., last June to get a look at pitcher Joe Black of Montreal. The Pirates and Dodgers were talking about a Sid Gordon trade at the time and the Bucs asked for Black in the deal but wanted a first hand report on how he looked. But Sukey practically forgot all about Black when he caught his first glimpse of Clemente.
"I arrived at the Richmond ball park where Montreal was playing just in time to see the pre-game workout," Sukey relates. "I saw Clemente throwing from the outfield and I couldn't take my eyes off him. Later in the game he was used as a pinch-hitter and I liked his swing. He impressed me a great deal. I started asking questions and learned he was a bonus player and would be eligible for the draft. I knew then he'd be our first draft choice. In fact, I told Montreal manager Max Macon to take good care of 'our boy' and see that he didn't get hurt."
- Les Biederman: "Clemente, Early Buc Ace, Says He’s Better in Summer"
- Dick Stuart, who hit an estimated 500-foot homer over the left field scoreboard in Pittsburgh, has a rival in Roberto Clemente. The Puerto Rican outfielder of the Pirates made the Cubs sit up and take notice when he drilled a homer off southpaw Bill Henry in Chicago in the May 17 nightcap that left Wrigley Field via the left-center corner of the bleachers. Wrigley Field observers rated it at probably 500 feet. Rogers Hornsby, the Cubs batting coach, said it was the longest he ever witnessed and [manager] Bob Scheffing agreed it was No. 1 in his book.
- Les Biederman ('reporting on Clemente's historic 5/17/59 Wrigley Field HR): “Tape Measure Homer Belted by Clemente at Wrigley Field," The Sporting News (May 27, 1959)
- Roberto Clemente almost made history Saturday - missing by a foot or so of being the first right-handed batter to hit a ball to the right field roof [at Forbes Field]. Clemente's homer in the first inning landed against the facing of the right field roof, a tremendous blast as it was. The Houston bullpen reported Saturday the ball struck the right field foul screen but Bobby Bragan, who was in the bullpen, corrected the version. "The ball was within a foot or so of landing on top of the roof and perhaps two or three feet in fair territory," Bragan said. "It probably was the longest ball ever hit to that field by a right-handed batter."
- Les Biederman: "The Scoreboard: Law's Arm Better; Clemente, Skinner Clout Whoppers," The Pittsburgh Press (June 4, 1962)
- Clemente's first hit [of the game] 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.
- Les Biederman: "Clemente Shows He's Bat-Man: Hitting Mets Like Robbin' for Roberto," in The Pittsburgh Press (May 2, 1966). Also see Ron Swoboda in Opponents and Dick Young (May 2, 1966) in this section.
- But after you get Clemente to talk about some of his long drives, he always goes back to the ball he hit in Wrigley Field, Chicago. he rates this one No. 1 for distance, perhaps 600 feet. Clemente, himself, paced off the distance from the centerfield wall to the scoreboard right above and when he was shown the spot where the ball landed, he knew this was No. 1.
- Les Biederman: "The Scoreboard: Big Day For Two Pirates; Stargell Started Streak Against Roberts; Clemente's Friend Retrieves Ball; Longest Drive In Wrigley Field," The Pittsburgh Press (June 6, 1966). Also see previous Biederman quote (5/27/59), as well as Roberto Clemente (6/25/60) in Baseball-related and Ernie Banks in Opponents.
- The Bucs almost had Belinsky out of there in the first inning. Alley had the first of three hits and rode home when Staub tried in vain to make a pick-up of Clemente's pop single. The ball eluded Staub and Morgan had to chase it so Coach Alex Grammas gave Clemente the green light. Chuck Harrison relayed to John Bateman but Clemente hit him hard, knocked the ball loose and touched home plate with the second run, on a triple and an error by Harrison.
Clemente beat out a high hopper with one gone in the sixth, took third on Mazeroski’s single and showed the fans how to run the bases after Manny Mota bounced to Harrison. Bateman had the ball to tag Clemente but Clemente waited until Bateman made his move, then jumped over him and touched home plate with his hand.
- Les Biederman: “Caught Napping At Houston: Short Sleep Good Excuse for 5-4 Loss,” The Pittsburgh Press (Friday, July 28, 1967), p. 24
- One of the worst-looking great hitters I’ve seen. Everything is a line drive. There isn’t one phase of baseball in which he doesn’t excel.
- Lou Boudreau in “Clouter Clemente: Popular Buc – Rifle-Armed Flyhawk Aims at Second N.L. Bat Crown” by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (5 September 1964)
- His critics called him a hypochondriac. But if they were right, it made his achievement even more remarkable. I can testify that I saw him throw his body into outfield fences, teeth first, to make remarkable plays. If he thought he was hurt at the time, it made the plays even more remarkable.
- Buck Canel in "Roberto" by Jerry Izenberg, in The Newark Star-Ledger (December 31, 1997)
- I first visited the place June 27  for a doubleheader between the exceedingly fearsome Pirates and the exceedingly awful Phillies. Willie Stargell, who two nights before had homered into section 601, located approximately in Delaware, was in the middle of a 48-homer summer. In those earliest years, there was an enormous mock Liberty Bell mounted on the facing of the upper deck in dead center, maybe 40 feet above and behind the fence, which was and is 408 feet from the plate. Roberto Clemente lined a homer off that bell that afternoon, which was, pretty clearly, unforgettable.
- Gene Collier: "Of veterans: One spit on, the other knocked down" "The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" (September 26, 2003)
- There was that game in San Francisco, in early 1960 [May 6]. Sam Jones on the mound, and the Giants in their patented early-season rush, the rest of the league panting in their wake. Jones, and a few of his pitching buddies, had been throwing Clemente high and tight – which is a euphemism for beanballs. Finally Jones came in with a blinding fastball, the way Sad Sam used to throw ’em, and Clemente unloaded.
The wind was blowing in from left field that day, and blowing hard. This was 1960, remember, before the fences had been moved in, and nobody was hitting home runs at Candlestick. Not Mays, not Cepeda, not anybody.✱
Clemente’s bat hit the ball, and the result absolutely clubbed the crowd into awed silence for a long moment. Right into that wet whipping wind the ball carried. Right on through, hit 120 feet high in a long soaring majestic parabola that came down finally over 450 feet away. There is just no way of telling how far Clemente’s home run blast would have traveled had it not been for that wind. Suffice it to say partisan Giant fans suddenly broke their shell-shocked silence and let loose a gagantic roar. For two innings the stadium buzzed. For days the Giants talked about it. Even today if you slip up behind a Giant pitcher and suddenly whisper in his ear: "Remember the home run Clemente hit?" he’s likely to jump as high as if he’d been caught putting spit on baseballs.
- Arnold Hano (Free-lance sportswriter and biographer): "Arriba!" from Baseball Stars of 1962 (1962), edited by Ray Robinson, p. 115. Also see Giants beat writer Mike Berger's account in this section.
✱ Not to left field, that is. The wind at Candlestick most often blew in and across from left, often helping balls hit to right, while mercilessly knocking down fly balls to left. In fact, on the day in question, which happened to be Willie Mays’ birthday, not only did Mays himself hit one out, but also the Giants’ other Willies, McCovey and Kirkland, all to right or right-center.
- Brosnan made one pitch, high and inside. Clemente drove it against the light standard in left field. Jim King had backed up to make the catch but it was over his head. The ball bounced off the slanted side of the fencing and rolled along the cinder path to center field. Here came Foiles, Virdon and then Cole, heading home and making it easily. Then came Clemente into third. Bragan had his hands upstretched to hold up his outfielder. The relay was coming in from Solly Drake. But around third came Clemente and down the home path. He made it just in front of the relay from Ernie Banks. He slid, missed the plate, then reached back to rest his hand on the rubber with the ninth run in a 9 - 8 victory as the crowd of 12,431 went goofy with excitement.
- Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates made the greatest catch in the history of the Astrodome and as good a catch as he has ever made in his 17-year career to save Steve Blass’ 3-0 shutout over the Houston Astros Tuesday night. Clemente, possibly the best defensive right fielder in baseball history, made two extraordinary catches in the eighth inning with the speedy Joe Morgan on first base, one out and the Pirates leading, 1-0.
Cesar Cedeno hit a sharp liner to short right field and Clemente dashed in to make a sliding catch inches above the grass. “I lost the ball in the lights but I had to keep charging in,” Clemente said later. “I started sliding and I saw it again.”
Then Clemente was playing in the same spot in medium deep right center when Bob Watson cracked a liner toward the right field corner. Most right fielders would have played it off the wall and Morgan would have scored the tying run, but the 36-year-old took off after the ball. He caught up with it at the ball, leaped high and caught it as he crashed into the boards at full speed. He said it was above the yellow home run line which runs across the wall ten feet above the ground. A homer would have put Houston ahead 2-1.
“I don’t even think I could get the ball, but I had to try and I jump,” Clemente. Houston manager Harry Walker, who’ has been in baseball 54 years [including two and a half as Clemente’s manager from 1965 through the middle of 1967], and coach Buddy Hanken, who has been in baseball 36 years, both said it was the greatest catch they had ever seen. “I never saw one like that off the wall,” Walker said. “He hit it wide open. He never slowed up. I don’t see how he could keep the ball in his glove. The thing that makes him so great is that he does it all in a jam,” Walker said. “He’s one of the best clutch players in the game.”
- Darrell Mack (UPI): "Clemente Makes Greatest Catch in Astrodome History". The Raleigh Register (June 16, 1971), p. 22
- Well, Buzz old boy, there are a few things for which the 11,089 cash clients in Delorimier Stadium would like to say “thanks.” They thank you for Roberto Clemente, the Puerto Rican kid who should be a very popular player here. He runs well and yesterday he went three-for-four with his salary stick. They call him Momen and I don’t know why.
- Lloyd McGowan (Sportswriter with the Montreal Star, 1925-1967; here concluding an open letter to Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi): "Dixie’s ‘Homer’ Howell Makes Glorious Return: Circuit Clout Key to Bitter Opener; Bavasi Gets Good Report on Macon’s Men" The Montreal Star (April 30, 1984)
- The man getting on the tram outside the park was Harry Simmons of the International League office. The Royals had won two games from the Havana Sugar Kings 7-6 and 4-1. Homeward bound, the 4,252 customers were satisfied, chatty and cheerful. “They have a new idol, a new star,” Harry Simmons said. “Roberto Clemente.” No truer words were spoken on the weekend. Clemente’s clout over the left field wall yesterday, his first homer of the campaign, won the opening game, Hollywood style in the tenth inning.
Clemente is a player with potential greatness. He is what they call “showboat” in diamond dialect. But yesterday he delivered in very surprising style, indeed.
At the start of the season Max Macon said that he didn’t expect Clemente to prove much help to the club. He was too young and inexperienced, the manager had said. It was noted, though, that yesterday Macon sent the colored speedboy back into the second game. He smashed a double on his first try in that event. The rain-defying throng hooted derisively when they walked him intentionally on his next trip.
- Lloyd McGowan (documenting Clemente's first North American home run): "Clemente’s Arrival’ Pleasant Surprise for Macon, Royals: Roberto’s Homer, Lasorda’s Win, Revive Hopes," The Montreal Star (July 26, 1954)
- Roberto Clemente, the outfielder, is one of the Royal’s bonus babies. According to baseball regulations he must be carried by the club throughout the campaign. That, perhaps, is the only reason Clemente has remained on the payroll. Not yet 20 years old, Roberto normally would have been sent out for seasoning.
But lately he has been proving that he can play in Triple-A company. Last night in Toronto, for instance, he helped plenty when the Royals shaded the cousinly Maple Leafs 8-7. Clemente tripled and singled. When the Leafs threatened to send the contest into a knot, Clemente threw Connie Johnson out at the plate from right field.
- Lloyd McGowan: "Clemente, Surprising Rookie, Even to Manager Macon," in The Montreal Star (August 19, 1954)
- Clemente has impressed the scouts who have looked at the Royals. They regard him as an exceptionally promising young player. At the start of the season Macon said he didn’t expect Clemente to help very much. “He’s too inexperienced but we’ve got to keep him,” the manager said. Not long ago Clemente won an extra-inning contest for the Royals here with a home run over the left field fence. Few players have achieved that feat at Delorimier Stadium.
- Lloyd McGowan: "Clemente, Surprising Rookie, Even to Manager Macon"
- Billy Harris, the pride of the Maritimes, was expected to be “the story” of Sunday’s second game between the Royals and Syracuse Chiefs. Instead, the hit-guy proved to be Roberto Clemente. Roberto’s home run, his second of the season, gave the Royals a 4-3 decision and their third straight over the Chiefs [...] Eddie Roebuck pitched the last inning for the Royals and took his 18th win of the year on the Clemente clout off Lynn Lovenguth.
- Lloyd McGowan: "Royals Split With Ottawa As Mickens Hurls Shutout," The Montreal Star (September 7, 1954)
- 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.
- He soon perfected one technique that I’ve never seen another player do. A hard ground ball hit to the outfield on synthetic turf often gets through for extra bases. Roberto would run after the ball and, instead of trying to backhand it, and throw, Roberto would slide on his left side, his feet extended, just like he was sliding into a base. As soon as he’d intercepted the ball, he’d immediately pop back into a standing position and get rid of the ball. It was unbelievable!
Oh, I’ve seen Roberto make so many plays I could talk about them forever. In old Forbes Field, the right-field line went down 300 feet and then angled out quickly. Billy White of the Cardinals once batted a ball over first base fair, it hit something, and skittered into the bullpen area behind the stands. White was already rounding second on his way to an easy triple. Roberto charged over from right field, slid into the gravel, grabbed the ball, kicked off the wall with his foot, and threw a perfect strike to third base. Roberto couldn’t even see third base when he threw – he was in behind the lower stands – but the ball zoomed over the pitcher’s mound and reached third on a fly. White was out by six or seven feet. Most remarkable throw I’ve ever seen him make.
- Bob Prince in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, pp. 176-177
- Perhaps the greatest play I’ve ever seen Roberto make was in Nicaragua, in 1964 or 1965, after San Juan won the title in the Caribbean Series. They had Clemente, Cepeda, Pizarro, Conde, Pagán – it was like an all-star team! [...] But during that series, Roberto made such a fantastic play that they nearly raised a monument in his honor out in right field. Ossie Echevarria, a Panamanian, one of the fastest men in baseball, was the runner on first base. A ball was hit to right-center, nearly by the wall. Normally, any runner would make it from first to third on such a hit, especially a guy like Echevarria. Clemente cut the ball off and threw it right into Wito Conde’s glove at third – that ball looked like a jet! The runner was tagged out, and every fan in the ballpark just stood there – mouth open in amazement. They’d seen plenty of top players over the years, but never had they seen a throw like that! Three innings later, the same situation: Echevarria on first, another hit. Roberto cut it off and fired to third. Echevarria was between second and third base. When he slammed on the brakes, it looks so funny, like a character in a Walt Disney cartoon! He threw himself headlong back to second base. Incredible! It was impossible to run against Roberto’s arm.
- Rafael "Felo" Ramírez in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, pp. 123-124
- He was a perfectionist, like a great artist in any field. When he got to a new park, he inspected every inch of right field to see if the ground was hard or soft, how high the grass was. He was a fanatic about his waistline. Once he told me, ‘I have a 32-inch waist always; when I’m a bit more, I’m no good.’ In the off-season, I’ve seen him go to a field in Carolina with a sack full of beer bottle caps. He’d get some kids to throw him the tiny caps and he’d spend hours – hours! – batting. Then, for exercise, he’d bend down and pick them all up. He said that when he was done hitting those tiny caps, a real ball looked as big as a coconut!
- Rafael "Felo" Ramírez in Clemente!, p. 124
- Clemente could field the ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pennsylvania.
- [Last night] the league-leading Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Giants, 1-0, in one of the most spectacular games of baseball ever played. Vinegar Bend Mizell, whom the Giants usually wrap up and mail back to the clubhouse by mid-game, scattered five hits but darn near destroyed his defense. He sent Roberto Clemente to the hospital, and had Virdon hung up on the left field wall twice, looking like wash on an ivy clothesline.
In the sixth, Alou ripped a 420-footer that Virdon plucked from the ivy, and in the seventh, right fielder Clemente crashed into the wall to glove a Willie Mays rocket but to play no more this night. Clemente smashed face-on into the concrete base of the right-centerfield stands, at the 395-foot mark, and collapsed in the dirt warning track he had ignored in his pursuit of the certain double. It required five stitches to close a laceration on his chin and his left knee was sorely damaged. The catch had to rank with the greatest of all time, as well as [being] one of the most frightening to watch and painful to make.
- Bob Stevens: “Spectacular Game: Virdon Circles Bases on Error,” The San Francisco Chronicle (August 6, 1960), p. 27
- It wasn’t easy to do, but the Giants, inventive, imaginative and impotent when potential runs were straining at leashes all over windy Candlestick, yesterday crashed out 14 base hits and only scored one little old run as they bowed to Pittsburgh, 6-1. For seven innings, it was anybody’s ball game, on the strength of a two-out, three-run mighty mash into the left center field seats by Roberto Clemente in the first inning. In every round, from the first through the ninth, the Giants had runners on the paths, nine of them getting to second base or beyond only to drown with land in sight. Fifteen Giants were left stranded aboard the sinking ship.
[Giants starter Georges] Maranda had two down when he ran into his first trouble. Bob Skinner singled, Rocky Nelson doubled and the powerful Clemente, who had homered over the right field fence Wednesday, cracked this one, his thirteenth, over and beyond the 420-mark.
- Bob Stevens: “Clemente Homer Helps Down Giants, 6-1,” The San Francisco Chronicle (Friday, September 2, 1960)
- Roberto Clemente, a villainous Pirate from Puerto Rico, smashed a two-out, bases-loaded home run off rookie Dick LeMay in the eighth inning last night to give Pittsburgh a 6-4 victory over San Francisco, and prevent the Giants from regaining third place after they had appeared a “cinch” with only four outs to go. Clemente’s slammer, the first hit by a Pirate this year, will be remembered long by the competing varsities.
Going into the eighth, the Giants had what appeared to be a reasonably secure lead at 4-1, and Jack Sanford was working on a four-hitter. But pinch-hitter Dick Schofield doubled into the left field corner and Sanford, reaching back for just about everything he had left, struck out Bill Virdon. When the now arm-weary Giant walked Dick Groat, manager Alvin Dark came out and got him. Alvin signaled for LeMay.
The first thing Dick did was hit Bob Skinner on the seat of the pants, and the bases were loaded, and 23,177 fans accepted this in mute silence that indicated they sensed impending disaster. LeMay got dangerous Smokey Burgess to pop out and had a two-two count on Clemente, the National League’s leading hitter, when it happened.
Roberto smacked the next cast high and far into the black night, over the 410-foot sign in center-field. Willie Mays scratched his way up the screen in a vain attempt to grab the disappearing pellet that was a couple of feet too high.
- Bob Stevens: “Clemente Grand Slam Sinks S. F. – Giants Lose, 6-4,” The San Francisco Chronicle (Saturday, July 15, 1961), pp. 25-26
- While Marichal was reducing his ERA from 2.54 to 2.44, Mays and Roberto Clemente resumed their personal war for National League hitting honors. The abundantly talented Clemente singled twice, drove in the Pirates’ only run, and left the arena hitting .349. Mays didn’t have much of a chance to close ground because after he hit his first-inning home run, the Bucs’ moundsmen walked him the next three times up. However, the one hit jumped him from .344 to .347.
Ironically, the Pirates’ only run was driven in by Clemente when Marichal tried to quick-pitch him with the bases loaded in the fifth. With the count three and two, Clemente was standing in the box, but not looking at Marichal, who threw swiftly. “I was trying to smooth out the dirt around the plate,” Clemente said, “not looking, when I hear someone on the bench yell at me. I look up and see the ball, and I try to just punch at it with one hand.” He got just enough of it to drive it into the ground in front of the plate and bounce it so high that Orlando Cepeda had to wait helplessly for it to come down as the run scored and Clemente fled across the base. Clemente laughed in reminiscence. “I don’t remember anybody try to quick-pitch me since Don Bessent do it with Brooklyn. I punch it for double."
- Bob Stevens: "Juan Delivers, Bucs Fall, 2 to 1," The San Francisco Chronicle (July 2, 1964), pp. 49, 51
- They say that if you don’t get to [Pirate starter Bob] Veale early, you never will. The Giants almost did in the fourth and some say third base coach Charlie Fox suffered from a flash of conservatism. Willie had singled into left and was wild-pitched to second. Hart struck out, looking. McCovey popped to second base. Two out. Jesus Alou strung a line drive single into right field, a ball solidly hit.
Fox stopped Mays after Willie had gone 15 feet down the third base line toward home. Willie went to his knees as he applied the brakes and had to scramble back on all fours to get back to the bag. Haller struck out. If Fox had opened the gates and let Mays go, and if Willie had made it, the Giants would have won in nine innings.
But I think Clemente’s throw would have eaten him up.
- Bob Stevens: "Bob Bailey HR Beats Giants," The San Francisco Chronicle (April 13, 1965), p. 43
- The Giants, up to the point where Haller decided it all, had their best shot when Schroder walked with one out in the fifth. With the Pirate infield tucked in rather closely, Cline rolled a single past Donn Clendenon at first base and Schroder was on his way to a certain death. He challenged the best arm in the National League, the rifle that hangs from the shoulder of Roberto Clemente, and Roberto threw out Schroder into the glove of Maury Wills. The throw was so low in its flight from bare hand to glove, Cline could not risk an advance to second. Mays followed with a single that would have scored Bob had he not given Clemente the challenge.
- Bob Stevens: “Haller’s Homer Sinks Bucs,” The San Francisco Chronicle (Saturday, September 23, 1967), p. 33
- The little world of southpaw Ray Sadecki spun around rather violently last night as the Pittsburgh Pirates battered him from the mound in the sixth inning and carried on to a 7-4 victory over the Giants. Going into the fifth, Sadecki had shut out the Pirates for 22 consecutive innings. Then agony replaced the joy. A walk to Donn Clendenon and successive singles by Jerry May, Bill Mazeroski and pinch-hitter Carl Taylor rent asunder the handsome string of scoreless innings Ray had compiled against the season-long-slumped Pirates. But Sadecki still had the lead, 3-2, and although there was some alarm in the bullpen, there was not yet panic.
Roberto Clemente, however, changed that in a hurry when he led off the sixth with a horrible-looking drive far into the left field stands – his eighth homer of the year and one of the longest ever hit in that spot. It started a four-run rally and it started the stunned Sadecki toward the showers.
- Bob Stevens, “Bucs Pound Sadecki, Giants, 7-4,” The San Francisco Chronicle (Wednesday, June 12, 1968), p. 47
- The key play was one that might have been forgotten in the frenetic scrambling of runs. With men on second and third in the sixth and the the score 5-5, Willie Mays smashed a searing low line drive into right field that seemed destined to leave the park. But the amazing Roberto Clemente leaped, glove above the railing, crashed into the wire fence and came down with the ball, as 6,028 fans first groaned in anger, then stood to applaud as fine and brave a catch as an outfielder can make.
- Bob Stevens: “Giants Lose, 8-7,” The San Francisco Chronicle (Friday, June 14, 1968), p. 54
- The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Giants yesterday, 10-5, mostly on the strength of three consecutive home runs by Roberto Clemente. Clemente was incredible. Besides getting home runs number 17, 18 and 19, he added a single, scored four times and drove in four. A resume of the way he hit the homers proves how difficult it is to pitch to this man. He hit one high and away off McCormick over the right field screen in the first, he hit one low and inside over the right field screen in the third, also off McCormick, and then when Bolin challenged him with a high hard pitch down the middle, Roberto crashed it off the flagpole beyond the center field screen to come within one of tying the all-time record of home runs in a single game.
- Bob Stevens: "Clemente’s 3 Homers Beat Giants,” The San Francisco Chronicle (Thursday, August 14, 1969)
- The superb athlete, with one of the best physiques of any human being, looked like an old man when he walked, hunched over.
- Tito Stevens (San Juan Star sports editor, observing Clemente's September 1970 arrival in Puerto Rico, en route to treatment by Arturo Garcia), in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 178
- 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.
- The best damn ballplayer in the World Series – maybe in the whole world – is Roberto Clemente and, as far as I’m concerned, they can give him the automobile right now. Maybe some guys hit the ball farther, and some throw it harder, and one or two run faster, although I doubt that, but nobody puts it all together like Roberto.
In Game 3, Clemente hit a ground ball to the right side first time up. It was stamped DP. The Orioles got one. In the seventh, Clemente led off with a bouncer back to the box. Mike Cuellar knocked it down, picked it up, was aghast to see the batter streaking down the line, hurried his throw, high, and Clemente was safe. The next batter walked on four pitches, the next batter hit the ball out of the park. Mike Cuellar’s composure was shattered. The game was over.
Roberto Clemente is a 37-year-old roadrunner. He has spent 18 summers of those years playing baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has batted over .300 thirteen times, and for the last three seasons, in his decrepitude, he has hit .345, .352, .341. But everybody has numbers. Don’t mind the numbers. Just watch how Roberto Clemente runs 90 feet the next time he hits the ball back to the pitcher and ask yourself if you work at your job that way. Every time I see Roberto Clemente play ball, I think of the times I’ve heard about how ‘they’ dog it, and I want to vomit.
- Dick Young: The New York Daily News (October 13, 1971), reprinted in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, pp. 438-439
Alphabetical, by author/speaker.
- 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.
- When I’m done, I want people to say, "He’s the best." Right field belongs to Roberto Clemente, center field belongs to Willie Mays. I want left field to belong to me.
- Barry Bonds in “Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't Mean You're Wrong” by Mal Florence, in The Los Angeles Times (Saturday, September 5, 1992), p. 2
- There aren’t many guys like him anymore: five-tool guys who use all their tools. I don’t know if there’s anybody quite in his class. He’s a Roberto Clemente-type player – no batting gloves and I’m going to stand up here and you throw it and I’m going to hit it like hell and after I hit it, I’m going to run like hell until somebody tags me out.
- It was a bang-bang play at first base and I called Clemente out. And he called me a "blind son-of-a-beeeech." And I said, "You can go, Mr. Clemente." And out came Mr. Murtaugh and he said to me, "Why did you run him?" And I told him what Clemente had said. And Murtaugh said, "He couldn't have said that. He doesn’t speak any English." And I said, "Well you guys taught him some English.”
- Ken Burkhart (NL Umpire, 1957-1973) in Umpires: Classic Baseball Stories from the Men Who Made the Calls (1997) by John C. Skipper, p. 94
- My two sons, Harry and Nathaniel, my father and my father-in-law and many of my friends idolized Roberto Clemente and so did I. I called him a double superstar.
- Bing Crosby in “Bing Crosby: He Was Always a Pirate Fan” by Les Biederman, in Baseball Digest (April 1978), p. 91
- He and Roberto Clemente were the ones I paid attention to as a boy. I loved it that both of them could really drive the ball. I guess that’s what I saw myself doing some day. I loved how they’d thump the ball, how far they could hit it.
- Andres Galarraga in The New Face of Baseball: The One-Hundred-Year Rise and Triumph of Latinos in America's Favorite Sport (2003) by Tim Wendel, p.100
- Roberto Clemente never argued. He didn’t need umpires. He just needed one pitch – the best right field hitter I ever saw. Robby was strong all over. He hit so many line drives in the infield he’s lucky he didn’t kill anybody.
- Tom Gorman (NL umpire, 1951-1976) in Three and Two! The Autobiography of Tom Gorman, the Great Major League Umpire (1979) by Gorman, with Jerome Holtzman, p. 98
- The bigger the guy, the less he argues. You never heard a word out of Stan Musial, Willie Mays or Roberto Clemente. They never tried to make you look bad.
- Tom Gorman in The McFarland Baseball Quotations Dictionary (2000); David H. Nathan, editor; p. 250
- Junior: I started out as a pitcher and first baseman. I went to the outfield when I was 14 and I had to learn to play center. Dad didn’t help me. He just told me ‘Go, get ’em.’ Willie [Stargell, then a coach with Atlanta] taught me footwork, positioning, how to get a jump, how to read a ball.
Senior: And I learned right along with Junior. I could never tell Junior anything because we didn’t know exactly what to do. Coming up with Cinci, they did not coach us, they just told us, "Go catch it; if you can’t catch it, pick it up and hit the cutoff man with your throw." And Stargell knew his stuff. He had learned outfield from Roberto Clemente. Junior was 17 and I was 36, and there we were taking instruction together.
- [One of my] favorite players to watch was Roberto Clemente. It was like watching a wild bull turned loose. He was the only player who ever galloped.
- Doug Harvey (NL umpire, 1962-1992) in “Umpire Reviews Highlights of 31-Year Career in N.L.” by Buster Olney, in Baseball Digest (April 1993), p. 74
- I used to go to Forbes Field as a kid and sit in right field, right behind him, just to watch him throw. He would handcuff the infielders on a throw from right field. Don Hoak – they called him ‘The Tiger’ – played third base for the Pirates, and you could almost see fear in his eyes on one of Clemente’s throws. Clemente had the greatest velocity, but he also had accuracy. Some of the guys coming up now are great throwers, but they have no clue as to where it’s going.
- Art Howe in “The New Arms Race” by Dennis Tuttle, in Inside Sports (August 1997), p. 36
- He was the first right fielder that I remember that would literally take balls off the right field wall in Forbes Field – it was only three hundred feet down the line – and he’d take the ball off the wall and without even looking, just spin around and throw the ball in behind the runner coming around first base. He’d get the guy going back to first before he could even stop and turn around. Maybe only one time did a runner keep going to second off him, anticipating that he was going to throw behind him. He was just uncanny; those guys wouldn’t even make a turn at first base when they’d hit a ball off the screen in right or off the wall.
- Art Howe in "The Arm," from Roberto Clemente: The Greatest (1998) by Bruce Markusen, p. 77
- Here you see him swinging against Jon Matlack on September 30, 1972. The swing resulted in his 3,000th hit, a double to [left] center and the last hit of his career. This is kind of unfortunate, since looking at it now, it’s obvious that it’s not going to be a good swing. I think he’s been fooled by the ball. I think he was probably looking inside and the ball turned out to be away. Consequently, he’s not well balanced and is squatting down a bit. I think he may have [tried to] check this swing but was unable to stop it. Nevertheless, it’s a tribute to his great body control that he still hit it the way he did. It’s the kind of control you often find with great athletes, men who combine strength with flexibility to create a smooth, graceful motion. I think you find that players of Clemente’s caliber also tend to use good mechanics almost naturally, without really having to think much about them.
Clemente, for example, stood off the plate, yet he still coped effectively with the ball outside. He had excellent arm extension and, in fact, was one of the first players I noticed taking his top hand off the bat. Nor did Clemente try to pull the ball. In fact, I think he made a conscious effort to hit the ball the other way. He counted a double to right center the same as a double down the right field line, and I think he was proud of the fact that he could do both. All good hitters use the whole field.
- Charlie Lau in The Art of Hitting (1980, 1986) by Lau with Alfred Glossbrenner, p. 171
- The people that knew Clemente always said, "If you want to wear that number, this is the way you do things." I was playing in 1978 in Arecibo and Jack McKeon was my manager. I didn’t run hard on a ground ball. One-hopper to short, I didn’t bust my tail. I went to first base and instead of taking my helmet, the first base coach said, "You’re wanted in the dugout." Jack says to me, "It seems you’re tired. You sit here." Then after a while he said to me, "If you’re going to play in the big leagues and wear that number, you always go hard."
- Candy Maldonado in "The late Roberto Clemente remains symbol of Latin baseball" by T.J. Quinn, in The New York Daily News (September 21, 2005)
- He had such a flair. He had such a grace. He was a gentleman. I remember a royal essence about him. He was just so graceful. I wouldn’t dare say that I had an arm like Clemente, [but] I used to catch like Roberto. I stepped into the box like Roberto. Tried to be like Roberto. He was my baseball hero. He was the first hero I had. Big time. I even have an autographed Roberto Clemente baseball at home.
- Joe Namath in "He’s One of a Kind: In football, as well as in life, Joe Namath stands alone" by Glenn Miller, in The Fort Myers News-Press (October 9, 2005)
- I told him: "Estudie Espanol en la escuela para dos anos. Para afuera. (I studied Spanish in school for two years. Take a hike.)" The next time Clemente saw me, he said: "Hey, Pablito, buena gente. (Little Paul, you’re good people.)" And he warned all the other Latin players that I could speak Spanish.
- I don’t know how a man can be running away from the ball and hit it into the upper deck. I shudder to think what he would do if he stood at the plate on every pitch and defied the pitcher to pitch to him. Clemente’s a one-man show as far as I’m concerned. He’s not only the best today; he’s one of the best that’s ever played baseball. He’s got power, and he’s so fast that any bouncing ball is a potential base hit. He can hit the ball into the upper deck in anybody’s ballpark – right field or left field. He’s got one of the strongest and most accurate throwing arms I’ve ever seen. He can throw from the most awkward and seemingly impossible positions. He can throw people out at second base on balls that would be triples to any other right fielder. And the thing about this fellow is that he actually breaks many of the fundamental rules of hitting. Many times he sticks his fanny out – but he still manages to hit the ball with authority. To me he is one of the most amazing athletes of all time.
- Paul Richards (Atlanta Braves General Manager, 1966-1972)✱ in "The General Managers Pick: Baseball’s Best Player… It’s Roberto Clemente" by Joe Falls, in Sport (March 1968).
✱ In the interests of not embarrassing his own player, Hank Aaron, Richards requested that both his vote and comments remain anonymous. Ostensibly honoring that request, the article’s author nonetheless inadvertently ‘outed’ Richards by revealing both the source of every other Clemente vote and the preference of every other National League GM.
- 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.
- On a single, Andruw rounded first base and put on the brakes to get back to the bag, but he never lost his balance. I hadn’t seen anybody do it that gracefully since I once saw Roberto Clemente do it against the Phillies in old Shibe Park years ago.
- No one drives himself like Clemente. I've never seen a more intense person. If Clemente were a football player, he'd make Ray Nitschke look like a pussycat.
- Thomas Tutko (clinical psychologist who worked with the Pirates before the 1968 season) in "The Strain of Being Roberto Clemente: Baseball's Frustrated Superstar," Life (May 24, 1968), p. 70
- As a college student, I went to an Astros game in 1970. The Pirates had clinched the division, so it was a meaningless game.✱ I’m sitting down the right field line, and an Astro hits a line drive that’s slicing away from the Pirates right fielder, the great Roberto Clemente. The ball is slicing, slicing, slicing, and suddenly out of nowhere, like a missile tracking on radar, there’s Clemente, jumping and crashing against the fence to make the catch. It’s one of those moments like when a basketball gets wedged between the rim and the backboard: for an instant, time stands still. It’s like, “What did I just see?”
I never thought about that moment again until years later. I was stuck in an airport, reading an article by a former Pirates beat writer about Clemente about Clemente: his leadership, his great World Series, how he always delivered in big games. Then the writer starts describing the greatest catch he had ever seen Clemente make, and I realized he was talking about that game, that catch. Suddenly I was sharing a moment – almost a secret with someone I’d never met, someone I may have nothing in common with. I take that back: We’re both baseball fans.
- Robert Wuhl: "Sometimes Greed is Good," Inside Sports (August 1997), p. 80
✱ In fact, the play occurred on June 15, 1971, roughly three months before Pittsburgh clinched the NL
Eastern Division, en route to the 1971 World Championship; also, see Joe Morgan in Opponents.
- One of my favorite memories of Roberto is that year when Santurce, with Clemente and Mays, went to Caracas, Venezuela, to play in the Caribbean Series – representing Puerto Rico against Cuba, Panama, and the host country. There were many major leaguers on the rosters. In the deciding game, Clemente was on first in the final inning and Mays hits one to right, where the outfielder bobbled the ball for just a second. Clemente took off like a shot the moment that Mays connected and flew around third, although the coach tried to stop him. Gus Triandos was the catcher for the other team. The ball arrived at the same time as Clemente slid, spikes in the air, and we won the game.
That exhibition of Clemente’s great speed and spirit was one of the most emotional moments in my life. He made many fine plays in the United States, but to win a game for Puerto Rico for our club in the Caribbean Series was a great moment. In fact, not long ago in Pittsburgh someone asked Clemente if he had ever played on a team with the slugging power of the 1971 Pirates. He said yes – the Santurce Crabbers, when they won the Caribbean Series!
- Pedrín Zorilla (longtime owner of the Santurce Crabbers, who signed Clemente to his first professional contract in 1952) in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, pp. 46-47
- He used to do things there that I thought no outfielder could possibly do. I am, you see, no baby. I know this game and I know the people who play it and I have seen them all ... all of them. But I tell you as I look there where once he wore our Santurce uniform, I tell you that when they hit that line drive ... you know that Roberto would of course have to be playing over toward center for a right-handed batter. And when the right-handed hitter put the ball toward the foul line, then Roberto would have to turn his back and sprint in the wrong direction. This is, you see, a most difficult play, but all the good ones make it, so you cannot build a memory upon the fact that he could turn and run and catch the ball.
But what followed, ah, my friend, what followed. Ah, what followed was that as soon as you heard the sound of that baseball sticking in the pocket of the glove, you knew that Roberto would make this incredible pivot and sometimes without even looking he would throw the ball and heaven help the man on third base who thought he could then tag up and run home after such a play. Heaven help him, my friend, because his legs couldn’t. Roberto would throw him out by three feet. I am no child. I get older. I have seen them all. Yes, DiMaggio could make this play and maybe one or two others. That’s all. Upon a sight like this one can build a memory that almost measures up to the greatness that was Clemente.
- Pedrín Zorilla in Great Latin Sports Figures: The Proud People (1976) by Jerry Izenberg, pp. 8-9
Ó===As a person=== Alphabetical, by author/speaker.
- He was one of the most dignified human beings I ever met, but he also could be very funny. Last year, we went to have breakfast in San Francisco. There was an elderly black woman in the restaurant who keeps looking at Clemente. Finally she comes over and says, "Mr. Blue, can I have your autograph?" "I’m sorry," he says, "but I’m not Vida Blue." "Oh!" she says and walks away. Roberto looks at me, shrugs his shoulders and says with a smile, "See? That’s fame and fortune for you."
The time I’ll never forget is when we went to a Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia. There were three of us – Roberto Clemente from Puerto Rico, Eddie Acosta of Panama, and me, a Hungarian. A real old Chinese waiter comes over. Roberto says to him, ‘We want sweet and sour pork, duck almond, fried rice, wonton soup – but we don’t want individual servings. We want it all in big dishes so we can serve ourselves." The old Chinese waiter looks at me, a real puzzled look on his face. So there we are – a Panamanian, a Hungaraian, a Puerto Rican, and a Chinaman. Roberto is laughing. He stands up and says real loud: "For Heaven’s sake, doesn’t anyone speak English in this joint?"
- Les Banos (Pirates official photographer and frequent dinner companion of Clemente during his final few years) in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 221
- Everybody knows what kind of player Bobby was, but I’ll miss him most as a man. He was probably the best friend I ever had in this game. On the buses and planes, in the clubhouse, he was a joy to be around, so happy all the time, always looking for something to laugh about. He had something going on with each player. It’s kind of unique in baseball when a person – especially a superstar like him – can get along so well with twenty-five different players. I’ve never heard anybody talk about Clemente being aloof. Any time a guy would be going bad – say, Oliver or Cash – next day you’d see Clemente sitting by his locker, talkin’ to him. Nobody else around – just real quiet talk. Players on other teams used to come to Clemente and ask, "What am I doing wrong?" He’d tell ’em no matter what it cost our club – that guy could beat us a ball game – but none of our players felt bad when he tried to help somebody. That’s the way he was.
- Tony Bartirome in "C'mon Dago–," from Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, pp. 140-141
- How many people just shit on him because he was so nice? He couldn’t refuse anybody. He used to rub down some of the players. At first he thought I’d mind, but I’d say, "No, you know more about it than I do!" Which he did. He studied about the spine, the muscles in the back. He was gonna open a clinic, and he told me, "I want you to come down and work for me in the winter time." I’d say, "Bobby, please be careful. There's a lot of people who’ll come to you; you’ll work on ‘em and they’ll claim that you hurt ‘em. There’s a lot of bad people in the world." He would never believe that! He couldn’t believe that anyone would try to deliberately hurt him. He’d kid me, "Aw, don’t worry – you dagos, you’re always suspicious."
- Tony Bartirome in "C'mon Dago–," from Clemente!, pp. 143-144
- I remember once Clemente called a meeting in the clubhouse. Back then, only the top three or four players on the team were ever offered any money – $300 or $400 – to make any appearances or do any promotions. Now they all participate. Clemente proposed that everybody on the team would share – that all the money would be put in a pot to be divided at the end of the season. All the players and coaches would participate, and so would the trainer and the clubhouse man. Clemente said it wasn’t fair that only a few got the extra money. But we had one player on that team who’d been an All-Star with another team. He said everyone should keep his own money – that it should be every man for himself. And that was the end of that idea. But Clemente always wanted to share. He was always thinking about his teammates.
- Tony Bartirome in Remember Roberto: Clemente Recalled by Teammates, Family, Friends and Fans (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 94
- He was very leary of the media. He was misquoted a lot of times, and they made fun of the way he spoke. They made him sound like one of those Indians in the movies. He was a proud man and this really got to him. He had fierce pride. He was proud of being a Puerto Rican. He was proud that he served in the military service here. He was proud that he was in the Marine Corps. He trained at Parris Island in South Carolina. That was the toughest kind of training soldiers had to go through.
I remember this one time he was late getting to the dressing room when we were playing in San Francisco. He walks to his locker, and we tell him he better hurry up and get in uniform. He said something about how fast a guy could get dressed – something he had learned in the Marine Corps. He said, ‘I’ll be undressed and dressed in three minutes.’ I bet him he couldn’t do it. And I put the clock on him. That sonofagun was in full uniform in less than three minutes. A lot of times he’d run out onto the field with his pants unbuttoned, or his glove on top of his head as he pulled at his belt. And he’d be hollering, ‘Where’s my glove? Where’s my glove?’ I’m telling you – he was a funny, funny man.
- Tony Bartirome in Remember Roberto, p. 94
- We became quite friendly, and he even began to ask my advice, informally, on legal matters. The next year, 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, baseball buff, and – from 1968 on – close friend of Clemente) in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 208
- I saw him on the field and I said, "Tommy, why did you tell that story?" He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "One: Clemente didn’t hang out with you. Second: Clemente speaks English. There’s some Puerto Ricans who speak English."
No, Clemente did speak English. Cepeda speaks English. Puerto Rico, you know, is part of the United States. So, over there, youngsters do have the privilege of taking English in classrooms. He wouldn’t give a speech like Shakespeare, but he knew how to order breakfast and eggs. He knew how to say, "It’s a good day," "Let’s play," or "Why I don’t play?" He could say, "Let’s go to the movies."
I played with guys – like when Sandy got on the Dodgers, he knew maybe twenty words of English. That’s why they roomed with me, because I spoke a little Spanish from playing in Cuba. But that wasn’t the case with Clemente. Clemente was able to communicate with those he wanted to communicate with.
- Chico Fernandez, Roberto and myself, the three of us palled around. We went out to eat, we went to the movies together, we laughed and we joked. Oh yeah, he was funny. The three of us, we just laughed all the time. See, we joked amongst ourselves.
Some people think because you’re colored, they’ve got the stereotype that we’re like those guys in the old days – always cracking jokes. I’m not a joke cracker. Clemente wasn’t either, but we could say things now and then that were funny and we could ad lib things.
- Joe Black in "Hidden in Montreal," from Roberto Clemente: The Great One (1998) by Bruce Markusen, p. 22
- The sad part is Pittsburgh had him so long and never really understood him.
- Steve Blass in Roberto Clemente (1973) by Ira Miller, p. 9
- Robby was one of the most decent men I ever met, yet somehow no one seemed to understand him. Maybe there was a language barrier. I don’t know. I do know he was absolutely selfless, not a distant person. When he talked about his physical problems, the writers made jokes, but what he was trying to say was that blacks and Latins play hurt, too. The writers didn’t get that. They said he was a hypochondriac. But I never knew a Pirate player who felt Clemente wouldn’t play with an injury unless it was so severe he simply couldn’t play. It was horrible when writers started coming in the clubhouse saying, "I wonder what’s going to be wrong with him today?" That was unfair – totally unfair. They always seemed to react to his words instead of the thought he was trying to convey – I guess it was easier than getting to know him.
- Steve Blass in “A Teammate Remembers Roberto Clemente” by Blass, as told to Phil Musick, in Sport (April 1973), p. 90
- He reacted more to rookies than to guys who had been around for awhile, maybe because he would’ve liked someone to have helped him when he was a rookie. Clemente had known the same problems – the new language, getting acclimated to the big league atmosphere, how to deal with the media, where to eat on the road, how to dress. Sangy got picked off twice in one game. Robby came into the clubhouse, got a big piece of cardboard and put two sticks through it. He told Sangy to pretend it was a machine that he would use to take control of Sangy when he got on base. We laughed for 20 minutes, but it made Sangy realize he didn’t have to stick his head in his locker if he made a costly mistake in a game, that we were all in this thing together. That’s a valuable lesson and it could’ve saved Sangy a couple of years anxiety because he learned right away that no teammate holds a player completely responsible for losing a game.
- Steve Blass in “A Teammate Remembers Roberto Clemente,” p. 91
- We sometimes got pretty light-hearted, and when Robby got involved was always a crowd. You knew something really funny was happening. But I never saw anybody so much aware of who came in that clubhouse door. He was concerned that if media people were there, it could be taken out of context and the feeling between the players would be lost. But when we were alone, oh gee – he and Tony would agitate each other back and forth and then Giusti would come in and they’d get going about the Puerto Ricans versus the Italians – screaming – and just loving every minute of it. But despite all the kidding, Roberto always insisted that you must never lose your dignity. ‘Tony,’ he’d say, ‘lose everything else, but never lose your dignity.’ He’d say it in a half-kidding tone, but you knew he meant it.
- Steve Blass in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 159
- He was different … he wasn’t like the rest the rest of us. He took professionalism to a higher degree. After a game, we all wanted to go out for a beer. He wouldn’t go. He was compelled by baseball.
- Steve Blass in Reflections of Roberto (1994) by Phil Musick, p. 112
- My thoughts about Roberto are not so much about the ballplayer, but more of the man I respected as a teammate and an opponent for nine years. The quality of his play was directly indicative of his values. He gave all he had every game. He was kind and helpful to all of us younger players. He had a desire to be appreciated and drove himself to higher levels of performance than others. He recognized the need to excel in all phases of the game, and he encouraged everyone to do the same.
One real important thing – which probably cost him his life – was that if he thought he was right to do something, he did it with all he had in him regardless of the risks or what anyone else thought. He was a hero on and off the diamond.
- Ronnie Brand (Pirates catcher, 1963; Houston Astros, 1965-1968; Montreal Expos, 1969-1971) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 351
- Elroy Face and all those different guys – they’re partying types. And if they're the partying type, would you expect a man who was a sedentary individual to get involved? No. 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 (teammate, 1959-1961) in "Silver Bats," from 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.
- Joe Christopher in "the Irishman Returns," from Roberto Clemente: The Great One (1998) by Bruce Markusen, p. 196
- Bobby cared about other people too. One day, when I was no longer with the Pirates as a bullpen catcher, I went down to the visiting clubhouse at Crosley Field when the Pirates were in Cincinnati to play the Reds on a getaway day. Bobby was sitting at his locker and I went over to see him. As we were talking, I was moving my neck around so he asked me what was the matter. I told him that my neck hurt because of an old baseball injury. In a 1958 spring training intrasquad game, I had cracked the third cervical vertebra in my neck when I had a collision with another player trying to catch a popup.
Bobby told me to go take a shower with the water as hot as I could stand it. I did that and when I came out of the shower beet red all over, he had me lie on the trainer’s table for a massage. With his very strong hands, he kneaded the muscles in my neck and back and it felt wonderful. Afterwards, he told me to stand up with my back to him. He took two towels, wrapped them together into a cylindrical shape, placed them along my spine, and grabbed me in a bear hug. Then – in something similar to the Heimlich maneuver – he bent backward, pulled me toward him, lifted me off the ground, and sort of bounced me up and down for a moment. As he did, I heard a sound like a xylophone and felt my spine go into perfect alignment. He put me down and said, ‘You’ll feel better tomorrow.’ Heck, I felt better already.
But the thing that really impressed me was that the next night I got a call from the visitors’ clubhouse in St. Louis. It was Bobby, and he wanted to know if my back was better. That was the act of a compassionate man, and I didn’t need the crash that ended his life to know that about Bobby.
- Bob Enoch (Pirates bullpen catcher, 1970) in Tales From the Ballpark: More of the Greatest True Baseball Stories Ever Told (1999) by Mike Shannon, p. 39
- If I went along with all the praise he gets, I’d be a hypocrite. Because it’s not my true feelings. I didn’t look up to him as a person. He was a great ballplayer, when he wanted to play, but as a person – from my point of view – he wasn’t my kind of guy. I’ll probably get shot for that, but that’s the way I feel.
- Elroy Face (Teammate, 1955-1968) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 156
- I said, ‘Better him than me,’ and rolled over and went back to sleep.
- Elroy Face (recalling his reaction to the news of Clemente's death) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 160
- There wasn’t too much contact with Clemente off the field; just at the ballpark. He was pretty much by himself, a loner. We were never close… He didn’t hang around with us much. He was always with Earl Francis, or Gene Baker or Joe Christopher. He had other friends. There were always people from Puerto Rico or other Latin countries wherever we traveled. He was just more of a loner.
- Elroy Face in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 164
- Roberto’s body didn't appear because God wanted us to remember him as he was: that handsome negro, so strong, so beautiful within and without.
- Ruth Fernández in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 250
- Everybody looked rumpled next to Roberto Clemente.
- Ruth Fernández in “Documentary Is True” by Kay McFadden, in The Seattle Times (Friday, March 6, 1998)
- He was my middle man if I needed help, if there was a problem between management and one of the players. A lot of people thought he was moody and temperamental, but he wasn’t. He was like a kid in many ways. He had that mischievous look. I always felt he wanted to be a practical joker but that he felt he had to be restrained, the proper leader. He was a god to the Latin-American players. They’d congregate around him in the dining room. If he laughed, they laughed. If he frowned, they frowned. And he was always making appearances you wouldn’t find out about until several days later. He’d go to a hospital or an orphanage and no one would know it. I’m not sure he confided in anyone except his wife.
- John Fitzpatrick (Pirates' traveling secretary, 1969-1975) in "Clemente Remembered" by Ross Newhan, in The Los Angeles Times (9 March 1973)
- In most cases I wouldn’t have felt compelled to provide a reason for knocking a batter down, but somehow Clemente brought out my soft side. It was virtually impossible to ignore him because he was always talking. Usually, it was to complain about how much his back or his shoulder or some other damn thing was hurting him. "Oh, my back," he would say, "ees keeling me." He would go on and on until you had no choice but to say, "Clemente, shut the fuck up!" Then he would step in the batter’s box and swing so hard that the flagsticks on top of the stadium would bend. He was so full of shit that you had to laugh, and you couldn’t help liking the guy.
- Bob Gibson in Stranger to the Game: The Autobiography of Bob Gibson (1994) by Gibson, with Lonnie Wheeler, p. 115
- He came over to me and talked to me for about ten or fifteen minutes. He talked about life in general, about family, and he tried to bring out the belief that baseball wasn’t the end all in our lives – that we had to make sure we kept things in balance. He wanted to make sure you kept them in the right order; like family and your wife. He wanted us to remember that these were the most important things. He didn't have to come over and talk to me, but he did.
- He always complained about pains in his stomach. He’d come to the plate and I could see he was in pain and I’d say, "Robby, what’s wrong?" And he’d say, "Tom, I don’t feel too good." But he didn’t like to go to the doctor – he didn’t believe in doctors.
- Tom Gorman (NL umpire, 1951-1976) in Three and Two!, p. 98
- I was crushed. You don’t want to drag your career out. You want to contribute, especially with a club like this one. It was a dumb pitch. I felt terrible. Everyone got dressed quickly – I guess they wanted to leave me with my misery. But Clemente came over and talked to me. All he did was spend 20 minutes holding my hand because he knew I was suffering. He’s a guy who’d been in baseball for so long, and he had three hits that night, and he came over to help. It’s the warmest thing anyone’s ever done for me in baseball.
- Bobby clearly was a good person. What he did to help those people in Nicaragua was typical of Bobby. Down deep, he was a very good person. He wanted to help people.
He never felt he got his just due from the news media, and he was always trying to prove himself. But he was kinda bashful, at first, and didn’t like to talk too much. Later, he’d give the news guys a rough time a lot, hollering at them as soon as they identified themselves or started to ask him questions. It took him a long time to get the language down where he felt confident to be interviewed.
When Bobby wanted to be, he could be most entertaining on the bus. Every so often, he’d get all wound up and he’d be entertaining everyone on the bus. Most of the people, though, don’t know that Bobby Clemente existed.
- Dick Groat (Teammate, 1955-1963) in Remember Roberto: Clemente Recalled by Teammates, Family, Friends and Fans (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 226
- The first time the Pirates came to Shea, I went directly to Clemente’s locker. I asked, “Did you get my letter?” He got my letter. “Why didn’t you write me and tell me what was horse_ _ _ _?” I asked. “I don’t read the story,” he said. “You mean you wrote me a nasty letter objecting to a column you had never read?” “A friend call me and tell me what you write about me,” he said. “I’m angry so I sit down and write to you when I’m mad.” “Now I’m mad,” I said. “Don’t ever talk to me again or complain again until you’ve read that column.”
Weeks passed. I had forgotten the incident completely when I next saw Clemente. “I call my friend and tell him he is horse_ _ _ _,” Roberto said. For the moment, I didn’t understand. Roberto recognized that. “You remember you tell me I have to read your story before I talk to you and complain?” he said. “I read the story I find out that you did not write what my friend said. So now I apologize to you for the letter and I tell my friend he is no longer my friend because he does not tell me the truth.”
It was a rare moment in my years in sports; a player admitting that may have been wrong. Clemente didn’t need me but he felt it incumbent upon himself to tell me that he had done me an injustice.
- Milton Gross (New York Post columnist, 1937-1973): "A New Yorker’s View of Roberto," The Pittsburgh Press (Friday, January 5, 1973), p. 31
- I mentioned to him that there was a camera crew outside, and mentioned the person’s name and the station. I was wondering if Roberto would be agreeable to doing an interview with this particular sports director. And at that, Roberto unleashed a barrage of English and Spanish – and I don’t know what all – in which he was obviously indicating his displeasure with this particular individual. Unknown to me, they had had some problems over the years. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After this outburst, Roberto sort of settled down. He looked at me and said, "Would it help you if I do this interview?" I said, "Well, yes, I guess it would. This is my first day on the job. I don’t know you and I don’t know him and I’m trying to get off on the right foot." And Roberto said, "OK, for you, I will do it." And he got dressed and went out and talked to the individual for the first time, apparently, in several years. He did it as a favor to me – someone he had only met a few moments before. I just never forgot that. I don’t think you would find many athletes who would have been so solicitous and so understanding, and go out of their way as he did to accommodate me that day. We went on to become very good friends, but I never forgot that gesture on his part. It was just an indication of the type of person that he was.
- BIll Guilfoile (Pirates' public relations director, 1970-1978) in "The Irishman Returns", from Roberto Clemente: The Great One (1998) by Bruce Markusen, pp. 190-191
- He called me ‘Hully’ – that’s my nickname. Sometimes he’d call me John, and I’d say, "Well now, don’t get too personal there, Herschel." For some reason Roberto kidded me about being a Russian Jew, even though I’m not, and then he’d claim he was Jewish too! So then I’d call him Herschel, and he loved it. I always told him that someday I wanted to buy a home, and he’d say, "Stick with me, Hully, and I’ll put money in your pocket." Then he’d kid around and say, "We’re gonna put some ham in that refrigerator, no more plain baloney." Sure enough, when we won the 1971 World Series, I got a full share of the winnings and right away I put $10,000 down on a house. He was so tickled about me getting the house. I remember, during that Series, when he was at bat, I’d yell, "C’mon, you sonofabitch! C’mon Herschel, hit one for me!"
- John Hallahan (Pirates equipment manager, 1957-1991) in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 195
- I do remember my first impressions. It was the same impression I always had of Clemente. He was a very commanding man – commanding in manner of style and appearance. Even in the way he moved, he was commanding. And I was struck immediately with the fact that he had none of the sort of reticence that ballplayers are apt to have when talking to the commissioner – not at all. He spoke to the commissioner and everybody else as equals – that’s the way he was. And I don’t say that in any sense critically. It was refreshing and it was all done with excellent style. It was his commanding character that I will always remember about him as vividly today, all these years after his death, as at the beginning – commanding of everybody, particularly the ballplayers around him. He was the leader and nobody dared to be performing at less than his best as long as Clemente was looking.
- In professional sports, there is a tendency to see something that appears less than maximum effort. That is the legacy which I think he would have wanted to leave primarily – as a great professional who gave everything. Beyond that, I’m sure he would want to leave the legacy that there is an obligation, a further obligation, to be a role model. We hadn’t used that phrase in talking, but he was a marvelous role model – not only as a player but also as a human being and what he did for people. You could not find a greater athlete in terms of what he stood for and the impact he had on people than Clemente.
- Bowie Kuhn in "The Legacy" from Roberto Clemente: The Great One, p. 352
- For the two years I was there, it was hard to get close to Clemente. He would be invited to parties after games, but never attended.✱ But it’s not like he disliked his teammates. And he showed a good sense of humor in the clubhouse – hiding your shoes or playing other practical jokes. Joe Christopher was one of his targets. But Joe was kind of easy to egg on.
For the time I was there, Clemente and Murtaugh got along very well. Of course, I was there at a very good time – in 1960 when we won the Series. Everybody got along then. There might have been a few harsh words between players once in a while, but no major problems.
- Clem Labine (Teammate, 1960-1961) in That Was Part of Baseball Then: Interviews With 24 Former Major League Baseball Players, Coaches & Managers (2002) by Victor Debs, Jr., p.162
✱ On the subject of Clemente's attitude toward parties, see first Joe Christopher quote (above) and Al McBean, below.
- For a long time he was a loner. People would ask, "Why doesn’t he go out with the rest of you?" Well, Clemente doesn’t go out, period. He watches TV, orders room service, sleeps. He enjoys that; that’s the type of guy he is. This year he’s changed some. We took him to a Chinese restaurant in Chicago, and he looked so happy. I think he was surprised he had such a good time. I said, "Momen, you have to do this more often." But he’s the kind of guy who’ll go out when he wants to... you can’t influence him. He’s too independent.
- Al McBean (Teammate, 1961-1968), interviewed in April 1967; reproduced in "The Leader," from Who Was Roberto: A Biography of Roberto Clemente (1974) by Phil Musick, p. 217
- One thing stood out – through all the outbursts and the arguments and the controversies, it was almost impossible not to like the guy. I can remember the first time as a rookie that I had to interview him. He was polite and pleasant, as though he sensed my anxiety and was trying to make it easier for me. If the question was particularly penetrating, he might sit there for a moment with that quizzical, little-boy look on his face. But always there was an answer, and always it came from the heart.
- Ira Miller (UPI sportswriter; author of the first posthumous Clemente biography) in Who Was Roberto: A Biography of Roberto Clemente (1974) by Phil Musick, p. 133
- 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
- Surgery is almost never indicated, Clemente argues – an opinion which may dismay his colleagues in the fellows of the American College of Surgery. But, of course, the march of medicine is no respecter of consulting fees. His clinic is strictly for the public weal. "I do not need the money – I am set for life. This is something I want to do to help humankind."
The mark of a great physician is the confidence he can inspire in the patient. Clemente is as equal to this as Pasteur. “When I come to Los Angeles, I can make anyone you bring to me feel good with one treatment to the spine. I can even make you feel good.” If he can do that, he should go from the MVP to the Nobel Prize. The last fellow able to do that was the inventor of the martini. Still, you have to admit, not many people can handle curvature of the spine as well as curvature of the pitch.
- The side of Roberto that everybody missed was that he was a kind man. For all the deadpan (he rarely smiled), bluster and complaints (he never talked, he yelled), he was always available. God is getting an earful someplace today because Roberto is sure he was quick-pitched. The thing I like best is, you never heard of him doing a disreputable thing. The only thing Roberto slipped into his room at night was a book. You never found him having breakfast with a niece from Boston. The only thing he drank out of a bottle was patent medicine.
I can’t believe he won’t come walking out of a clearing, bent over and holding his back and complaining that the swim was bad for his sciatica. If you see someone answering that description, throw him a bad pitch down around the ankles outside and, if he hits it screaming down the right field line, it can only be Clemente, and you’ll know reports of his condition have been grossly exaggerated once again.
- Jim Murray: "Clemente: You Had to Be There to Disbelieve Him," The Los Angeles Times (Friday, January 3, 1973), p. D1
- It’s sad, but there’s a myth in baseball that certain classes of players are more susceptible to fits of ‘dogging’ than others. This dread ballplayers’ palsy is widely believed to affect blacks more than whites, and Latins more than either. I have never seen anything to substantiate it, but the superstition is present in almost every locker room. For instance, Roberto Clemente did have a very capricious set of vertebral discs. He could play them for you like castanets – and would, on demand. But the grand old game was skeptical. “How can you bat .351 with a bad back?” the dugouts scoff.
The point is Hemingway had to write best sellers standing up because of a bad back. John Kennedy had to run the country wearing a corset. But no one believed you could bat .351 with a bad back. Actually, Clemente himself fell into the trap one night when, speaking of Sandy Koufax’s reported sore arm, he asked a reporter irritably, “How can you strike out 15 batters a night with a sore arm?” Said the reporter gently, “Roberto, how can you bat .351 with a sore back?” Roberto got the point.
- Jim Murray: “It Was All in His Head,” The Los Angeles Times (Friday, August 8,1980), p. D1
- I’ve often said he was the greatest player ballplayer I ever saw. I think it was typical of Roberto – a man who gave so much of himself to become an outstanding athlete – to give all of himself in an effort to help others less fortunate than himself. It was quite an honor to manage in the major leagues, bit it was a double honor to manage a superstar like Roberto … and he was a super star. He made his mark not only on baseball, but on everybody he touched.
- Danny Murtaugh in “He Was a Friend – Galbreath: Buc Owner Mourns Clemente’s Death” by United Press International, in The Pittsburgh Press (Jan. 2, 1973), p.25
- Roberto Clemente, to me, was a compassionate man. He was a man of two faces. In the clubhouse, he was the center of all the funny stories. He’d hold court in front of his locker and there was always gaiety and laughter. When the time came for the game, Roberto would put on his other face – the disturbed face he always wore when he was concentrating completely on winning a baseball game. That’s why I say the fans never knew the real Roberto Clemente.
- Danny Murtaugh in "Roberto Clemente 'was the best'" by Milton Richman, in The Boca Raton News (Friday, February 16, 1973), p. 11A
- When he was approaching his 3,000th hit, I asked him if that would be the most important thing in his life. ‘No, Danny,’ he said. "I have a project going in Puerto Rico for the underprivileged and I have made so much progress with the political men in our country that I’m beginning to think my dream will come true." That’s the Roberto Clemente I know, who constantly thought of others instead of himself.
- Danny Murtaugh in "The Daley Report: Enshrining Roberto" by Arthur Daley, in The Warren Times Mirror and Observer (Thursday, February 22, 1973), p. 8
- Every sports fan admired and respected Roberto Clemente as one of the greatest baseball players of our time. In the tragedy of his untimely death, we are reminded that he deserved even greater respect and admiration for his splendid qualities as a generous and kind human being. He sacrificed his life on a mission of mercy. The best memorial we can build to his memory is to contribute generously for the relief of those he was trying to help – the earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
- Richard Nixon: “Statement About the Death of Roberto Clemente. January 2, 1973,” American Reference Library, 01/01/2001 – Source: Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1973 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), p.1
- We are here for the presentation of the first Presidential Citizens Medal, and I am very honored and this office is honored that that first medal – which we know will be awarded in the future to distinguished Americans for their service – that first medal goes to Roberto Clemente. I would like to read the citation, because it is better than any speech I could make, I think, with regard to Roberto Clemente:
Citizens Medal Citation, Roberto Clemente:
All who saw Roberto Clemente in action, whether on the diamond or on the front lines of charitable endeavor, are richer for the experience. He stands with that handful of men whose brilliance has transformed the game of baseball into a showcase of skill and spirit, giving universal delight and inspiration. More than that, his selfless dedication to helping those with two strikes against them in life blessed thousands and set an example for millions. As long as athletes and humanitarians are honored, Roberto Clemente’s memory will live; as long as Citizens Medals are presented, each will mean a little more because this first one went to him.
[At this point, the President presented the medal to Mrs. Roberto Clemente. He then resumed speaking.]
Let me say our only regret is that he isn’t here – but he’s really here – I think he is here in this room. Don’t you think so? I think he would be proud to be the first American to get this medal, too, the first one.
- Richard Nixon: “Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring Roberto Clemente. May 14, 1973,” American Reference Library, 01/01/2001 – Source: Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1973 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), p.529
- That's really sad, isn't it? It's really sad in a lot of ways, but you know I was thinking that if he were going to die at an early age, it’s good in a sense that he died trying to help people less fortunate. You know, a lot of guys talk about how they’d like to help less fortunate people and give lip service to that. But here’s a guy leaving his family during the holiday season to try to go some place and be kind to people. I think that tells you a lot about what kind of man he was.
I met him a couple of times and he was quiet but very manly, and extraordinarily nice. I try to remember people, especially people I get to know a little bit, as they were as people, not by what they did. When I think of Roberto Clemente in the future, I’ll be thinking about him as an extraordinarily nice man who died while trying to help other people.
- Bill Russell in "The Bill Russell Show; Former Celtics' great has moved his star from basketball floor into radio booth" by Charles Maher, in The Los Angeles Times (January 9, 1973)
- My locker was next to Bobby’s for the entire six years I played with the Pirates. I watched him and listened to him on a daily basis. He had great pride in being Latin. He consistently brought this to people’s attention. Each year he played winter ball at his hometown of San Juan, not for the money but because he felt he owed it to his town folk. One winter I pitched for him when he managed the San Juan club. I met his wife and children to whom he was deeply devoted. Although a national hero in Puerto Rico and this country, he never took on the air of being a celebrity. He was always just one of the guys, yet separate. I never saw Bobby drunk, disorderly or chasing women, as I did other guys. I always believed he felt the obligation and responsibility of being a major league baseball player was to set an example for the public.
- Tommie Sisk (Teammate, 1962-1968) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 346
- The man was a man in every true sense. He was proud, dedicated. He wouldn't want anyone to give him anything. Yet he never had a national commercial, was on only one talk show, The Mike Douglas Show, and he never made any appearances in the Pittsburgh area. Blacks get the trophies . . . whites get the money.
- Willie Stargell (Teammate, 1962-1972) in "Teammate Charges Clemente Never Was Properly Honored," Jet (January 25, 1973), p. 50
- I’m an observing type of person, and there was no one I loved to watch more than Roberto. I learned a lot about him. I watched his reactions to a variety of everyday game situations. A silent, strong type, Clemente vicariously taught me a lot about life and baseball. I hear talking all the time, but words do not always translate to action. That’s why I feel observation is often the best way to learn about someone. I’m more interested in what a person does than what he says, and Roberto did a lot.
- Willie Stargell in Willie Stargell: An Autobiography (1984) by Stargell, with Tom Bird, p. 99
- I remember we were up in Montreal one time. Something happened to my back and I couldn’t play. I was left in the clubhouse for treatment. Roberto didn’t play the first game. He stayed in the clubhouse through the entire game and gave me an ice rubdown. He put this cold ice in his bare hands and would rub and apply pressure to different areas of my back. He said I would be able to play the next day based on things he had learned. It must have been about forty minutes of constant rubbing with that ice. We all know when you put ice in your hand for any period of time, you must release that ice after about five minutes at the most. But he was so into what he was doing, it didn’t faze him at all.
- Willie Stargell in Cult Baseball Players: The Greats, the Flakes, the Weird and the Wonderful (1990) by Danny Peary, pp. 298-299
- He was so intense in terms of doing something to make me feel better. I felt great, and the next night I played. He didn’t have to do that, but he did it. And he wanted to do it in such a way that very few people, if any, knew about it other than the two of us. That was just one of the many things he did. And it’s those kinds of things that separate him from most people.
- Willie Stargell in "Integration's Team," from Roberto Clemente: The Great One (1998) by Bruce Markusen, p. 217
- The shivering fans in the stands took their hands out of their pockets to applaud Roberto Clemente for a small, but at the same time very large, sympathetic act. During batting practice, a little boy in the right-field stands was hit in the arm by a line drive. He then hid among the seats to have his little cry. Clemente retrieved the ball and gave it away, his thanks coming in a puddle of tears.
- Bob Stevens: "Giants, Sanford Breeze to Victory," The San Francisco Chronicle (May 12, 1959), p. 4H
- He’d try to help you and talk to you about the way to play baseball and the way to handle yourself in society and to represent your country. He was the type of guy who would just sit with you and talk – do this, do that. In my life, besides my mom and father, I’d met no person who meant so much to me. People say he was moody, he was this and that. But he would say the truth – he told you the truth. He never tried to hide anything from anybody.
- Tony Taylor in Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero (2006) by David Maraniss, p. 171
- He always liked kids. I had one long conversation with him, and he told me what he wanted to do in Puerto Rico. He had this dream to build a special Sports City for the kids, especially the poor kids. I always talked to kids, and he was that type of person, too, so we had something in common in that respect. Maybe he recognized that, and maybe that’s why he talked to me at length about what he wanted to do in his home country.
He was a moody guy. He was very quiet. He had two strikes against him when he first came up. He didn't speak or understand English very well, and he was a loner. That guy from the Post office – the one who got into trouble a few years ago for stealing and selling stamps – he was always with him.
I think he was genuine in his thinking. He cared for people. But like I said, I only spent four years with him, when he wasn't really into his own yet.
- Frank Thomas (Teammate, 1955-1958) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 129
- He did not just lend his name to the fund-raising activities the way some famous personalities do. He took over the entire thing, arranging for collection points, publicity and the transportation to Nicaragua.
- Luis Vigoreaux in "Clemente, Pirates' Star, Dies in Crash Of Plane Carrying Aid to Nicaragua," The New York Times (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. 1
- I knew Roberto was a man – perhaps the only man – who could give enough of himself to make this work. The city agreed to give us Sixto Escobar Stadium as a staging area. I put Roberto on my show and he told them: "Bring what you can. Bring medicine ... clothes ... food ... shoes ... bring yourself to help us load ... trust me – whatever you bring we will use."
- Luis Vigoreaux in "Roberto" by Jerry Izenberg, in The Newark Star-Ledger (Wednesday, December 31, 1997)
- The unconnected letters show creativeness [sic]. The downward T-bar stroke shows the ability to be critical, skeptical, wants things proved to him. His writing shows great pride, great ambition, also a love of music, of beautiful things.
- Robert Wasserman: "What Signatures of Players and Ex-Stars Reveal," Baseball Digest (December 1980), p. 92
- Roberto defended the cause of the Latins, especially the dark-skinned Latins, and they owe him a lot. Clemente wasn’t a star after he got his 3,000th hit, he was a star a couple of years after he rose to the big leagues. But the press denied him the credit he deserved. I think this made him try to prove that a Puerto Rican was as good as anyone in America and could do what a Babe Ruth or a Ted Williams had done, that this wasn’t a game exclusively for people from Pennsylvania, Alabama, and New Jersey, that in Puerto Rico, this tiny little country, there are great men, too, in every sense of the word.
- Pedrín Zorilla in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 47
- Lacy, Sam. "A to Z: ON THE PAST, THE PRESENT AND FUTURE – Interviews with Kenny Washington and Roberto Clemente". The Washington Afro-American. November 27, 1965), p. 16.
- Hano, Arnold. "Roberto Clemente: Baseball's Brightest Superstar". Boy's Life. March 1968. pp. 24, 25 and 54.
- Wolf, David. "The Strain of Being Roberto Clemente: Baseball's Frustrated Superstar". Life. May 24, 1968. pp. 70-71.
- O'Brien, Jim (1994). Remember Roberto: Clemente recalled by teammates, family, friends and fans. Pittsburgh, PA: James P. O'Brien. ISBN 0-916114-14-7.
- Markusen, Bruce (1998). Roberto Clemente: The Great One. Champaign, Il: Sports Publishing. ISBN 1-58261-5.
- Wagenheim, Kal (1973). Clemente!. New York: Praeger Publishers.