Roberto Clemente

From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search
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.

Tris Speaker Memorial Award
acceptance speech
Friday, January 29, 1971

Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker (August 18, 1934December 31, 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.



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. It is not what you do
in baseball
or sports,
but how hard you try.
Win or lose, I try my best.

Tris Speaker Memorial Award
acceptance speech
Friday, January 29, 1971

Chronological by date of occurrence (where available) or earliest known publication date.

  • Clemente's baseball career reads like something by Dick Merriwell out of Horatio Alger. Four years ago he was playing amateur softball in Puerto Rico. "I peetch and play shortstop," he said of his early days. "I no play outfield until pro ball." Roberto turned pro in 1952 with Santurce and last year played winter ball for that team with Willie Mays. Herman Franks, Giant coach, was the manager. "Wee-lee May and Herm Frank help me," he answered when I asked him if he had been given special instruction in the game by anyone. "May show me how to field and throw," he added. Did Mays or anyone show him how to hit? "No," he replied, pride in his voice. "I learn to heet myself. Nobody show me."

  • 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.
    • As paraphrased and quoted in "Clemente, Early Buc Ace, Says He’s Better in Summer: Puerto Rican Thrills Fans With Throws" by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (June 29, 1955), p. 26

  • Bobby, it don't matter how you stand; it matter where you end up!
    • On his failure to find one consistent batting stance, circa 1956 or 1957; as quoted by Pirate reliever Art Swanson in Remember Roberto: Clemente Recalled by Teammates, Family, Friends and Fans (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 348

  • "No, I don't learn the basket catch from Mays," Roberto protested in his marked Puerto Rican accent. "It was Luis (he pronounced it Loo-ee) Olmo and Herman Franks who teach me when I in Dodger chain. That back in 1954 Winter league. Before that, I miss fly ball many time 'cause I try to catch too high," the fragile-looking 175-pounder explained. "But now no drop one ball since I use basket catch." Clemente said Olmo and Franks instructed him to catch the ball about chest high instead of holding his hands outstretched. Later, he said, It became more natural for him to drop his hands even lower, below his waistline. "It work good for me and I juss keep doing it," he said. "It make it more easy for me to throw too, after I make catch."

  • Many people tell me I wanna play like Weelie. I no play like Mays. From little boy up, I always play like thees. I always wanna run fast, to throw long and heet far.

  • Clemente offers an object lesson in self-discipline to hitters who swish for the seats. The 25-year-old, 173-pound right-handed hitter who finally has won the unqualified praise of George Sisler as an expert batsman, has learned how to subdue the home run urge. "I do not care about home runs," says Clemente, who can hit for distance with the best. "The pitch is always away from me and it is foolish to try to pull this pitch for a home run. The pitcher does not wish it so, and I don't try. I am not foolish. Only in Philadelphia I think maybe I will try for the home run, but I do not think so even in L.A. I make the hits which the pitcher cannot stop, and that is better than striking out and will drive out the pitcher, too."
    • As paraphrased and quoted by Les Biederman in The Sporting News (June 1, 1960), p. 7

  • 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 frequently the case, much to Clemente's understandable chagrin, 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 to publicize the blast. See Les Biederman (5/27/59 and 6/6/66) in Media, as well as Ernie Banks in Opponents.

  • Clemente is in love with Wrigley Field, where he's batting .693 so far [this season] on nine hits, three homers and nine RBIs. "This is my ball park," Clemente said after his day's work. "Every game is played in daylight and I can see the ball good. And I can reach the stands in any direction. I hope I'm never traded but if I am, I wish it would be to the Cubs. I know I do well there in 77 games." Two years ago, Clemente hit a home run out of the park in center, close to the scoreboard, and natives in Chicago say they never saw it done before.
    • As paraphrased and quoted in "Feast Then Famine For Pirates: Split Means Lost Ground In Race" by Lester J. Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press (Friday, July 7, 1961), p. 26. To access article, drag image from right to left, bringing relevant headline immediately into view, displayed on its side; continue dragging until you reach the fifth paragraph from the end.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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 and 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.

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • If Clemente wins, he may well turn out to be the sickest champ in NL history. "I've been taking pep pills all year," he was saying in the Pirate clubhouse after the game. "I take vitamins all the time and a shot of B-12 every day." Clemente's "pep pills" are a stimulant called dexamyl. He needs them to combat the effects of the malaria attack he suffered last winter. The other day Clemente received a letter from his doctor in Puerto Rico. It is the same doctor who advised him to sit out the 1965 season. Among other things, there was a comment about Roberto's performance. "Unbelievable," the physician wrote. There are plenty of ailments dogging Clemente now. He says the "pep pills" make his neck sore and tired. He sometimes has trouble breathing when running the bases and his stomach isn't what it should be. If Clemente ever gets well, he could lose the batting championship.

  • "I hit it good and thought it was going over the wall when it left my bat," he observed. Clemente also said this is the fifth time he has hit a ball that was within inches of clearing the fence at the 436-foot sign—two against the Dodgers and two against the Braves.
    • As quoted and paraphrased in "Clemente Shows He's Bat-Man: Hitting Mets Like Robbin' for Roberto" by Les Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press (Monday, May 2, 1966), p. 35

  • 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. "I hit one off Sam Jones one night over the left-center fence at Candlestick Park and that was a good one," he said. "And two I remember off Sandy Koufax. One over the right field fence at the Coliseum, the other here at Forbes Field. This one hit a transformer on the left-field light tower on the way up and it stopped. No telling how far it might have gone. And you remember I came within a few inches of putting one on the right field roof here." He did, too.

  • For years, I have been pleading with somebody in charge at Forbes Field to put clay instead of sand in the batter’s box. Sand causes your feet to slip. Clay gives you a chance to keep your feet solid. So all I got for years was sand and more sand. Batters would dig holes. I come to bat and scrape dirt to cover up the holes. Suddenly this year, they put clay in the batter’s box. Now I have firm footing. Now I can get a toe-hold.
    • As quoted in “Clemente Sinks Feet in Clay To Mold Stout Swat Figures” by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (July 2, 1966), p. 8

  • The Braves have been digging in on us all year. They're taking toeholds on our pitchers. Somebody is going down tonight if I have to come in from right field and do it myself.

  • 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.

  • I am having a plaque put on the front of my house. It will say, "To God, Mother, Father and Baseball."

  • Yes, my biggest game, but not my best game. My best game is when I drive in the winning run.
    • Bemoaning his wasted 3-home run/7-RBI performance of May 15, 1967; as quoted in “Biggest Game Wasted: Roberto Collects 3 HRs, 7 RBIs As Bucs Lose, 8-7” by Les Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press (Tuesday, May 16, 1967), p. 34

  • 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.

  • 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"

  • Thank you. I guess a fellow like me has to die to get voted in by the writers.
    • In Cooperstown, New York, July 22, 1968, for the annual Hall of Fame Game; replying to a fellow Museum patron (who, upon seeing him photographing various exhibits, had informed Clemente, "Some day they will be taking pictures of your shrine here"), as quoted in "Sidelight on Sports: I Remember Roberto" by Al Abrams, in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. 14

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 can't think of average. I have to go for the long ball. We have only Stargell to hit homers. You need more than one man. We have the best leadoff man in baseball in Matty Alou. He will get on base. We have to get the long hits.
    • As quoted in "'Give Us Strollers, Not Swingers,' Shouts Shepard" by Charley Feeney, in The Sporting News (July 12, 1969), p. 23

  • 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.

  • Blass, if you pitch me inside, I will hit forty three home runs a year, thirty-seven of them off you!
    • Circa 1970, responding to the novel approach facetiously suggested by teammate Steve Blass, were he ever to be traded from the Pirates; as quoted in "A Teammate Remembers Roberto Clemente” by Steve Blass, as told to Phil Musick, in Sport (April 1973); reproduced in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 158

  • Sure, sure I wanted out of this game. But I don't care what these writers say. My neck was wrenched about two weeks ago and I aggravated it when I continued to play. But I didn't want to miss any games when we are trying to win the pennant. We caught the Mets and we came here tonight leading them, and I think I had something to do with it. Like I say, I don't care what these writers think. They never believe me when I say I hurt. One time before, they wrote so much about me just imagining my back was hurting me that the manager decided to have me checked over by a specialist. I never did see the report, but Danny said he had been assured my complaint was legitimate, and that he was sorry there had been a misunderstanding. I couldn't know what he meant, but after that he never failed to ask about my back before he put my name in the lineup for the second game of doubleheaders.
    • As quoted in "All-Star Case of Roberto Clemente" by Sam Lacy, in The Baltimore Afro-American (July 21, 1970)

  • Somebody say once that I like to goof off; that I'm lazy because I don't play winter ball and make a habit of reporting late to spring training. What these fellows don't know is that I have no time for winter ball. When I return home to Puerto Rico after the baseball season, I open my camp right away. It is a camp for boys, where they can come and learn how to play baseball. They come from all ages and get a lot of help. Cepeda spends some time with me. He teaches how to play first base. José Santiago shows them how to pitch. 'Chito' Rios, he comes from Mayagüez and gives base running instruction. Even Frank Lane has been there and talked to my kids. Jim Brown has been there, and Tommy Nobis, to talk football, although most of our kids have little interest in football. But they like to hear these fellows. Bill Russell has been there; so have Oscar Robertson and all the Harlem Globetrotters. The boys love it, and I really believe it has meant a lot in the development of some fine young men for later life.
    • As quoted in "All-Star Case of Roberto Clemente"

  • Yes, there is some truth to the accusation that I resented being bypassed for Groat in 1960. He had a good season but the records will show I contributed a lot more to winning the pennant. I think, too, that a lot of the writers were moved by their racial feelings. An MVP endorsement looks good in the record of a potential manager, and it'll be a long time before we have a colored manager; longer still before there will be a colored Puerto Rican manager. Anyway, it wasn't my 'imagination' hurting me when I complained, it really was my neck. [...] And the doctor says the wrenching of my neck was caused by some unconscious adjustment I had been trying to make because of my back.
    • As quoted in "All-Star Case of Roberto Clemente"

  • 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.

  • 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 (August 11, 1964) 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

  • You know, when the season is over a lot of guys go home and eat peanuts and drink beer and they show up in spring training with a big belly. I will go home and start working on my body right away. My right shoulder is not the way it is supposed to be. I'm not going to wait until spring training and hope it is all right. I will work on it when I get home.

  • I want everybody in the world to know that this is the way I play all the time. All season, every season. I gave everything I had to this game.
    • Speaking to Roger Angell before Game 7 of the 1971 World Series, as quoted in "Some Pirates and Lesser Men" by Angell, in The New Yorker (November 6, 1971), p. 148; reprinted in Angell's The Summer Game (2004), p. 285

  • I couldn't stand the pain. All the doctors said there was nothing wrong with my spine because there was nothing they could see. But the chiropractors said they thought they could help and they did.
    • From his 1971 World Series MVP acceptance speech, recalling the time in 1957 when he considered quitting baseball, as quoted in "Pittsburgh's Clemente Honored" by United {Press International, in The Wilmington Star-News (Thursday, October 21, 1971), p. 1-D

  • One day I could play and three days later I couldn't move. Our relationship was shaky because if one day you can play and the next day you can't, a person has to wonder if there's not something wrong in your head. But we straightened it out.
    • From his 1971 World Series MVP acceptance speech, discussing his sometimes strained relationship with manager Danny Murtaugh, as quoted in "Pittsburgh's Clemente Honored"

  • When I put on my uniform, I feel I am the proudest man on earth. The players should pay the people to come and see us play.
    • From his 1971 World Series MVP acceptance speech, as quoted in "Pittsburgh's Clemente Honored"

  • Bragan and Walker talked to me the most. The fellow who helped me most of all was Buck Clarkson. I think he lives in Donora. He managed me in the Puerto Rican League when I was a boy. He used to see me throw a ball from the outfield 400 feet on the line, most of the time wild. And I hit good. Buck Clarkson used to tell me I am as good as anybody in big leagues. That helped me a lot.

  • 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.

  • First base is not for me. I think a man shortens his career there instead of prolonging it. I keep my legs in good shape by running back and forth from the outfield to the dugout.
    • As quoted in "Sidelight on Sports: Conversation Pieces" by Al Abrams, in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Friday, September 29, 1972), p. 18

  • The American League must be that fountain of youth they talk about. A lot of National League pitchers did pretty good in the American League this year.
    • As quoted in "D.C. Money Will Talk" by Bob Addie, in The Washington Post (Wednesday, October 11, 1972), p. D4

  • 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

  • I was too aggressive. I should not have been so foolish. I am a craftsman in baseball. I look like rookie.
    • Speaking after the 1972 NLCS, as quoted in "Puerto Rico Has Lost a Hero" by Bob Addie, in The Washington Post (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. D2

  • I tell you, I'd be lucky to hit .280 in New York. There are too many people in New York, and if you don't want to be a bad guy, you must go to all the dinners and meetings. How could I concentrate on baseball? I have so many good friends in New York that it is hard to turn them down. But it is that way every place on the road. I tell the hotel that I will not be disturb,[sic] but people find me anyway.
    • Speaking after the 1972 NLCS, as quoted in "Puerto Rico Has Lost a Hero"

  • It's a shame he couldn't play in the majors due to the color barrier. I've always insisted Pancho would have been one of the best ever.
    • As quoted in "Pancho Coimbre Atiles", from Puerto Rico's Winter League: A History of Major League Baseball's Launching Pad (2004) by Thomas E. Van Hyning, p. 78


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?

"Clemente Waves Banner for
Spanish-Speaking Players:
Don't Get
Due Recognition"

Associated Press
Tuesday, August 23, 1966

Chronological by date of occurrence (where available) or earliest known publication date.

  • My name eet is Roberto Enricque Clemente Walker. I no use Enricque—spell him E–n–r–i–c–q–u–e [sic ]—and I no use Walker. Him make too long for name. Just Roberto Clemente, thas all. This Enricque is middle name. Walker eet is my mother's name. I use Roberto Clemente in thees country.

  • Som' co-lored people I understand saying "Clemente, he do not like co-lored people. This is not the truth at all. Look at me. Look at my skin. I am not of the white people. I hav' color the skin. That is the first theeing I straighten out. I like all the people, both co-lored and white; and since I am co-lored myself, I would be seely hate myself. Thees' people tell me I don't like colored people. Well, I use this time to tell deeferent. I like myself, so I also like the people who are like me.

  • In Canada they no have much segregation. But one day I am signing autographs and talking to white man and his wife outside park, and this other man say, "You not supposed to talk to white woman." I say, "No, I talk to the one I want. I talk to my friends. You believe in that stuff if you want. I don't do it."

  • 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?

  • I learned the right way to live from my parents. I never heard any hate in my house. I never heard my father say a mean word to my mother, or my mother to my father, either. During the war, when food was hard to get, my parents fed their children first and they ate what was left. They always thought of us.
    • As quoted in "Clemente, 32, Pays Tribute to Parents" by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (September 3, 1966), p. 12

  • Everything is so new in Puerto Rico. I wanted to build something the way Puerto Rico started, something from the old land.
    • Discussing his recently opened restaurant, El Carretero (roughly translated as "one who leads the ox-drawn cart"), as quoted in "Roberto Clemente Baseball's Brightest Superstar" by Arnold Hano, in Boy's Life (March 1968), pp. 25 and 54

  • There was no use for me to say yes because I am not a politician. Say, for example, I was elected and a situation came up where I was told I had to compromise. I could never do that; I can't compromise.

  • I've had two lives: the first one when I was born in Puerto Rico in 1935 [sic] 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 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.
    • 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"

  • Quien Soy? (Who Am I?)

    I am a small point in the eye of the full moon.
    I only need one ray of the sun to warm my face.
    I need only one breeze from the Alisios to refresh my soul.
    What else can I ask if I know that my sons love really love me?.

  • 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.
    • As quoted in "Clemente a Doc" by Red Foley, in The New York Daily News (October 10, 1971), pp. 69, 75

  • That's what I like about the World Series. It gives me a chance to talk with lots of writers, a chance for them to understand me better than in the past. When Roberto Clemente is mentioned, he is always mentioned with injuries. They say I'm moody, selfish, temperamental. That's not the real me. I was born with a serious face. If you know my life, if you know me well by taking the time to learn to know me, then you'll understand me. Most places I go, people say "smile." I don't like that. I don't believe in being a hypocrite. If the occasion is for smiling, I will be smiling. I'm a very happy person.

  • 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.

  • I had a couple of endorsements but they never came to nothing. I don't want any. I don't need them. If the people who give them don't think Latins are good enough, I don't think they are good enough. The hell with them. I make endorsements in Spanish countries, and give the money to charity."
    • As quoted in "'Nobody Does Anything Better Than Me in Baseball,' Says Roberto Clemente....Well, He's Right," by Roy Blount, Jr. (as C.R. Ways), in The New York Times Magazine (April 9, 1972), p. 42; reprinted as "Clemente's Time of Honor Has Come" in The Pittsburgh Press (Tuesday, April 25, 1972), p. 31

  • Roberto Clemente wasn't much of a fisherman. When he was a kid, he was working when he wasn't playing baseball, and when he wasn't doing either, he was sleeping, with time out somewhere along the line for eating. After he became a star, he continued to be too busy to do much fishing even though the waters around his native Puerto Rico are teeming with game fish. Winter ball, his business on the Island, and other and varied activities gave him little time for leisure. Among the latter were his interest in kids, particularly underprivileged kids. And he knew that kids like to go fishing. Last summer Roberto beamed, his dark eyes sparkling, when he discussed with this writer a project underway at his home in Puerto Rico. "We are building a pond and we will stock it with fish so that the kids can come there to fish and have fun. It goes down to a big rock and then makes a sharp turn. It is 330 feet down to the rock and almost that much after the turn." The pond, he said, would be stocked with several species of fresh-water fish indigenous to Puerto Rico, "and trout, too," he added. He didn't say how the kids would get out into the country to the pond to fish. He didn't say where they would get the fishing tackle and bait if they didn't have any of their own. He didn't have to. Knowing Roberto Clemente we knew that he'd get them there, furnish the bait and tackle, and probably throw in a picnic, too. He'll be missed by a lot more people than baseball fans.
    • Speaking in the summer of 1972, as paraphrased and quoted in "Fishing Well: Clemente & the Kids' Fish Pond" by Jimmy Jordan, in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. 17

  • They call my people 'Spics' in New York. These are poor people struggling to make a living and should be treated like people and not animals.
    • Interviewed in September 1972, as quoted in "Clemente Legend Growing" by Bob Addie, in The Washington Post (Wednesday, May 23, 1973), p. E5

  • 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[edit]



The only other batter I ever saw
who gets good wood on the ball
as consistently as Clemente
was Ted Williams.
Johnny Pesky

Authors / speakers listed alphabetically by last name.
Quotes per author listed chronologically by date of occurrence (where available) or earliest known publication date.

  • I doubt if they’ll have any left for me," the National League All-Star shortstop said. Alley referred to the Pirates' signing Roberto Clemente for $100,000 and giving raises to Donn Clendenon, Bob Veale and Manny Mota. "I don’t know how much money they have to give out, but I do know that Clemente is worth $100,000 if those other fellows are," he said, in reference to Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Mickey Mantle.

  • Roberto Clemente, National League batting champion the past two seasons, is helping teammate Matty Alou wrest the crown from him. "Roberto has helped my hitting," said Alou, a left-handed swinger acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates last December from the San Francisco Giants. Alou, who has been leading the league since mid-May, said Clemente offers advice when he goes into a slump. "Roberto tells me what is wrong. He and manager Harry Walker have helped me. I used to be a pull hitter at Candlestick Park. Now I can hit to left field because Clemente and Walker have shown me how."

  • Most Latin players don’t look for the walk. They go up to the plate aggressively. It’s a basic thing. You try to throw the ball past me; I try to hit the ball. Clemente did – how do you say? – what comes natural. He developed his talents. Almost everybody in our country is like that but Roberto, with the way he hit, made the American scouts leave us alone and let us play the game our way.
    • Matty Alou, in “Latins Will Miss Roberto” by Art Rosenblum, in The San Francisco Chronicle (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. 44

  • I never saw him loafing to first. He used to run hard every ground ball, every fly ball. It was amazing the way he played the game. Because sometimes you just don’t feel like running hard when you think it’s going to be an out. If you see him before the game, you didn’t believe he was so tough a player. He used to play hurt every day. Used to complain he didn’t sleep. But when the game started, he was just marvelous.

  • 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 (Pirates trainer, 1967–1985), in "C'mon Dago–," from Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 142
      Additional Clemente-related Tony Bartirome quotes can be found in Other.

  • 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 in "Dr. Clemente" from Who Was Roberto? A Biography of Roberto Clemente (1974) by Phil Musick, p. 189

  • That's right. We didn’t want the Giants to have Clemente and a fellow like Willie Mays in the same outfield. It was a cheap deal for us. We were very friendly with the fellow who owned Clemente's contract in Puerto Rico and had to give Clemente what he wanted because the Braves were after him also. The Giants wanted him badly but didn’t want to make him a bonus boy and have him sit on the bench. But we didn’t care as long as we nailed him. We put him on the Montreal roster, exposing him to the unrestricted draft, figuring we could get back our original investment. We have a letter from the commissioner’s office to the effect that we could get back our investment if he were drafted, but we then we later learned that all we could collect was $4,000. So, all right. It cost us $6,000, actually; but the Giants didn’t get him, which was the important thing.
    • Buzzy Bavasi, as quoted in "Dodgers Signed Clemente Just to Balk Giants" by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (May 25, 1955), p. 11

  • We knew we were going to lose him in the draft, so why should we spend the time developing him for another team? We used the players who would belong to us, and Clemente played defense in the late innings or went up as a pinch hitter.
    • Buzzy Bavasi, as quoted in "Dodgers Signed Clemente Just to Balk Giants"

  • We once owned Clemente. We signed him for a $10,000 bonus and sent him to Montreal for seasoning. He was a 19-year-old kid, right out of the winter leagues, and there wasn't any room for him on the roster of the big club. We ordered Montreal to keep him under wraps any way they could. Up there he was eligible for the baseball draft, and we didn't want to lose anybody as promising as this kid. On the other hand, we didn't realize how great he was or we'd have put him on the big club right away and protected him from the draft regardless of who we'd have to unload. At Montreal, to keep Clemente from looking too good, our manager, Max Macon, kept moving him in and out of the lineup. Poor Roberto! He'd strike out and Max would let him play the whole game. If he hit a home run, Max would get him out of there quick. He was benched one game because he had hit three triples the day before. He was taken out for a pinch hitter with the bases loaded in the first inning of another game. You can imagine how this must have puzzled the kid. The net effect was to hold down his betting average down to .257, and we figured we were safe from the draft. [...] That year Pittsburgh finished last last in the league and had the first draft choice. There goes Clemente! Am I admitting that we blew it? I certainly am. But then I always say: of all the different kinds of sight, the best kind is hind.
    • Buzzy Bavasi, with Jack Olsen: "The Real Secret of Trading," Sports Illustrated (June 5, 1967), p. 54

  • At the time, the Dodgers were so well stocked, the club simply did not have room for Clemente, despite his immense ability. So we attempted to hide him at Montreal. We did everything in our power to ensure that Clemente would not shine. We did not play him against left-handed pitchers, we played him only against the best right-handed pitchers; he was benched the day after hitting three triples in a game. It worked to an extent – we kept his average down to .257.
    • Buzzy Bavasi, with John Strege: Off the Record (1987), pp. 72-73

  • Bavasi thought he would be a star. Whatever O’Malley thought of Clemente’s talent, however, did not matter as much as the matter of his color. He made it clear to Bavasi that bringing Clemente to Brooklyn would be a problem – less for the fans, he explained, than for the players, who might think that too many black men were taking jobs. Bavasi suggested they put the question to one of the players – Jackie Robinson. Bavasi explained the situation to Robinson, who asked who the team would trade or sell to make room to bring Clemente up to the Dodgers. Bavasi thought George Shuba, a white player, would be the one to go. Shuba was an outfielder, a good, though not in Bavasi’s estimation, great player. He was, however, a popular one. Dropping him to bring up Clemente, who might not even be ready to start, Robinson suggested, would not be wise – to bring up Clemente now, he advised Bavasi, would set back by five years the effort to truly integrate the game.
    • Buzzy Bavasi, as paraphrased in The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers and Their Final Pennant Race Together (2003) by Michael Shapiro, p. 170

  • Bavasi said he had similar regret over his inability to protect Roberto Clemente on the Dodgers' major league roster in the Rule 5 draft of 1954, and that it was basically a racial decision by a club that had broken baseball's color barrier with the signing of Robinson. Bavasi said two O'Malley partners, Jim Mulvey, then president of United Artists Studio, and John Smith, chairman of Pfizer, were reluctant to put more minorities on the club. "Mulvey and Smith operated companies that had a lower minority ratio," Bavasi said. "They felt that if the Dodgers went to 40% it would have reflected badly on their own companies." Clemente, who had played only one season in the Dodger minor-league system, was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose general manager was former Dodger general manager Branch Rickey. He might have upheld a private arrangement with Bavasi to allow Clemente to slide through, according to Bavasi, if Rickey and O'Malley had not engaged in a heated argument during a National League meeting before the draft. Clemente, of course, went on to produce a Hall of Fame career, and the Dodgers could only grieve. "We would have won four more pennants," said Bavasi, still pained by the would-haves, the regrets, but insistent that his passion for the game and love of talking about it remain stronger than ever.
    • Buzzy Bavasi, as paraphrased and quoted in "Buzz Words" by Ross Newhan, in The Los Angeles Times (February 19, 2005)

  • Walter O’Malley had two partners who were concerned about the number of minorities we would be bringing to the Dodgers...The concern had nothing to do with quotas, but the thought was too many minorities might be a problem with the white players. Not so, I said. Winning was the important thing. I agreed with the board that we should get a player’s opinion and I would be guided by the player’s opinion. The board called in Jackie Robinson. Hell, now I felt great. Jackie was told the problem, and, after thinking about it awhile, he asked me who would be sent out if Clemente took one of the spots. I said George Shuba. Jackie agreed that Shuba would be the one to go. Then he said Shuba was not among the best players on the club, but he was the most popular. With that he shocked me by saying, and I quote: ‘If I were the GM [general manager], I would not bring Clemente to the club and send Shuba or any other white player down. If I did this, I would be setting our program back five years.
    • Buzzy Bavasi, June 3, 2005 email correspondence, as quoted in “Roberto Clemente’s Entry into Organized Baseball: Hidden in Montreal?” by Stew Thornley, in The National Pastime (2006)

  • "O’Malley said flatly that winter he didn’t want any more colored players on the team. It was complicated, but it was a combination of what he thought the fans would accept, what he thought the team could handle and the fact that he got heat from some of his partners who worried that the more integrated the Dodgers became, the more pressure they felt to hire blacks in their own businesses." Bavasi said that Jackie Robinson himself expressed misgivings about Clemente. [...] In the case of Clemente, Bavasi said that Robinson was concerned that if the Dodgers activated him, he would take the roster position of George "Shotgun" Shuba – a journeyman outfielder and pinch-hitter who was popular, white, and once Robinson's 1946 teammate on the Montreal Royals.
    • Buzzy Bavasi, as quoted and paraphrased in "Gil, Jackie, Pee Wee, and a Parable of Race" from Praying for Gil Hodges: A Memoir of the 1955 World Series and One Family's Love of the Brooklyn Dodgers (July 1, 2005) by Thomas Oliphant, p. 59

  • I had a deal with Mr. Rickey. Mr. Rickey asked me to go to Pittsburgh with him. And said, I’m sorry I was going to stay with the Dodger group, whom I knew. And he wrote me a letter saying if anytime he could help me, all I had to do was pick up the phone. So, we couldn’t bring Clemente up [from Montreal] because we had to keep him on the club under the old rules if he got more than a $4,000 bonus. And I know that Rickey had first [pick in the] draft, so I flew to Pittsburgh. And he agreed with me that he would take John Rutherford that would have let us keep Clemente. So I’m home free and I call Fresco and we were happy about it. And this was a Friday. The draft is on a Monday. Sunday evening Branch Rickey, Jr. called and said “Buzzie, the deal is off” and I said, “Why?” And he said, “My father and Walter had an argument and he called my father every obscene name in the book therefore he’s going to take Clemente” and that was it.

  • 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 by Blass in April 1973; see below) in "Greatest Catch? This One by Roberto Will Do" by Charley Feeney," in The Sporting News (July 3, 1971), p.7.
      Additional Clemente-related Steve Blass quotes can be found in Other.

  • Sometime this year, somebody is going to go from first to third against us on a single to right. And I’m going to be shocked. It’s never happened before, in all the time I’ve been in the big leagues, because Clemente has always been there. I’ll find myself backing up first base on the play, because Clemente knew the lead runner wasn’t going to try anything against him, so he’d try to pick off the hitter taking too big a turn.
    • Steve Blass, in "Now Playing Right: Manny Sanguillen" by Roy Blount Jr., in Sports Illustrated (March 19, 1973), reproduced in Remembering Roberto Clemente by Navin Vaswani, at MLB: the Score (December 31, 2013)

  • 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
      The play took place on June 15, 1971; for other perspectives, see Danny Murtaugh (2/22/73) in this section, Joe Morgan (9/30/02: quote #2), Harry Walker (6/15/71), and Bob Watson (1/2/73 and 5/4/72) in Opponents, Roy Blount, Jr. and Darrell Mack in Media, and Robert Wuhl in Others.

  • 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.

  • He's worth every penny of a half-million dollars to me. That's what the other clubs would have to give in cash or equivalent player material to get him.

  • 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 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
      Additional Clemente-related Ronnie Brand quotes can be found in Other.

  • We loved him. There were times he would get frustrated because we didn’t play at the level he expected us to play. I’ll never forget the time he decided to play to prove his points. He was a hero down there, the people went crazy and it helped attendance. [...] He was a wonderful man and a great player, but as far as running a game he didn’t do a great job. He had a very short temper at times about the way we played, because let’s face it – he took it very seriously. It was his team, and he was going to get the credit or the blame for how the team played. As a result of our lackluster play at times, he used to get very mad at us and the guys would put the towels over their faces and kind of laugh a little bit – not at him, as a reaction to what was happening.
    • Ken Brett (played under Clemente for San Juan during the 1970-71 season), as quoted in Puerto Rico’s Winter League: A History of Major League Baseball’s Launching Pad (1995) by Thomas E. Van Hyning, p. 69
      For another perspective on Clemente as a manager, see Ken Singleton in this section.

  • Clemente will not be one, two or three among the top hitters. He will be one. Period.
    • Smoky Burgess(Teammate, 1959–1964), discussing the ongoing National League batting race in August 1964, as quoted in Roberto Clemente, Batting King (1968) by Arnold Hano, p. 148

  • The one player who impressed me the most was Roberto Clemente, both as a man and as an athlete. He was one of the nicest individuals and just tremendous as a ball player. I never saw a better player, although I always regarded Ted Williams as the best hitter. I called him the pure hitter.
    • Smoky Burgess in "Pirates in a Pinch" by Les Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press: Pittsburgh's Family Magazine (Sunday, May 21, 1978), p. 3

    Pos. OF; Age 18
    Hgt 5'11; Wgt. 175
    Bats R; Throws R
    Arm: A+ GOOD CARRY; Accuracy: A+
    Fielding: A GOOD AT THIS STAGE; Reactions: A
    Hitting: A TURNS HEAD BUT IMPROVING; Power: A+
    Running speed: +; Base Running: A

    Definite Prospect? YES; Has Chance? ____; Fill-In? ____; Follow ____
    Physical Condition (Build, Size, Agility, etc.): WELL BUILT—FAIR SIZE—GOOD AGILITY
    • Al Campanis, from his 1952 scouting report, as reproduced in Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero (2006) by David Maraniss, p. 27

  • There were 72 tryouts in camp that day, remembers Alex Campanis. One caught his eye just one out ol 72. "How could I miss him?" says Campanis. "He was the greatest natural athlete I have ever seen as a free agent." The tryout was being conducted jointly by the Dodgers of Brooklyn and the Santurce ballclub of San Juan, in the Sixto Escobar Stadium, a structure named after 118 pounds of Puerto Rican dynamite, the bantamweight champ of the world in the mid-thirties. "The first thing we do at the tryout," recalls Campanis, "is ask the kids to throw from the outfield. This one throws a bullet from center, on the fly. I couldn't believe my eyes. 'Uno mas,' I shout and he does it again. I waved my hand, that's enough. Then we have them run 60 yards. The first time I clock him in 6.4. I couldn't believe It. That's in full uniform. 'UNO MAS'," said Campanis again, and again the kid did it in 6.4. They sent the 71 others home. "The only one I asked to hit was this boy, who told me his name was Roberto Clemente," said Campanis. "I'm saying to myself, we gotta sign this sonofagun If he can just hold the bat in his hands. He starts hitting line drives all over the place. I notice the way he's standing in the box, and I figure there's no way he can reach the outside of the plate, so I tell the pitcher to pitch him outside, and the kid swings , with both feet off the ground and hits line drives to right and sharp ground balls up the middle."
    • Al Campanis, as paraphrased and quoted in "Young Ideas" by Dick Young, in The Cincinnati Enquirer (Thursday, October 21, 1971), p. 69

  • 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.
    • Joe Christopher (Teammate, 1960–1961) in "Breakthrough" from Roberto Clemente: The Great One (1998) by Bruce Markusen, p. 83
      Additional Clemente-related Joe Christopher quotes can be found in Other.

  • 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.

  • The big thing about Clemente was that he played hard and went all-out in every game. He did that when he was just a kid, and he did that all the way through his last season. He always had that aggressiveness. I saw that from the first. Maybe it was the thing about him as a ballplayer that people will remember most.
    • Buster Clarkson (Santurce's player-manager during the 1952–53 and '53–54 seasons), in Roberto Clemente (1973) by Ira Miller (UPI), p. 15

  • He came to me right out of high school. I could see he was going a long way. Some of the old-timers didn’t think so, but I could see great ability in Clemente. The main thing I had to do was keep his spirits up. He didn’t realize how good he was. But I could see his potential. I told him he’d be as good as Willie Mays some day – and he was. He had a few rough spots, but he never made the same mistake twice. He had baseball savvy and he listened. He listened to what he was told and he did it. Some of the old pros didn’t take too kindly to a kid breaking into the lineup, but Clemente was too good to keep out.

  • You watch Roberto and you can’t help getting all psyched. There’s the old man out there busting his ass on every play of the game. Look, I’m 25. If he can play like that, shouldn’t I?
    • Gene Clines in Viva Baseball!: Latin Major Leaguers and Their Special Hunger (1998) by Samuel Regalado, p.151

  • After we lost the second game in Baltimore, Clemente came into the clubhouse and he starts screamin’ and said that we’re gonna go back to Pittsburgh and we’re gonna kick their butts three games in a row. And we went back to Pittsburgh and we did exactly that.
    • Gene Clines in 100 Years of the World Series (video), produced by Mitchell Scherr (2003)

  • It was like the passing of a torch. I was fortunate to be around those guys and they were my mentors. They showed me how to play the game, how to play the right way and to respect the game. Stargell received the torch and kept it going. I learned so much from those two men and I’ve passed on what I learned to all my players. I can’t say enough about them because they meant so much to me.
    • Gene Clines in "Clines Reflects on Clemente, Stargell, and the Team of Color" by Danny Torres, in Chicken Bones: A Journal (December 31, 2006)

  • 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
      Additional Clemente-related Elroy Face quotes can be found in Other.

  • 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

  • Before I came over here to this ball club, I heard how Clemente is always ailing and wanting to sit out games, but everything I heard was bull. He goes full blast all the time. There is only one way I can describe him: unbelievable.

  • People used to criticize Roberto for not playing hurt. But he was a team player. He didn’t want to play if he couldn’t go all out, one hundred percent. He wasn't as vocal as Willie Stargell, but he was a leader. All you had to do was watch him play, and you immediately knew how the game should be played.
    • Dave Giusti, in "The Underdogs: Right Field" from My Team : Choosing My Dream Team from My Forty Years in Baseball (2006) by Larry Dierker, p. 219

  • At the end of the 1972 season, we had just clinched the National League East title and Roberto had 2,999 hits. The Mets were in town for our final homestand. Everyone was there to see Roberto get his 3,000th hit. I had the opportunity to start my first major league game and get my first major league hit in the same game that Roberto got his 3,000th. Umpire Doug Harvey stopped the game and retrieved the ball for me. After the game,Roberto and I posed for a picture with each of us holding the baseballs from my first hit and what turned out to be his last (regular season) hit. I shall cherish the moment and the photograph forever.
    • Chuck Goggin (Teammate, 1972) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 350

  • 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)
      Additional Clemente-related Dick Groat quotes can be found in Opponents and Other.

  • 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

  • The only thing you ever hear about Clemente is that he doesn’t hit enough home runs. The criticism is ridiculous, because he could hit 40 a year if he wanted to. He has the greatest physical ability of anybody I’ve seen in a long time. He’s got as much power as anyone on this ballclub. Only Robertson may have a little more.

  • [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 (Teammate, 1955–1967) 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

  • Hide is not actually the right word. I had no orders from Buzzy Bavasi not to play him. Just to use him sparingly. There was no conspiracy to make him look bad. There's no way to make Clemente look bad. We had three veteran outfielders at Montreal – Sandy Amoros, Dick Whitman and Gino Cimoli – and Buzzy said use Clemente sparingly. He was my fourth outfielder and whenever I was forced to use him, he looked great. He was colorful ... and got better ... and better ... and better. We tried to sneak him through the draft, but it didn't work.

  • He followed us around watching Clemente and we used to go out a lot together and eat after a game. It got to be funny. I'd say how bad Clemente looked. He'd say "I'll get in touch with you after the season. You've lost a ballplayer. We're a cinch to finish last and get first draft choice." Yes, I know Clemente thought we were really trying to make him look bad. I now kid him about it all the time. If he did good and I didn't play him the next night, he wouldn't speak to me. Like a petulant kid.

  • I never had any orders not to play Clemente. I was told Roberto was only 18 when actually he was 19, but I had three proven Triple A outfielders in Sandy Amoros, Gino Cimoli and Dick Whitman. When the Dodgers took Amoros to Brooklyn, I had Jack Cassini and Don Thompson. I was told to win at Montreal and simply had to play more experienced men. Roberto got in 87 games and I think that's good for a rookie. To me Roberto was a 'fill in guy,' an enthusiastic rookie you would spot in a game without rushing him. Amoros and Whitman didn't have the strongest arms in the world and if we were leading late in a game, I would take one of them out and put Clemente in for defensive purposes. He always did the job. He was always unhappy when he did not play, happy when he did. It did not disturb me when he got mad at me for not playing him. I would have been upset if he did not get angry at me. I'd say this very fact of him having desire and determination has been a great asset to him all of these years. There was little doubt of his potential but his growing up came along later. He put things together to become a star. Nobody could be more delighted about his career than I. All along I have felt he has never been given the credit due him. He is certainly a more complete ball player than many fellows who are given more publicity.

  • He was a wild-swinging kid, but he just radiated ability. He was a temperamental kid, and he could hardly speak any English, but luckily we had some players on the team who spoke Spanish.

  • If you had been in Montreal that year, you wouldn’t believe how ridiculous some of the pitchers made him look. And he had the habit of always taking a strike, getting himself in the hole, when there were runners in scoring position. But he might look foolish at the plate one time, then come back and really tee off on the ball.

  • Historically, the Montreal club always drew well. It was instrumental in paying for a lot of the parent club's tab. Buzzy never once told me to hide Clemente. Hell, there was no way you could hide him even if you wanted to. Don't play him at all, then everybody gets suspicious, anyway. The only orders I had from Bavasi were to win and draw big crowds.

  • He didn't believe me, I guess, but we got along. He didn't harbor a grudge. The career he had with the Pirates, that made it easier for him to let it pass.

  • He always kept a jar of honey in his locker. My son Blake, when having a chance to come into the clubhouse, always ran for Roberto, sitting on his knee – the two of them eating honey. Watching him hit – sometimes with both feet off the ground at contact – and having the best throwing arm in baseball are things I will remember. I also saw him hit a long home run over the scoreboard at Wrigley Field. I miss him. He was kind to all players; you didn’t have to be a star.
    • Jim Marshall (Teammate, 1962) in Maz and the ’60s Bucs: When Pittsburgh and its Pirates Went All the Way (1993) by Jim O'Brien, p. 350
      The home run in question actually exited Wrigley Field just to the left of the scoreboard (which, it should be noted, has – more than half a century later – still never been struck by a batted baseball, much less had one pass over it) – see Roberto Clemente (June 25, 1960) in Baseball-related, Ernie Banks in Opponents, and Les Biederman (May 27, 1959) in Media.

  • He was a nice fellow. There were about eight Americans on the team and he invited us over to his house, which I thought was a very nice gesture – opening his house, making us feel comfortable, talking baseball… And he was very impressive. Not a huge guy, but well-proportioned and obviously very strong. He used a maximum-dimension bat – as big and heavy and long as the rules say a bat can be. Huge. The handle was almost as big as the barrel of the bat. It was around 54 inches in length [sic] and weighed I don’t know how many ounces. One day, he was talking to us about hitting and was handling this bat. The size and shape of it sort of intrigued me; I should have been listening to what he was saying. Might have helped me later. Anyway, he set it down. I went over to pick it up. I couldn’t get it off the floor. Here he was holding it and moving it around like it was nothing and I could barely lift it. That was very impressive to me.
    • Jon Matlack (played under Clemente in Puerto Rico, during the 1971–1972 season) in That Was Part of Baseball Then: Interviews With 24 Former Major League Baseball Players, Coaches & Managers (2002) by Victor Debs, Jr., p. 130
      Additional Clemente-related Jon Matlack quotes can be found in Opponents.

  • 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 reporters to Clemente, following the All-Star game, July 11, 1961, as quoted in Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim, p. 95
      Additional Clemente-related Willie Mays quotes can be found in Opponents.

  • 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 (Teammate, 1956–1972) 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 a 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. You'd be surprised how many outfielders don't.

  • 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.
    • Jerry McNertney (San Juan Senadores teammate, 1963–64 season) in Puerto Rico’s Winter League: A History of Major League Baseball’s Launching Pad (1995) by Thomas E. Van Hyning, p. 65

  • 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.

  • Clemente and I, we played together for about six years – from 1963 to 1968. In my opinion, Roberto Clemente was the best player I’ve ever seen playing this game.

  • I played with Willie Mays and I played with Roberto Clemente, and what I see in Barry is the same ability I saw in Willie and Roberto. I see a guy who trusts himself at the plate and in the field. If I managed against Barry, I wouldn't let him beat me. I wouldn't give him the opportunity.

  • I’d like to see Clemente’s hit on a clear day with no wind and see how far it really would go.
    • Danny Murtaugh (Clemente's manager, 1957–64, part of 1967, 1970–71),1 discussing Clemente's celebrated May 6, 1960 home run 2 in “Shots Are Heard at Candlestick” by Mike Berger, in The San Francisco Chronicle (Saturday, May 7, 1960), p. 27
      1 RC-related Danny Murtaugh quotes not specific to baseball can be found in Other.
      2 For more on this home run, see Mike Berger and Arnold Hano in Media.

  • 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, as quoted 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, as quoted in “The Big Grand Slam: Clemente Was All Set” by Phil Berman, in The San Francisco Chronicle (Saturday, July 15, 1961), p. 1

  • At the moment, the two best hitters in this league—without question—are my guy (Roberto Clemente) and Willie Davis.
    • Danny Murtaugh, as quoted in “Guess What? This Really Might Be the New Willie Davis” by John Wiebusch, in The Los Angeles Times (Thursday, August 13, 1970), p. E1

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 into the wall. He was knocked groggy, but still hit a game-winning home run in the next inning.

  • Roberto really should not have played that second game. He was so tired from the previous night’s game and lack of sleep that he passed up batting practice. But he played all twenty-five innings within a twenty-hour period... Man, when I was playing, it would take me three or four weeks to get that many hits.
    • Danny Murtaugh, recalling Clemente’s 10 hits in two consecutive games, as quoted in 30 Years of Baseball’s Great Moments (1974) by Joseph Reichler, p. 205

  • 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.
    • Rocky Nelson (Teammate, 1959–1961), speaking in September 1960 with Jack Hernon of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reproduced in "¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!," from Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero] (2006) by David Maraniss, pp. 99-100

  • Max Macon, the manager, told me one day on the bench late in the season, "That kid will be starting at Pittsburgh next season." I said, "What do you mean?" He told me about the draft rule for anybody signing a bonus of more than $4,000 and said the Pirates would have the first draft choice and would be sure to take Clemente. He said they'd been scouting him. You could tell he had talent. And he was such a nice kid.

  • 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

  • When I first signed with the Pirates, I signed on as a catcher. I had a technique of throwing the ball, but it was a catcher’s throw, not an outfielder’s throw. Robby first made me aware of the difference. "You can get a lot more on that throw if you stretch your arm out." He showed me how to throw the ball from the outfield. Robby also showed me how to properly grip the ball before throwing it, and how you grab the ball out of your glove with that same grip each time. By gripping the ball a certain way with your fingers across the strings, you could keep it from slicing. It had to be a routine. When you’re getting this advice from a guy as great as Clemente, it sinks in immediately. To me, the guy was God.
    • Dave Parker in Maz and the ’60s Bucs: When Pittsburgh and its Pirates Went All the Way (1993) by Jim O'Brien, p. 272

  • A lot of people praise Clemente now. What I saw as a young adult, though, was that he didn’t get what he deserved. The true praise for Clemente came after his death. To me, he was every bit as good as Mantle and Mays, but they got more recognition on a national basis. Clemente was every bit as good as either of them, or anyone else. To me, he stuck out like a sore thumb. You knew he was a great baseball player.
    • Dave Parker in Maz and the ’60s Bucs: When Pittsburgh and its Pirates Went All the Way, p. 273

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Clemente was No. 1 on the lists of four or five major league teams. We've had several men scout him. Clyde Sukeforth did a thorough job on him. We know he can field, run and throw. He has power for sure. He didn't hit for average in Montreal, but we're hoping he'll do it for us.
    • Branch Rickey, Jr., as quoted in "'Good Prospects Fewer'--Only 13 in Majors' Draft" by Hy Turkin, in The Sporting News (December 1, 1954), p. 4

  • I had a good line on this boy. Three different members of the scouting staff observed his play. On the reports I would have paid more than the $4,000 it cost the club. I would have paid $10,000 or even gone high as $30,000 for him. But for $30,000, I would have gone out myself and checked on him.
    • Branch Rickey, Sr. (aka Branch Rickey; Pirates GM, 1950 – 1955), as quoted in "Another Record for Rickey -- 14 Flyhawks on Bucs' List" by Jack Hernon, in The Sporting News (December 8, 1954), p. 20

  • We can't go overboard on what we've heard. It might be hard on the boy if he gets a lot of rave notices. The people might expect too much of him. I've had so many good reports on this boy, I'm anxious to get a look at him myself.
    • Branch Rickey, as quoted in “Backward Bucs Refuse to Go Overboard on Rookie” by Jack Hernon, in The Sporting News (January 12, 1955), p. 18; reproduced in "I am Not Down and Out" from Branch Rickey in Pittsburgh: Baseball's Trailblazing General Manager for the Pirates, 1950—1955 (2000) by Andrew O'Toole, p. 145

  • I have been told very often from sources about his running speed. His running form is bad, definitely bad, and based upon what I saw tonight, he has only a bit above average major league running speed. He has a beautiful throwing arm. He throws the ball down and it really goes places. However he runs with the ball every time he makes a throw and that’s bad. He has no adventure whatsoever on the bases, takes a comparatively small lead, and doesn’t have in mind, apparently, getting a break. I can imagine that he has never stolen a base in his life with his skill or cleverness. I can guess that if it was done, it was because he was pushed off. His form at the plate is perfect. The bat is out and in good position to give him power. There is not the slightest hitch or movement in his hands or arms and the big end of the bat is completely quiet when the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. His sweep is level, very level. His stride is short and his stance is good to start with and he finishes good with his body. I know of no reason why he should not become a very fine hitter. I would not class him, however, as even a prospective home run hitter. I do not believe he can possibly do a major league club any good in 1955. It is just too bad that he could not have his first year in a Class B or C league and then this year he might have profited greatly with a second year as a regular say in Class A. In 1956 he can be sent out on option by Pittsburgh only by first obtaining waivers, and waivers likely cannot be secured. So we are stuck with him, stuck indeed, until such a time as he can really help a major league club.
    • Branch Rickey, from The Branch Rickey Collection, Library of Congress, scouting report for Santurce v Ponce, 1/25/55, reproduced in "I Am Not Down and Out" from Branch Rickey in Pittsburgh: Baseball's Trailblazing General Manager for the Pirates, 1950—1955 (2000) by Andrew O'Toole, pp. 145-146

  • I saw Clemente several years ago in Puerto Rico and made up my mind at the time to get him somehow. When the Dodgers gave Clemente a bonus and left him on the Montreal roster, I jumped. I knew this was it. The only person I told about Clemente was Clyde Sukeforth and I sent him on a trip to check on Roberto. He came back raving. Clemente was good last year, but he’ll be better this year, and in about three years you’ll really see something.
    • Branch Rickey, as quoted in “from the Ruhl Book: Rickey Rates Clemente as Top Draft Dandy” by Oscar Ruhl, in The Sporting News (March 20, 1957), p. 15

  • 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.

  • I never saw a guy so dedicated to playing ball. He’d have a clubhouse meeting and it’d sorta be funny… he’d talk for an hour, and not get tired of talking! He was speaking in halting English, but he meant every word. And you’d see him hit a tap to the pitcher, and he’d run just as hard as he did on a hit. He always said it might be that one time that something would happen, that you’d put pressure on a guy and make him make a mistake. Maybe we aren’t blessed with his talent, but there’s no reason we can’t hustle like he did.
    • Ken Singleton (played under Clemente for San Juan during the 1969-70 season), as quoted in “Singleton, Staub Throw-In, Eclipsing Rusty” by Bob Dunn, in The Sporting News (May 25, 1974), p. 3

  • "There was a lot of pressure on Roberto to activate himself," Singleton recalls. "He was a hero down there, and he could still play better than anybody. But he refused to take somebody’s place in the lineup. He said he would go with the guys who got him that far. A team is a team, he said. I never forgot that." Neither did Singleton forget how those playoffs ended in 1970. Clemente came up in the ninth inning, bases loaded, his team trailing by a run, with two outs. The count went to 3 and 2. The crowd was screaming, and Clemente seized the moment. "Line-drive double," says Singleton, smiling. "Two runs, we win the game. He contributed to the cause, but he didn't forget everybody else who contributed."
    • Ken Singleton, as quoted and paraphrased in “In the wake of the news; Orioles' Singleton a chemistry expert” by Bob Verdi, in The Chicago Tribune (Friday, September 30, 1983), p. E1
      For another perspective on Clemente as a manager, see Ken Brett in this section.

  • 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
      Additional Clemente-related Willie Stargell quotes can be found in Other.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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. Clemente was such a good looking prospect and so young that if we hadn't grabbed him, he would have been snapped up quickly by the other teams. There weren't many other good draft choices and Clemente was a standout."
    • Clyde Sukeforth (Pirates coach/scout, 1952–1957), as paraphrased and quoted in “Clemente, Early Buc Ace, Says He’s Better in Summer: Puerto Rican Thrills Fans With Throws” by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (June 29, 1955), p. 26

  • A duster thrown to leadoff batter Roberto Clemente by Sal Maglie in the September 21 game was credited with playing a major role in the Pirates' 2 to 1 win over the Dodgers. "You should have heard our players on the bench," said Bucco coach Clyde Sukeforth, formerly of the Dodger staff. "They were madder than at anytime I've seen 'em this season. It was a stupid thing to do. It got the guys fighting mad. It would have been better to let sleeping dogs lie."
    • Clyde Sukeforth, as paraphrased and quoted in “Major Flashes: Sal's Duster Grounded Brooks," in The Sporting News (October 3, 1956), p. 32

  • 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, as quoted in Baseball When the Grass Was Real: Baseball from the Twenties to the Forties Told by the Men Who Played It (1975) by Donald Honig, reprinted in A Donald Honig Reader (1988), pp.145

  • “Well, boys," Mr. Rickey said, "We’re finishing last, so we’ve got the first draft choice. Who is it going to be?" Somebody suggested a pitcher out on the coast. Somebody else said an infielder out of the Southern League. Then he looked at me. “Clyde, do you have a candidate?" “Yes, sir," I said as emphatically as I could. "Clemente, with Montreal." “Any of you other boys see Clemente?" he asked, looking around. One fellow spoke up. “I have," he said. "I didn’t like him." “What didn’t you like about him?" Mr. Rickey said. “I didn’t like his arm," the fellow said. “Clyde,’ the old man said, "did you see this fellow Clemente throw?" “I sure did," I said. “What did you think of his arm?" “Well," I said, "there’s a question in my mind as to whether or not it’s better than Furillo’s." "It’s right in the same class as Furillo’s, and it may even be a little bit better." “I see," Mr. Rickey said. "There seems to be some difference of opinion here. One man doesn’t like the arm, while another says it’s as good as the best. We’ll have to sort this out." So he sent George Sisler and another scout up to Montreal to see Clemente. I guess they decided he could throw as well as do a few other things, because they recommended we draft him. That’s how the Pirates got Clemente for $4,000.
    • Clyde Sukeforth in Baseball When the Grass Was Real (1975) by Donald Honig, reprinted in A Donald Honig Reader (1988), pp.146

  • The worse he felt physically, the better he seemed to play. He gave it 100% every day, every play. No one played the crazy right field in Pittsburgh better. I think my favorite quote from him came when Bobby Bragan asked him why he didn’t find one batting stance and stick with it. Bob replied, "Bobby, it don’t matter how you stand, it matter where you end up!”
    • Art Swanson (Teammate, 1955–1957) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 348

  • 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
      Additional Clemente-related Frank Thomas quotes can be found in Other.

  • 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

  • Bob Bailey, Willie Stargell, Donn Clendenon, Jim Pagliaroni and Bob Veale are practically strangers to Walker. He has never seen them play. But in the last few months Walker has studied their records and asked questions of the men who have seen them in action. "If we can get just a little more out of each Pirate, we're bound to be better," Walker reasons. "Maybe Roberto Clemente can drive in 100 runs, maybe Bailey can bat in about 80 runs, maybe Stargell can hit a few more homers. Just a little more from each player, a little more than he did in 1964 could start us on the road back."

  • I've been studying the records of all the Pirates and I feel if we can just get a little more production out of every man, we can have a good team this season. I don't think that's asking too much. I'd like to have Roberto Clemente drive in 100 runs, Willie Stargell give us a few more homers than the 21 he had last season and maybe Bailey can push a few more runners home.
    • Harry Walker, as quoted in “‘Just a Little Extra,’ Walker Asks Buccos” by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (February 20, 1965), p. 22

  • There’s just no way to pitch to him. He can hit everything. I don’t know why he’s hitting more homers this year, though. He’s just going into the ball and meeting it.

  • He ran every step of the way this year. That's rather unusual for a star of his caliber. He ran as hard for us in our last game of the season as he did in our first. The way he performed this year, Clemente was one of the greatest players I have ever seen. It seemed to be a matter of pride with him. I really don't know what motivated it. All I know is he had it.

  • We were just a fraction short in those years. If we had a little better pitching, we could have won it. What I really regret is not being able to stick around another couple of years. With Sangy, Richie Hebner and Oliver coming up, we had the players to fill in around Clemente and Stargell. That's why I felt bad.

  • Walker regards Clemente as "the most exciting player" he managed and Clemente and Stan Musial as the best.

  • 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

  • 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


Some of you fans
may remember the ball he knocked
out of Wrigley Field 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

Authors / speakers listed alphabetically by last name.
Quotes per author listed chronologically by date of occurrence (where available) or earliest known publication date.

  • Aaron whistled when he talked of the two shots Roberto Clemente drilled. One struck the left field wall and bounced back on the field for a double. The other traveled over Mack Jones’ head in dead center (450 feet?) and he got a triple.
    • Hank Aaron, as paraphrased in “The Scoreboard: Maury Borrows Matty’s Bat, Shakes Sting; Les(s) Said:” by Lester J. Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press (Monday, May 15, 1967), p. 30
      The parenthetical guess-timate is Biederman's, its unintended irony deriving from the fact that the same game—in fact, the same inning—that featured Aaron's 450th HR should also give us a 450-foot triple, the prototypical Clemente clout, contained within Forbes Field's not so friendly confines (incidentally providing a perfect segué to Aaron's subsequent comment, circa September 1967, reproduced below).

  • Tired of hearing that Pittsburgh's Roberto Clemente was baseball's best, Aaron went on the rampage against the Pirates Sunday and fired the Braves to a 7-2 victory with a pair of two-run homers and two singles in a perfect day at the plate. "When you're second best, you have to try harder," Aaron quipped after his hitting outburst. [...] "I'm not mad. People can say whatever they want about who is the best player." [...] Aaron had been needled by Walker's public praise of Clemente, who the Pirate manager said was a better player than Aaron. The Atlanta right fielder hit the roof when Atlanta announcer Milo Hamilton introduced Clemente at a luncheon as the man who beat out Aaron for the right field job in the All-Star game. "I got more votes than Clemente," Aaron said. "I played center field because Walter Alston asked me to." Aaron and Hamilton ironed out their differences at a clubhouse meeting, but the 33-year-old slugger was determined to prove his point. He was particularly elated about throwing out Clemente when the Pittsburgh standout tried to take third on a long hit to right field. "Sure, that made me feel good. But I feel good when I throw anyone out." Aaron just laughed when a teammate said that, from now on, he's going to say before every game, "Clemente's better than Aaron."

  • 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

  • He’s the only wild swinger who hits .300 every year.

  • Johnny Roseboro looks like a .320 hitter up there at the plate and Roberto Clemente looks like a .230 hitter. How come Clemente outhits Roseboro by a hundred points?
    • Walter Alston, in “Angry Drysdale Just Can't Win” by Frank Finch, in The Los Angeles Times (August 14, 1960), p. G1

  • He’s really something. He hits some other people pretty good too. He used to be able to hit Sandy.
    • Walter Alston, speaking with reporters after Clemente's two home runs and four RBI have beaten Drysdale and the Dodgers, 4-1, in "Clemente Blasts Wreck Dodgers" by Martin Kivel, in The Pasadena Independent (Monday, June 5, 1967), p. 14
      i.e. Sandy Koufax, whom Clemente was indeed no longer able to hit...
      primarily because he was no longer pitching, having retired after the 1966 season.

  • I know Stargell is currently hitting almost twice as much as Clemente, but over the years Clemente has been twice as good a hitter as Stargell, especially against southpaws. O’Brien had handled Stargell the first time he faced him and you just can’t ask a youngster to pitch carefully to Clemente. He can hit it no matter where it’s pitched.
    • Walter Alston, defending his decision to pitch to Stargell rather than Clemente, in “Stargell's Double Beats Dodgers" by Ross Newhan, in The Los Angeles Times (Thursday, April 29, 1971), pp. E1, E4

  • Walking away… Roberto Clemente is my premier outfielder – period. I saw more of Clemente than I wanted to when I managed against him. He could hit for power when he had to. When he wanted to slap it to right, he shot the ball like a bullet. Plus, he could fly. When he hit a ground ball to the infield, he was flying to first. That fielder better not be napping. Clemente was a remarkable man because at the ages of thirty-four and thirty-five, he played like he was twenty-one. I never saw anything like it. I remember once when the Pirates came to Cincinnati for a five-game series in four days. Clemente didn’t play in any of the games. Believe me, it didn’t bother me to have him out of there. But I was curious, so I queried Danny Murtaugh, the Pirates’ manager. “He’s been very tired," said Murtaugh. "He’s been resting. But watch what happens next week and the rest of the season." I checked the box scores every day. There was Clemente – three hits, two hits, three hits, four hits, two hits, day after day. Clemente came back and led the Pirates to the pennant. The man got tired just like everyone else. But once he was rested, he was like a kid again. That’s how I’ll always remember him – as a man who played with youthful energy.
    • Sparky Anderson, from Sparky! (1990) by Anderson with Dan Ewald, p. 196-197

  • Bobby could do more things than any player I've ever seen. I used to coach third base for Preston Gomez in San Diego. Once he told me, "Now, I want you to know about Clemente cause he’ll play a game with you. If we have a man on first and there’s a base hit to right field, he’ll pretend to be loafing in on it. The moment you start to wave for that runner to come to third – look out, there’s gonna be an explosion." Well, sure enough, I don’t know what inning it was, but the situation came up, he put me in his trap and I did it. And let me tell you, my runner was about two-thirds of the way to third when the ball arrived. I came into the dugout and Preston was laughing. He said, ‘What did I tell you?’ But that was Roberto. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.

  • The best player I personally ever saw — and I never saw Mays in his prime, so I can't argue that — but the best I have ever seen to this day is Roberto Clemente. Bobby was unreal. He was better the last couple years before he got killed than he was in his younger days. He had the body of a kid in his mid-20s. People didn't realize how fast he was. He only stole bases if it meant something. In the outfield, nobody could play that position like him.

  • 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've only been in the league a little over a year and a half, but I don't think I've ever seen him make an easy out.
    • 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

  • 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

  • The fact that Clemente has been so consistent is the most impressive thing about him. He is hitting over .300 when there are fewer and fewer .300 hitters. Yastrzemski had a great season, but Clemente has had many, many great seasons, and that’s why I picked him. Our scouting reports on him are the best – the best they can be. We rate him at the top in every category. You can’t say more than that.
    • Jim Campbell (Detroit Tigers general manager, 1963 – 1983), in “The General Managers Pick: Baseball’s Best Player... It’s Roberto Clemente” by Joe Falls, in Sport (March 1968), p. 65

  • Pat Corrales, now managing the Cleveland Indians, admitted the other day that he has a favorite player. He's Gary Matthews of the Cubs, who played for Corrales in Philadelphia. "He does everything he can to win," Corrales said. "I've never seen him stop driving. And if he sees a teammate who isn't hustling, he'll tell him about it and embarrass him in front of the whole club." According to Corrales, only a few other players are in this same category: Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose and Baltimore's Cal Ripken.

  • Clemente has convinced me he’s the best hitter in this league. I always thought Hank Aaron was, but Clemente has shown me something. He hits nothing but line drives, and a pitcher never knows where to throw the ball to him. And he’s just about as good a ballplayer as you’ll find anywhere. He can do everything.
    • Jim Davenport in "Davenport Salutes Clemente: 'He's League's Best Rapper'" by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (July 26, 1961), p. 19

  • 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.

  • [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.

  • Of course… there is really no question in my mind that the best ballplayer over the last decade has been Willie Mays. Willie is a little older now… but he is still a tremendous ballplayer and again, next year, he could be the greatest again. When you talk about the decade, you’ve got to consider Willie. Today… today we have a lot of fine players. I’d have to say that Roberto Clemente, who over a period of years has led the league in several departments, would be a great asset to any team. Henry Aaron, of course… and a lot of people underrate Pete Rose. On the basis of the little we saw of him in the World Series, you’d have to put Carl Yastrzemski right up there with the superstars. You cannot pin me down on this. You can split them up. Mays in his prime, you could make a choice. My choice would be easy. But now… now, if you must pin me down to just one… at this moment… I would say Clemente.
    • Chub Feeney (San Francisco Giants' de facto GM, 1946 – 1969), in “The General Managers Pick: Baseball’s Best Player… It’s Roberto Clemente” by Joe Falls, in Sport (March 1968), p. 65

  • The key play had to be in the sixth inning when we had the bases loaded. There were two out, remember, after Tito Fuentes struck out. That brought up Willie Mays and who would you like to have up in that situation? Willie, right? So Willie crashed the ball and Clemente made a great catch of the line drive. If that ball had been up a little bit… but that’s the way it goes, doesn’t it?

  • 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 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

  • 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

  • Your question is an interesting one because there are a lot of interesting players in the game today. If I picked a player from our league, I’d pick Al Kaline of the Tigers. Al never makes a mistake. I’ve never seen him throw the ball to the wrong base, he takes advantage of anything that's fumbled in the outfield, he’s a great hitter, a great outfielder and a great thrower. But still I’ve got to go with Roberto Clemente. He’s got to be the best around today because he demonstrates year in and year out that he can hit the ball. To me he’s got to be one of the great stars in the game of baseball. The funny thing is – though I never really thought it was so funny – is that we just missed getting Clemente in the 1954 draft. That’s when we were in Washington. We were going to take him as our first pick but Pittsburgh was ahead of us and they selected Clemente off Brooklyn’s Montreal roster. So, today, Clemente would be with the Minnesota Twins instead of Pittburgh – and I wouldn’t mind paying him $100,000 a year.
    • Cal Griffith (Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins. general manager, 1950 – 1960 and 1961 – 1984, respectively), in “The General Managers Pick: Baseball’s Best Player... It’s Roberto Clemente” by Joe Falls, in Sport (March 1968), p. 65

  • 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 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.

  • I also threw the slider a couple of times. I threw the slider to Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente, because I figured if it worked on those two great hitters, then I had something there. So I threw it to Aaron and almost hit him in the face. He reached out to get it, and it came right at him. And I threw it to Clemente. You may remember that in Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, there was a light tower by where they used to park the batting cage. Halfway up. there was a bunch of transformers. Well, Clemente hit it off a transformer. I said, "Well, maybe I don't have a slider," and I gave it up. So, I never came up with a third pitch.
    • Sandy Koufax, speaking on The Tim McCarver Show, aired ; quoted in Tim McCarver's Diamond Gems (2006), pp. 224-225

  • Hank Aaron. But there are more than Henry. Clemente, Willie Stargell, Williams, Pete Rose – they’re all tough.
    • Frank Linzy (addressing the question, "Which batter would you least like to face in the bottom of the ninth with two out and the bases loaded, protecting a one-run lead?"), in “Toughest Hitter in the Clutch? Giants’ Hurlers Name Toughies” by Harry Jupiter, in The Sporting News (April 23, 1966), p. 11

  • 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.
    • Mickey Lolich in "Roberto: Blended Dignity With Skill" by Watson Spoelstra, in The Detroit News (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. 1-D. The home run can be seen on Youtube.

  • 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)

  • Clemente was the toughest out in the National League during his prime.
    • Eddie Mathews in “Superstar Label Fit Clemente” by Wayne Minshew, in The Atlanta Constitution (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. 1-C

  • Another guy that never got attention was Roberto Clemente. He was something else. He had a great arm and he could hit. He was a little more flamboyant than Hank, but not like Mays. Willie constantly threw to the wrong base, though, or overthrew the cutoff man to show off his arm. We always kept running on Willie. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great player, but I would take Aaron or Clemente over Mays any time.
    • Eddie Mathews, from Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime (1994) by Mathews and Bob Buege, p. 182

  • It’s early in the game. I had thrown five consecutive fastballs. He fouled a couple off. So I’ve got him two-and-two and I’m thinking, ‘If you drop the curve ball over the outside corner, you got him.’ When I throw the pitch, I’m instantly disappointed because I know it’s not a strike, that it’s gonna be outside. So I’m thinking, "Oh no, now it’s three-and-two." That’s the instantaneous thought process because I knew this was a ball. I think initially it may have fooled him because he took his normal stride, but his hands stayed back. He was great at that. He must have recognized the spin and thought, "Hey, I can do something with this," and proceeded to one-hop the left-center-field wall with a pitch that wasn’t even a strike. An interesting piece of hitting.
    • Jon Matlack, recalling his pitch sequence on Clemente 3,000th hit, in That Was Part of Baseball Then: Interviews With 24 Former Major League Baseball Players, Coaches & Managers (2002) by Victor Debs, p. 133

  • When I gave up that hit, I had no idea it was his 3,000th. None. I’m thinking, "What’s going on around here? This is a stinking double." The crowd is standing and cheering. The umpire’s handing Clemente the ball at second base and I’m standing there with my arms crossed glowering at him like, "Give me the baseball. We’re trying to play a game here." Anyway, somebody took a picture from the dugout of me with the umpire handing the ball to Clemente in the background. A couple of days later, that photo was sent to me in the clubhouse. It came from one of the clubhouse kids, but I’m assuming Clemente sent it. When you’re going through the competition, trying to win a ballgame is all that matters in the world. Clemente’s death just brings the importance of other things to the forefront very quickly. He was a great player, and what from I knew of him he was a dynamite individual. Baseball and the world lost that day.
    • Jon Matlack in That Was Part of Baseball Then, pp. 133-134

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • The guy was 38 years old and was still putting out 200 per cent on the playing field. That’s how I’ll remember Roberto Clemente. He was a winner. He could rise to the occasion – any occasion. After eight years up here, I’m convinced Clemente was the greatest I’ve seen. Yet, he was always smiling. He would always stop and talk to you.
    • Norm Miller in "Astros Mourn Clemente’s Death" by Joe Heiling, in The Houston Post (Wednesday, January 6, 1973), p. 3/D

  • 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.

  • I saw various. I never saw Willie Mays. I saw Roberto Clemente. He could hit, run, field and throw. Intelligent player. And he played to win. I remember hearing Clemente say that he always tried his best, so that he would never have any self-doubts about whether he gave it his all. I think the same words were attributed to Willie Mays or Joe DiMaggio. I saw Olmo, not a lot. But from what I saw, the way he played left field, you did not forget him. Olmo was elegant. It was Clemente and Olmo.

  • 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.
    • Luis Olmo (first an opponent, then a teammate, of Clemente in Puerto Rico, and the player from whom Clemente claimed to have learned the basket catch) in "Clemente: A Bittersweet Memoir" from Great Latin Sports Figures: The Proud People (1976) by Jerry Izenberg, p. 20

  • He studied everything and he remembered everything. He knew every pitcher and every hitter – whether the hitter had power, where the outfielders should play him, whether or not the guy would try to take the extra base.
    • Danny Ozark in "Roberto Clemente: Baseball’s Magnificent Militant" by Bruce Keidan, in The Philadelphia Inquirer (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. 1-D

  • He was the most underrated runner in the game. He never stole a lot of bases. But anytime you really had to have a steal and he was on base, he’d get it for you.
    • Danny Ozark in "Roberto Clemente: Baseball’s Magnificent Militant"

  • 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

  • I saw someone hit a short fly to right. Lee May was leaning on the third base bag. Clemente got the ball on a bounce and threw Lee out by three or four feet at home.
    • Tony Perez in The Baseball Anthology: 125 Years of Stories, Poems, Articles, Photographs, Drawings, Interviews, Cartoons, and Other Memorabilia (1994), edited by Joseph Wallace, p. 220

  • 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

  • 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.

  • I was just a kid at the time, only 18. Clemente was a holdout that spring. There were several of us rookies who would come in and look over at his locker to see if he had shown up yet. But there would only be his uniform hanging there. Finally, he showed up for workouts and I was a little surprised. I had built Clemente up so much in my mind that I was looking for a guy like Frank Howard. You know – 6-foot-7 and 250 or 260 pounds. But he was nothing like that. He was just average size, just like any other individual. But he was the greatest ballplayer I’ve ever seen.
    • Dave Roberts in “Astros Mourn Clemente’s Death” by Joe Heiling, in The Houston Post (Wednesday, January 6, 1973), p. 3/D

  • I don’t know if you ever saw Roberto play, but he was the most unorthodox good ball-player I ever saw. Most good ballplayers are smooth – they do things with rhythm. Well, Roberto had his own rhythm. He looked like he was falling apart when he ran – looked like he was coming apart when he threw. His stance at the plate was ridiculous. When he swung he’d lunge and hit bad balls. There was no way he could hit the ball like that. But no one told Roberto that.
    • Robin Roberts in Baseball for the Love of It: Hall of Famers Tell It Like It Was (1982) by Anthony J. Connor (New York, Macmillan, 1982)

  • When I played second base, Clemente hit balls harder at me than any left-handed batter.
    • Pete Rose in “Hats Off! N.L. Player of the Week – Roberto Clemente” by Les Biederman, in The Sporting News (June 3, 1967), p. 23

  • 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.

  • In all due respect to Henry Aaron, Stan Musial and Willie Mays, the best hitter I ever played against was Roberto Clemente.

  • When I watch Clemente play, I think I'm seeing two ball games. Clemente is a ball game himself. I've seen him make plays recently that I think are great. But it seems the fans, sportswriters and his own teammates take it for granted.

  • Koufax and Roberto Clemente. I saw Mays hang on too long. The same for Henry Aaron. I admired Brooks Robinson. I’m starting to lose my admiration for him the same way. I liked Clemente because he was a bust-butt player. He was always a gentleman and wasn’t afraid to run into walls.
    • Nolan Ryan, answering the question, “As a professional, what ballplayers do you most admire?” in “Angels Also Have Idols, Poll Shows” by Dick Miller, in The Sporting News (May 29, 1976), p. 12

  • 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.
    • Duke Snider in "Chapter 8: Right Fielder" from Few And Chosen: Defining Dodger Greatness Across the Eras (2006) by Snider with Phil Pepe, p. 113 and p. 114

  • [Clemente] was another of the people who played "Thou shalt not pass me with a fastball." He had extremely good power to right-center field. I found out through trial and error that the best way I could pitch to him was down and away. Always keep the ball down. He was a super high-ball hitter. Most of the great hitters are high-ball hitters. They see the ball better up there. And all good hitters hit hit with their hands above the ball. For that reason, they were always getting the big part of the bat on the ball when it was up higher in the strike zone.
    • Warren Spahn in “Warren Spahn Recalls His Toughest Batting Foes” by George White, in Baseball Digest (October 1982), p. 37; reprinted in The Best of Baseball Digest (2006) by John Kuenster, p.243

  • I was trying to waste the pitch. I wanted him to 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. [...] I knew the two bases were open. I figured if maybe I could get him to swing again at a pitch around his head.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • Clemente was the best player I competed against and the most exciting I ever saw.
    • Don Sutton in Roberto Clemente (1994) by Norman Macht, p. 46

  • Roberto Clemente was the best player I’ve ever played against. Anything between the on-deck circles was a strike to him. I’ve seen him double on knock-down pitches.

  • Toughest hitter to face? I can’t figure out one. There probably were five: Roberto Clemente would be at the top of the list. Rico Carty, Bill Madlock, Bob Watson… and the world-famous Rance Mulliniks.
    • Don Sutton in “Today’s Hall-of-Fame Inductions ” by I.J. Rosenberg, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Sunday, July 26, 1998), p. E9

  • I saw him hit line drives off the brick wall at Forbes Field. One of them was the hardest ball I ever saw hit. I saw Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey and Dick Allen hit some long balls against us, up and out, but Clemente's was different. I just never saw a ball hit so hard."
    • Ron Swoboda (most likely referring to May 1, 1966 double) in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 270. Also see May 2, 1966 quotes from Les Biederman and Dick Young in Media.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Houston manager Harry Walker, who has been in baseball 34 years, and Coach Buddy Hancken, 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."

  • 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.
    • Bob Watson in "Astros Mourn Clemente’s Death" by Joe Heiling, in The Houston Post (January 2, 1973), p. 3D
      Actually, it was the bottom of the eighth; see Joe Morgan (Sep 30, 2002) and Harry Walker (June 16, 1971) in this section and Darrell Mack in Media.

  • 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


I saw him hit line drives off the
brick wall at Forbes Field. One of them
was the hardest ball I ever saw hit. I saw Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey and Dick Allen hit some long balls against us, up and out, but Clemente's was different. I just never saw a ball
hit so hard.
Ron Swoboda
Clemente’s blast [hit] high off the
centerfield 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.
Dick Young
The New York Daily News
But the blast caused a rumble
through the stands and no doubt unnerved Jack Fisher.
Les Biederman
The Pittsburgh Press

Authors / speakers listed alphabetically by last name.
Quotes per author listed chronologically by date of occurrence (where available) or earliest known publication date.

  • Roberto Clemente boomed a 500-foot home run high over the 30-foot green fence at Terry Park today and it took a shot like that to knock over the improved New York Mets by a score of 7 to 5. Clemente's tremendous blow came in the eighth inning off Darrell Sutherland on the first pitch and broke 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.

  • Roberto Clemente's book, which will be co-authored by Frank Eck of the New York Associated Press office, is expected to net $50,000 from the publisher. I have heard some of the tapes and read a couple of the chapters. The book will offer excellent reading when it comes out in six months.

  • We were in Cooperstown (NY) a few years ago. Baseball's Hall of Fame Museum was full of visitors on a sunny morning. Among them were Pirates and Tigers players in baseball uniforms, sans spikes. They were to meet in an exhibition game an hour later. Roberto Clemente had a small camera whirring every few minutes. He was taking pictures of the enshrined plaques and other mementos of yesteryear's super stars ... Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Tris Speaker, Grover Alexander ... to name a few. A Pittsburgher said to Roberto, "This is where you belong. Some day they will be taking pictures of your shrine here." "Thank you," he replied. "I guess a fellow like me has to die to get voted in by the writers."
    • Al Abrams: "Sidelight on Sports: I Remember Roberto," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. 14

  • Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh right fielder, has convinced everyone by now that he has a fine arm. Clemente uncorked two great throws to home plate today which never touched the ground.
    • Bob Addie: "Bob Addie's Column," The Washington Post (Monday, October 10, 1960), p. A15

  • Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh right fielder, must have taken a course in the Willie Mays school of outfielding. Clemente looks a lot like Mays catching a fly ball. In the Mays-Clemente method, you catch the front part of the ball backward, which means your head points to the South while your feet are running North. It's not recommended for fellows with stiff necks or starched collars.
    • Bob Addie: "Bob Addie's Column," The Washington Post (Tuesday, October 11, 1960), p. A23

  • The House of Representatives of Puerto Rico took official note of the selection of one of its citizens, Roberto Clemente, as the National League's Most Valuable Player. The Puerto Rican House got together three pages of "whereases" and "wherefores" to congratulate both Clemente and the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
    • Bob Addie: "Bob Addie... Kaffeklatsch Revived," The Washington Post (Sunday, December 4, 1966), p. C2

  • Ballplayers are notoriously reluctant to talk about their injuries or the infirmities of "old age." Roberto Clemente was out for weeks with a bad back and it was apparent in this series that he was swinging with effort. And yet, every time he was asked how he felt, he always said "great."
    • Bob Addie: "Bob Addie... Familiar Faces," The Washington Post (Tuesday, October 6, 1970), p. D2

  • The durable right fielder, a physical phenomenon at 38, shows no outward signs of relinquishing his claim as the best all-around player in the game today. But a closer look at Clemente's Achilles heel, medically and figuratively, reveals an interesting development. One medical report has it that Clemente has rheumatism in both ankles as well as his right knee and right elbow. Still, he continues to give a fabulous performance.
    • Bob Addie: "Bucs Capture 3d Straight NL East Title," The Washington Post (Friday, September 22, 1972), p. D1

  • 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 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

  • And then, too, there was the shared experience, already permanently fixed in memory, of Roberto Clemente playing a kind of baseball that none of us had ever seen before—throwing and running and hitting at something close to the level of absolute perfection, playing to win but also playing the game almost as if it were a form of punishment for everyone else on the field.

  • 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)

  • Clemente started a home-run binge against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, August 30th, by hitting a liner over the 375-foot mark in right field, and in one stretch owned four homers in five games. He hit one against the Giants over the right field fence in Candlestick Park and the next day drilled one over the left-center fence that Garry Schumacher, Giant publicist, declared was the hardest hit ball there all year. Clemente powered a 420-foot shot into the center field portion* of the stands [sic] at Forbes Field against Jim Owens and the Phils on September 4th for his fourteenth of the season.
    • Les Biederman: "Groat Injury Deals Tough Blow to Pitt," The Sporting News (September 14, 1960), p. 7
      Not only over the 375-foot mark, but far beyond, according to the victimized pitcher, Sandy Koufax, who would later call this the longest ball he'd ever seen hit to the opposite field; see the May 1965 Koufax quote in Opponents, as well as the April 22, 1961 Frank Finch quote in this section.
      That would be right center, to be precise; Forbes Field had no bleachers beyond the left or center field wall, and the right-field seating ended well to the right of dead center.

  • 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."

  • 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 [sic] 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.

  • The night Clemente put on his show, only 5,222 fans showed up in Cincinnati. The next night, the attendance jumped to 13,389 and Clemente put on a display during batting practice. He lofted five of six balls out of the park in all directions and when he left the batting cage, the fans applauded. “It’s the first time I’ve seen that since Ted Williams’ days with the Red Sox,” coach Johnny Pesky remarked. Clemente left Cincinnati, trailed by admiring remarks from the Reds.
    • Les Biederman: “Hats Off! N.L. Player of the Week – Roberto Clemente,” The Sporting News (June 3, 1967), p. 23
      See Dave Bristol and Pete Rose 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.

  • In July 1971, just before his thirty-eighth birthday, he made what may have been the most spectacular catch in the history of right field. In the eighth inning, with the Pirates ahead 1-0 in a crucial game, two out and a man on base [Joe Morgan, shortly before being traded to the Reds], Houston’s Bob Watson, a right-handed hitter, sliced a vicious shot into the corner. Clemente ate up a great stretch of turf with his back to the ball, leapt with a half-twist in full flight, made a one-hand catch above the Astrodome’s yellow home-run line, and in a fully extended, leaping-stab posture hit the wall wide open. He didn’t feel for the wall, he ignored the wall, and WHAM. When he got up, the left or glove side of his body was swelling, bleeding, and bruised at, respectively, the elbow, knee, and ankle; and the game was saved.
    That's one reason Clemente was always hurting: he was always so brave in the field. Men in their late thirties just don't make sliding-on-the- stomach catches, skidding-on-one-hip catches, on a regular basis.
    • Roy Blount, Jr., in The Baseball Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Book (1988) by Gerald Astor, p. 305
      Actually, this was two months before his 37th birthday, and the play in question occurred on June 15, 1971.

  • 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 (September 5, 1964)

  • Clemente's was the longest I ever saw at Wrigley; longer than Kingman's. That's the one I'll always remember.
    • Jack Brickhouse (Chicago Cubs broadcaster from 1948 to 1981), comparing home runs hit by Clemente on May 17, 1959, and Dave Kingman on April 14, 1976; as quoted in "They're Still Talking About Meyer's Homer; Homers have the clout to leave legacies" by Ed Sherman, in The Hartford Courant (May 4, 1989), p. B6

  • Roberto Clemente is to me what John Wayne is to Western movies or any tremendous attraction. Every time we broadcast a game in which he plays, we get our biggest audience. I don't know about the other players, but he's the king.
    • Buck Canel, speaking with reporters during the 1972 NLCS, as quoted in "Puerto Rico Has Lost a Hero" by Bob Addie, in The Washington Post (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. D2

  • In later years, there would be people who would say that Roberto was a hypochondriac. They could have been right, but if they were, it made the things he did even more remarkable. Because 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, then the act was even more courageous.
    • Buck Canel in "Clemente: A Bittersweet Memoir" from Great Latin Sports Figures: The Proud People (1976) by Jerry Izenberg, p. 24

  • You are going to a town where the best player in baseball is, but nobody knows it.
    • Jimmy Cannon, speaking to newly hired Post-Gazette Pirates beat writer, Charley Feeney, in 1966; as quoted by Feeney in Remember Roberto: Clemente Recalled by Teammates, Family, Friends and Fans (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 418

  • Then there was the bomb hit by Roberto Clemente, Sosa's idol, in the ninth inning of the second game of a doubleheader on May 17, 1959. The missile left the ballpark to the left of the Wrigley Field scoreboard, landing in a gas station across the street.

  • Roberto Clemente has switched from pop-off-pills to pep up pills. The Pittsburgh Pirates have switched, too. They've abandoned the National League's Battle of the Bottom and instead have declared war on the rest of the league. The Pirates, with Clemente at the front of the attack, extended their winning streak to 10 games Sunday by clobbering the New York Mets, 9-1 and 12-0. [...] Manager Harry Walker attributes the change to several factors, Clemente among them. It was only earlier this month that the league's defending batting champion was quoted as saying: "I want to be traded from this club, and I don't want to play for this manager any more." Clemente thought differently soon afterward and now is doing a lot of playing for Walker. He's also taking a lot of pep pills to combat the weakness that remains from the malaria attack he suffered during the winter. The illness kept him away from most of spring training and still has him at less-than-playing weight." The pills apparently are working. During the winning streak, the 30-year-old right fielder is hitting .458 and has raised his season's average to .308. In the New York series he rapped 11 hits in 19 trips to the plate.

  • I first visited the place June 27 [1971] 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.

  • Only recently, he speared a long line drive one-handed and ran face first into Forbes Field's right field wall, knocking himself unconscious. As memorable as that catch may be to the fans who saw it, it could not compare with one he made back in the 1954 season at Montreal. He was playing left field then, and the left field fence was made of wire. A batter smashed a mighty drive that appeared certain to clear the fence. It did, but Roberto lunged over the fence and speared the ball with his glove as it dropped over. There was only one difficulty. Roberto was hung up on the fence. He lay atop it on his belly, his face and arms in home run territory and his legs and feet in outfield territory. The fans in the outfield bleachers went to his rescue and after considerable lifting and tugging, finally extricated him, dumping him back into the outfield.

  • In the age of power, the fact that Clemente has never hit more than 23 home runs (and has never driven in more than 94 runs) weighs heavily against his prestige. There is no doubting that his muscular arms and outsize hands are capable of power, for one of his home runs – a shot over Wrigley Field’s left-center bleachers – stands as one of the longest smashes ever hit out of the Cub ball park. Yet because he plays half his schedule in spacious Forbes Field, where the man who guns for home runs undergoes traumatic revelations of inadequacy, Roberto wisely has tailored his style to the line drive and the hard ground ball hit through the hole. Thus he hit only ten home runs last year, but he is certain he can hit 20 home runs any season he pleases, Forbes Field notwithstanding. “If I make up my mind, I’m going to hit 20 homers this year,” he bellows with indignation. “I bet you any amount of money I can hit 20.” A change of style would do the trick, he claims, but what sort of change? Ah, Roberto becomes tight-lipped. He is one of baseball’s most sinister practitioners of intrigue. “Nothing,” he replies. “A little change in the hands, that’s all. I don’t want to tell you what it is."
    • Myron Cope, from “Aches and Pains and Three Batting Titles,” Sports Illustrated (March 7, 1966), p. 34
      For more about this home run, see Roberto Clemente (June 25, 1960 and June 6, 1966) in Baseball-related, Ernie Banks in
      Opponents, and Les Biederman (May 27, 1959) in Media
      Additional Clemente-related Myron Cope quotes can be found at Other.

  • Then the scene moves to Forbes Field for what proves to be the imaginative highlight of the program. While Take Me Out to the Ball Game gets the Bartok treatment, the empty stands, the bare field, the portraits of the Pirate members of the Baseball Hall of Fame move slowly across the screen. In a few moments, the music—still the same tune—goes into an up tempo as the crowds file in and, oh, delightful moment, Roberto Clemente belts one over the right center field wall.

  • In the matter of home runs, it is evident by now that the Coliseum right-field fence was moved closer to the plate [this season], despite the wails and doubts of some long-ball blasters. In 10 games, five round-trippers were hit to right – by Johnny Callison, Duke Snider, Bill Virdon, Bill Cunningham and John Roseboro. That’s an average of one every two games. Last year, right-field homers were hit on an average of every 2.75 games – 28 in 77 games, to be exact. The Dodgers hammered 18: Duke Snider (7), John Roseboro (3), Frank Howard (3), and one apiece by Willie Davis, Ron Fairly, Jim Gilliam, Norm Larker and Irv Noren. Visiting athletes connected 10 times: Willie McCovey and Billy Williams (twice each), and Ed Bailey, Gordy Coleman, Roberto Clemente, Eddie Mathews, Bill White and Willie Kirkland.
    • Frank Finch: “THE BULLPEN: Wally Moon in Orbit, Enjoying Best Take-off Since Rookie Year,” The Los Angeles Times (Thursday, April 22, 1961), p. A3
      By providing this information—which, among other things, reveals that of the eight opposing players who hit home runs over the Coliseum's distant right field fence in its first year of operation, the only right-handed batter was Clemente—Finch inadvertently lends very concrete support to the recollection of the victimized pitcher, Sandy Koufax, who called Clemente's ball the longest he'd ever seen hit to the opposite field; see the May 1965 Koufax quote in Opponents, as well as the September 14, 1960 Les Biederman quote in this section.

  • 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.

  • In 1953, Roberto Clemente tossed away the heavy bat he’d been using, and went to a lighter model. Styles in bats change nearly as much as styles in women’s skirts. Bats have been thick-handled and thin-handled, bottle-shaped and straight, long and short, heavy and light. In the days of Babe Ruth and before Ruth, home run champion Gavvy Cravath, 50-ounce bats were not unique. Today, they do not exist, nor do 40-ounce clubs, and the 32- and 33-ounce bats prevail. Sluggers today whip their light bats the way lion tamers slash away in a den of spitting cats. The secret in hitting home runs today is getting the bat around on the ball, and whiplashing it. With a lighter bat, you come around more quickly, and with a thin handle you catapult the meaty end of the bat against the ball. While at Santurce, Clemente noted that some of his teammates had switched to lighter weapons, and the ball suddenly had started to go out of sight. Ernie Banks would become a tremendous home run hitter in the National League because he shifted to a lighter bat. Hitters are a proud lot. They measure the distance of their blows the way anglers weigh their tarpon. Clemente, too, wanted to see baseballs disappear over the most remote fence. He picked up a new light bat, he swung from his heels, and POP! No, not the ball – his back. Out it flew, and the man who had entered the International League in the spring of 1954 was simply another human being with an aching back.

  • There was a book that came out in the late ’60s called Baseball’s Greatest Players Today. Clemente is not in the book. Not in the book. It’s ludicrous. Just ludicrous.
    • Arnold Hano, interviewed in Clemente, a 60-minute documentary produced by Black Canyon Films and aired on Fox Sports in March 1998.
      As its listing at Worldcat reveals, Hano's chronology is slightly but significantly off; the book was actually published in 1963, prior to Clemente's 1966 NL MVP season, 3 of his 4 batting titles, and what was arguably his career year in 1967. Clearly, this makes the injustice of Clemente's omission less obvious; nonetheless, the fact that it was perceived as such by an award-winning sportswriter even in 1963 is instructive. Not coincidentally, Hano authored the chapter that marked Clemente's 1962 debut in the annual Baseball Stars of _ _ _ _ paperback series (the first of 12 consecutive such appearances, concluding with his posthumous inclusion in Baseball Stars of 1973); see the first Hano quote, above.

  • Clemente’s homer – his second in two nights – was a prodigious wallop of some 430 feet that landed about 12 rows up in the steps to the right of the service ramp in center field. In addition to loosening a few boards and frightening small children, it also tied the score at 3-all. Matty Alou was aboard with a walk when Ray tried to fling one pitch too many past the dangerous Clemente. Clemente saw the ball good and he sped up his swing and timed the connection perfectly. Wynn, in center, gave token pursuit of the eighth blast this year off the 34-year-old Puerto Rican hero’s bat. But he’d have needed a ladder to reach the blast which soared far over Wynn’s head.
    • Joe Heiling: “Pirates Defeat Astros, 4-3, On Taylor’s Single," The Houston Post (Friday, June 13, 1969), pp. 1/D, 6/D

  • 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.

  • Maranda had two out in the first inning when Bob Skinner singled, Rocky Nelson doubled and Clemente slugged one over the fence in left center. They say here it was the hardest hit ball in Candlestick Park's windswept history.

  • I met Roberto Clemente once, after the 1971 World Series, which he dominated with his bat, his throwing arm, his fielding, and with his presence. After the Pirates won that Series from the Orioles, Clemente flew to New York City, where the editors of a magazine had a new car to present him. The day wheeled about a luncheon in Leone's Restaurant, where a wearying procession of speakers led into a Purto Rican official, who was supposed to introduce Roberto but instead rambled on boozily for 20 minutes. When at length the man finished, Clemente strode to the microphone, and suddenly the low comedy was done. "I am 37 years old" Clemente said, "and this is the first time I have ever been asked to speak in New York." He spoke on, movingly, beautifully, about his island, his family, about his game. Someone at my table commented, "We are listening to an overflowing heart." That vibrant heart was stopped 26 months later when a time-worn DC-7 shattered in the Caribbean Sea. Clemente had organized the flight to bring food, anesthetics, sugar, and tracheotomy tubes to the broken city of Managua, Nicaragua.

  • A reliever strikes out Mays, McCovey, Howard, and Clemente tonight. Believe it or not, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Frank Howard, Roberto Clemente play in the same game—and get struck out—on the first annual "All-Star Celebrity Softball" special. The reliever is Eddie Feigner, known as "King of Softball" after 22 years as pitcher in the sport throughout the United States and Canada.

  • I remember watching you play. When you ran for a fly ball it was like you traveled three feet above the grass, your feet never touching. "He has invisible pillows of angel hair attached to his feet," my wife said one night, "that's how he glides across the outfield."

  • Tony Kubek, the Game of the Week broadcaster for NBC, also thinks it's entirely too early to be chiseling out Clemente's obituary. "He's remarkable," says Tony. "You can’t lope to first base on a right field single with Roberto out there. He’s liable to catch you napping at first with one of those patented throws of his—or at least he’ll try."
    • Tony Kubek, in the wake of Clemente's injury-plagued 1972 season, as paraphrased and quoted in “Roberto Clemente: ‘Nobody Does Anything Better’” by Ray Robinson, from Baseball Stars of 1973 (March 1973), edited by Robinson, p. 55

  • During Al Kaline's final season, Kubek said during an interview in Detroit that Kaline's 3,000 hits were marred by the fact that in his last year he was a designated hitter. "I said I was more impressed with Roberto Clemente because he played every day," Kubek recalled. All heck broke loose, with Detroit fans tearing into Kubek for his supposed slight of their veteran hero. In classic Kubek style, he refused to trim his views for the audience. There is no more constant on-air critic of the DH rule than Kubek, which has brought criticism of him in turn from American League owners who feel that the broadcaster exceeds his role. "But the DH rule is so dumb," Kubek said all over again. "Don't the American League owners wonder why pitchers like Palmer, Ryan, Hunter and Guidry develop arm trouble? Because of the DH rule, thety have to pitch too many stressful late-game innings."
    • Tony Kubek, as paraphrased and quoted in ""Sport View: Kudos to Kubek as Favorite Sports Analyst" by Jack Craig, in The Sporting News (March 22, 1980), p. 47

  • New York Times columnist Arthur Daley, approaching A to Z during the series stay in Flatbush, said: "Here's a line I dare not use for obvious reasons. I'll pass it along for you to do with as you please. In their last series in Milwaukee, the Pittsburgh Pirate players were complaining about the way they were plagued and bitten by mosquitoes during the final night game of the season. Someone asked Roberto Clemente why he hadn't been bothered by the pests, and the Puerto Rican outfielder replied: 'Hell, I guess they couldn't see me.'" It was, A to Z thought, one of the best cracks since the wiseacre in the stands at St. Louis yelled, in the midst of a Cardinal belting of Dan Bankhead: "Somebody call the NAACP."

  • Colored ball players in New York for last week's Major League All-Star Game, looked as though they had all just stepped out of a men's fashion ad in one of the top fashion magazines. Attired in attractive, conservative clothing and shoes the 15 tan athletes totaled $2,000 or more in suits, shirts and footwear alone. As he stepped out his Roosevelt Hotel quarters, Willie Mays was dressed in natty blue olive suit, white custom-fit shirt and deep blood shoes. A dark green suit, gold tie on white shirt donned the well-proportioned frame of Roberto Clemente as he and grey-suited Billy Williams paused to sign autographs in front of the Commodore Hotel where they stayed.

  • 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 said. Houston manager Harry Walker, who’ has been in baseball 54 years, and coach Buddy Hanken, who has been in baseball 36 years, both said it was the greatest catch they had ever seen.

  • Official Pittsburgh Pirate releases reveal that their brash hitting star Roberto Walker Clemente [sic] was given the nickname "Momen" by a cousin for no particular reason. There isn't even a definition listed. However, if early returns are any indication the name is sure to have a meaning shortly. Roberto is likely to knock in "mo men" this season than any other major league batter.

  • If Brooks Robinson is the definitive third baseman for all time, then Clemente is the definitive right fielder. He may, in fact, be the greatest outfielder, period, although he makes no such claim. But in any list of the ten greatest catches I've ever seen, Clemente has probably made about six of them.

  • Roberto does not hit many home runs. His best season in that regard was 1966 when he had 29. This year he had only 13. But he has power. In Wrigley Field I've seen him hit the ball as far out of the park as anyone and I've seen it often. He has, however, spent the majority of his career in old Forbes Field, where a right-handed pull hitter is going to have more long fly outs than home runs. He decided long ago to go with the pitch and hit for average.

  • 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.

  • THE CASE OF Clemente and the city of Pittsburgh has indeed been strange. A favorite with Bucco fans, the fiery outfielder from Puerto Rico has, on numerous occasions, been described as the “forgotten man” of the city’s daily press. This characterization has indeed been odd since the records so clearly reveal that Clemente was one of the most respected members of the Pirates in ability ... at least as far as the rest of the players in the league were concerned. During the summer the pattern of the “let’s forget Clemente” movement seemed to gain momentum as it became apparent to the baseball world that the Pirates would probably win their first National League championship in 35 years. Suddenly, almost as an afterthought, the Pirates became a club that could never have made it to the hill without Captain Dick Groat, shortstop. The pattern continued through the World Series. The propaganda became so obvious that more than one major league ball player told this writer: “Clemente doesn’t stand a chance of winning the ‘Most Valuable Player Award’ with all the press agents Groat has going for him in Pittsburgh. As things turned out those words of prophecy proved accurate. Dick Groat was voted the National League’s “Most Valuable Player” and has been basking in baseball’s limelight since.
    • Bill Nunn, Jr.: "Change of Pace: Clemente, Forgotten Man of the Pirates," The Pittsburgh Courier (February 25, 1961), p. 28

  • THE CASE OF Clemente came to mind again last week when the Pirates had announced they had signed the 26-year-old star to his 1961 contract. Before the World Series Roberto told the writer: “Unless I get what I want in salary I won't play for this club no more.” After the series, in which Clemente was the only player to hit safely in all seven games, he revealed: “I talk to General Manager Joe Brown and he tell me they pay me what I want. Everything is hokay now.” So, even though Clemente was the one big man of the Pirates who missed out on so many of the honors that befell his teammates, he was compensated somewhat with a big salary boost. The guess here is he'll receive between $33,000 and $35,000. Maybe that is why Roberto, a sensitive guy who tries to hide his true feelings behind a sharp tongue, says: “Just so long as they pay me what I want to hell with everything else.”
    • Bill Nunn, Jr.: "Change of Pace: Clemente, Forgotten Man of the Pirates"

  • One more Puerto Rican, who happened to be the four-time National League batting champion, arrived in New York this weekend and today he left 41,323 Mets fans in anguish in Shea Stadium. Roberto Clemente also left the Mets to wonder if they had a future in the National League pennant race. Just before game time, Clemente reinstated himself in the Pittsburgh lineup after missing their last 11 games with a lame back and in the third inning he struck. He whacked a long and loud two-bagger off the left-center-field wall. That did it, for the the Pirates, and to the Mets, in a 2-to-1 ball game. Both Pittsburgh runs were wrapped around Clemente's swat off Gary Gentry. It drove in Matty Alou, who was on second base after a single, and Clemente himself scored when Willie Stargell elected to get the 1,000th hit of his career in that spot, a single.
    • Shirley Povich: "Clemente Swats Mets, 2-1," The Washington Post (Sunday, September 20, 1970), p. C1

  • The Pirates have managed to stay up there partly because of and sometimes despite Roberto Clemente, their best hitter and, when healthy, their best ball player. But Clemente does not play all the time. Some days he says he does not feel well, and he is known to have a back condition at this time. Actually, the Pirates have a slightly better winning percentage without their best athlete in the 51 games he has missed than they do when he has played. The old Orioles, those legends famed for playing hurt, may not have understood Clemente today. The Pirates never faced a more important doubleheader than the one with the Mets today. They lost the first game, and Clemente benched himself in the second. This could have been the choice of an ailing man, but the trouble is Clemente has asked out of second games of doubleheaders when he was healthy, and when the next day was an off day. If there is one chap who is holding the Pirates together it is their man, Manny Sanguillen, who refuses to be substituted for in the position that is most substituted, catcher. Sanguillen is the rugged Panamanian who wants to play every day, gives the Pirates one of the league's better catching jobs, and is a leader. He also hits .320.
    • Shirley Povich: "This Morning... With Shirley Povich," The Washington Post (Monday, September 21, 1970)

  • Roberto Clemente's intention to demand a $200,000 salary next season may be startling to the Pittsburgh Pirates' ownership, but in all candor they must admit one truth: of all the baseball athletes, Clemente is the closest to being worth $200,000 a year.
    • Shirley Povich: "This Morning... With Shirley Povich," The Washington Post (Sunday, January 9, 1972), p. B1

  • 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.

  • 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

  • He happens to be nursing a troublesome left shoulder at the moment and this circumstance is sure to provoke some of his critics into saying there goes Clemente with another one of his imaginary ailments again. Clemente has no guilt complex or anything like that but he knows there are same people who are going to say that about him now because these same people have said the same thing before. They don't know his left shoulder hasn't been right since he ran into a wall in Florida chasing after a foul smash in a game against the Red Sox. Nine of 10 other outfielders wouldn't even try for it in a spring training contest. They also don't know Clemente took a cortisone shot in his shoulder Tuesday after rapping two hits against the Phillies, and that he has a huge lump atop his shoulder nearly the size of a baseball. But that's nothing new because there are some things most people don't even want to know.

  • I say Roberto Clemente won that game for Pittsburgh. Simply by being Roberto Clemente and running out a ground ball the way he always has since the day he began playing ball 30 years ago. I had only one thought watching Clemente run down to first base. I wondered what Alex Johnson was thinking while watching the whole thing on TV.

  • From a personal standpoint, I have known Clemente since he came up to the Pirates 17 years ago and the thing he did that impressed me most in the Series against the Orioles wasn't that he hit .414 or got off those excellent throws, but that he got up and chased the ball when he kicked it into distant left centerfield after falling down trying for a backhanded shoestringer on Mark Belanger's triple in the first game. "Swoboda would've had it!" said a newspaperman I know. Seriously, though, what impressed me so much about Clemente's get-up-and-go-after- it sequence is this was so typical of his performance. He'd do the same thing in the second game of a series with San Diego as he was doing now in the second game of a series with Baltimore.

  • One more thing for the record: Babe Ruth was far and away the best ballplayer I have ever seen. Closest to him for home run hitting alone, in my book anyway, were Jimmy Foxx, Johnny Mize, and Harmon Killebrew. Hank Aaron would rate in my top half-dozen, along with Joe Dimaggio, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, and Roberto Clemente.

  • The strongest memories I have of that last summer in Columbus center on the passionate identification I developed with the Pirates’ great rightfielder, Roberto Clemente. Clemente was flirting with a .400 average through the first half of the 1967 season, and getting the kind of national attention that he always craved. I watched him on TV whenever I could, and he was the first performer from whom I derived a satisfaction I would call aesthetic. He was a compact, elegant, laconic presence on the diamond, spare and geometric, with a sprinter’s legs. His fielding and throwing were legendary – even then he was recognized as one of the very best ever at his position. Among his peers, only Willie Mays, from whom he had picked up the famous basket catch when the two of them played winter ball in 1954 for Puerto Rico’s Santurce club, possessed a comparable grace and aplomb in the field. He didn’t have the marvelous Mays liquidity – everything about Clemente was angular and emphatic – but as with Mays, his movements left you with the impression that he lived outside his body and commanded it effortlessly from a great distance. He was a bad-ball hitter – about as far as you could get, in the realms of greatness, from a student of the art like Ted Williams or a street-smart opportunist like Pete Rose – and a fierce, feral protector of the plate. With two strikes on him, he could foul off ball after ball, driving the pitcher crazy, until he got a pitch he could work with.
    • Vijay Seshadri: "My Pirate Boyhood," The Threepenny Review (Spring 1998)
      In fact, Clemente always denied that he’d learned the basket catch from Mays, claiming he’d first seen it used by the Puerto Rican star Luis Olmo. Assuming that’s true, it’s still quite possible that seeing an established star like Mays utilizing the technique let Clemente know that it would be acceptable for him to do the same in the big leagues.

  • I was at once shocked and satisfied when, in a game that August, he lined a drive back to the pitcher’s mound and broke the leg of the awesome Cardinal right-hander Bob Gibson. (Through the rest of Gibson’s career, I felt toward him the solicitude we reserve for people whom we’ve injured without meaning to.) The game that has pleased me the most in my years of following baseball was one between the Pirates and Cincinnati, a game that the Reds won 8-7. Clemente batted in all seven Pittsburgh runs, going five-for-five, with a triple and two home runs. I thought that this effort was incredibly poignant in its doomed and solitary heroism.

  • [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 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. 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

  • 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 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

  • Roberto Clemente recently added up his dependents and found them to be 13. It was at that point that the great Pirate right fielder decided that he could not afford to retire from baseball, even if his right shoulder gives him pain. Therefore, Clemente will continue to earn his $100,000 during the summer for having occasional evenings like last night when he hit two home runs to help Bob Veale and Pittsburgh beat the New York Mets, 6-0. [...] The most valuable player in the National League in 1966 was batting only .276 going into last night’s game. But he drilled a homer deep into the right field bullpen off Tom Seaver to break a scoreless tie in the fourth inning and give him 1,000 runs batted in during his major league career. (This homer was also the 1,000th off Met pitching in almost seven seasons.) Two more runs batted in for Clemente came two innings later after Fred Patek’s single had made the score 3-0 in the fifth. Matty Alou led off the sixth with a double and Clemente whacked a homer over the center-field fence.
    • George Vecsey, from “Pirates Triumph Over Mets by 6-0” by George Vecsey, in The New York Times (Sunday, September 15, 1968), p. S1

  • 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.
    • Dick Young (reporting on the May 1, 1966 double which is almost certainly the "hardest [hit] ball" described by Ron Swoboda in Opponents): "Veale Chokes Met Streak, 8-0" The New York Daily News (May 2, 1966). Also see Les Biederman in this section.

  • 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

  • Hank Aaron is making himself look foolish by going around in a pout every time some white athlete wins an award. His latest tantrum involves Babe Ruth being named No. 1 athlete of all time, over Muhammad Ali. A man's mind has to be pretty mixed up to believe Babe Ruth is overrated because he was white ... If Hank really wants to be upset, let him protest the fact that, in the same poll, Jackie Robinson finished 50th to Henry Aaron's 15th, Jack Dempsey finished in a 34th-place tie with John Havlicek, Roberto Clemente was 111th to Billie Jean King's 21st, and Jack Johnson was shut out completely on the 150-name list.
    • Dick Young: "Young Ideas: Bump Ready for His Pop," The Sporting News (August 23, 1980), p. 14


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

Authors / speakers listed alphabetically by last name.
Quotes per author listed chronologically by date of occurrence (where available) or earliest known publication date.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Roberto Clemente was very quiet. He never said much, but when he was at bat—if he didn't like a call—he could turn and give you a look, and everybody in the crowd immediately knew that Roberto was accusing you of kicking the call. Though he was the quietest of players, Roberto could get you in the outhouse just by looking at you.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • I knew last year the All-Star Game was going to be here. Ever since then, I wanted to be here where he played. He was the greatest. That's why I wear his number, in honor of him. Not because I can be like him but because of an honor for him.

  • 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.

  • For many years he played winter baseball in Puerto Rico for the San Juan Senators, and he managed them for a couple of years. I remember the time when I went to see a game between his team and the Santurce Crabbers, two traditional rivals from the San Juan metropolitan area. Orlando Cepeda was playing for the Crabbers. It was the year that Cepeda had won the Most Valuable Player Award in the majors. Probably as a tribute to Clemente and “his” team, the first time Cepeda came to bat, there were long screaming boos. I was with Clemente in the dugout and he became so annoyed that I could see tears in his eyes. “What are they trying to do with this man?” he said angrily. “This guy is the best baseball player in the National League in the majors. What else do they want?” He got so embarrassed that he hid himself in the dugout. He thought of the people as a whole, not as fans of this team or that team.

  • 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: 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


Standing still as a statue
in the October shadows, he looked, grotesquely, more like a patriot than anything usually seen on a baseball field.
A trick of light perhaps.
Yet what famous athlete last died
for a cause bigger than himself?
Clemente could sometimes seem like a pest, a nagging narcissist, with only his burningly serious play to deny it.
Yet when that plane crashed carrying relief supplies to Nicaragua, we saw what he had meant all along. It was like the old Clemente crashing into the
right field wall in a losing game:
the act of a totally serious man.
Wilfrid Sheed

Authors / speakers listed alphabetically by last name.
Quotes per author listed chronologically by date of occurrence (where available) or earliest known pub date.

  • Kids – he always liked to talk about kids. You know, he was always kind of reluctant to go on an interview show, but once you got him on there, you couldn’t stop him. He’d talk forever – about baseball, about Puerto Rico, and about kids.
    • Richie Ashburn, as quoted in "Roberto Clemente: Baseball’s Magificent Militant” by Bruce Keidan, in The Philadelphia Inquirer (Tuesday, January 2, 1973), p. 4-D

  • After it was over, he offered to drive me to the airport. The snow was deep on the roads. I figured it was on his way, so I said okay. I found out later that he was really going to the other side of the city and it was far out of his way.
    • Richie Ashburn, recalling a banquet at which he and Clemente had shared the spotlight, as quoted in “The Other Side of ‘Bobby’ Clemente” by Norman Macht, in Baseball in Pittsburgh: The SABR ‘’95 Research Publication (1995), p. 14

  • 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

  • I have it arranged so that Curt and Roberto and our other colored boys play in our 'home' games. The white boys competing with them for positions play our 'away' games. That way our guys are protected against the little unpleasant things like waiting in the bus while we bring sandwiches out of lunchrooms to them, and like having having to go 'across the railroad tracks' to find places to stay overnight or relax until park time. With this system, everybody gets to play about the same number of games, and it's a happier outfit all around.
    • Bobby Bragan, on his efforts to ameliorate the effects of segregation, at least during spring training, as quoted in "From A to Z with Sam Lacy" by Sam Lacy, in The Baltimore Afro-American (Saturday, April 7, 1956), p. 14

  • 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

  • Roberto Clemente was a guy who had a stern face, but people misread his intensity as militancy and his humility as complacency.
    • Lou Brock, his acceptance speech for the Roberto Clemente Award, as quoted in "People in Sports: Brock Given Clemente Award" in The New York Times (Thursday, March 20, 1975), p. 52

  • He would talk with me often about his feelings. You know, Clemente felt strongly about the fact that he was a Puerto Rican and that he was a black man. In each of these things he had pride. But it was a beautiful, uncompromising kind of pride, because I never heard him – and you must remember here that I am fluent in Spanish – I just never heard him make a slurring remark about anyone’s color or religion. In this he was remarkable. On the other hand, because of the early language barriers, I am sure that there were times when he thought people were laughing at them when they were not. It is difficult for a Latin-American ballplayer to understand everything said around him when it is said at high speed, if he doesn’t speak English that well. But, in any event, he wanted very much to prove to the world that he was a superstar and that he could do things that in his heart he felt that he had already proven.
    • Buck Canel in "Clemente: A Bittersweet Memoir" from Great Latin Sports Figures: The Proud People (1976) by Jerry Izenberg, pp. 23-24

  • This was a man who looked at the television pictures coming back from the moon and saw the world. Clemente thought of all the people who came together to put that guy there. He conceived of them as a brotherhood.

  • 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.

  • After Roberto passed, I was looking at some documents about Roberto, and I saw him registered as Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker. He never used the name Enrique. I didn't know that was his name. My baby has the same name – Roberto Enrique – as his dad.
    • Vera Clemente in "Vera Clemente", from Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 54

  • Clemente was an emotional man, and that was his beauty. It drove him not only to physical anguish, but also to nearly incredible performances on the field as well as to the good work he was engaged in at his death. Often, although not so much in his maturing years, he seemed almost paranoid in his complaints against this or that, but when he said he loved mankind you had to believe him, because even the heat of his most bitter outburst almost always blew over, and where he had been loud, he would suddenly become reasonable and even eloquent. A man to confuse you? Yes, absolutely, but only because man’s full range of passions ran strong in him. Cunning he was not. Honest he was. And the proof is that he was no honorary chairman of that relief committee for Nicaragua -- he was no figurehead chairman in name only; he was not merely a celebrity lending his prestige but not his heart or his labor to a cause. Honorary chairmen do not disappear into the Atlantic in the performance of duty.
    • Myron Cope, published January 2, 1973, reprinted in Remember Roberto (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 405

  • Both Walkers owe a debt of gratitude to the most revered player in Pirates history. Tom Walker played winter ball in Puerto Rico in 1972 and helped Roberto Clemente load a plane carrying relief supplies to earthquake survivors in Nicaragua after Christmas. He offered to accompany Clemente on the trip, but the plane was full and Clemente told him to stay behind and enjoy New Year's Eve. A few hours later, Tom Walker returned to his condo and saw the news reports that Clemente's plane had crashed off the coast of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico. Four decades later he's still awed by the notion that he would have perished without Clemente's selfless gesture, and his four children never would have been born.

  • 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.

  • Everybody looked rumpled next to Roberto Clemente.

  • 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.
    • Dave Giusti (Teammate, 1970-1972), recalling Clemente's encouraging words, circa July 1971; in "Dave Giusti: He Kept Clemente Loose," from Remember Roberto: Clemente Recalled by Teammates, Family, Friends and Fans (1994) by Jim O'Brien, p. 102

  • 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.
    • Jim "Mudcat" Grant (Teammate, 1970-1971), after giving up the decisive grand slam that ends Dock Ellis’ 15-game winning streak, in Who Was Roberto: A Biography of Roberto Clemente (1974) by Phil Musick, p. 267

  • 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

  • “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 he 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.

  • 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 watch him drift. Trapped. Or am I trapped, here in 1987, while he, through some malfunction of the universe, is borne into timelessness? What if I were to accompany him? "Wait!" I call. "There's something..."
    But Clemente has already drifted beyond hearing. I watch as he paddles, his back broad and strong. Just as the mist is about to engulf him, as ocean, fog, and sky merge, he waves his oar once, holding it like a baseball bat, thrusting it at the soft, white sky.

  • 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.

  • In the first two games of this Series, when the rest of the Pirates played like they were looking for a place to hide, Clemente stood out like a Cadillac in a junkyard. Everything he did was touched with class, from the way he hit the ball with authority to the way he played right field to the way he answered questions in the locker room. After Monday's humiliating 11-3 defeat on a rubbing table for half an hour surrounded by reporters and, when an equipment man came around and said, "bus leaves in 25 minutes, Bob," Clemente just said, "don't worry about it." He was ready to stay until the last writer was satisfied.

  • Roberto’s carefree outlook on life began to change when the press started to misunderstand him when he talked about his injuries. When he was hurt he had trouble explaining himself because of the language problem and everyone thought he was jakin’. I don’t think he’s ever jaked. He just could do things when he was hurt as well as the rest of us could when we were healthy, and people would see this and decide he was dogging it. They thought he used the basket catch because Mays did and everything he did in the outfield was exciting, so right away to some writers he was a hot dog who jaked. Stories were written to that effect and he went through some years when he didn’t trust writers, and I don’t blame him. Some of them put words in your mouth and that’s what they did to him when he was younger. They tried to make him look like an ass by getting him to say controversial things and then they wrote how the Puerto Rican hot dog was popping off again. He was just learning to handle the language and he couldn’t express what he felt or thought and it frustrated him. Writers who couldn’t speak three words of Spanish tried to make him look silly, but he was an intelligent man who knows people and knows the game.
    • Bill Mazeroski (Teammate, 1956-1972), from "My 16 Years with Roberto Clemente" by Mazeroski with Phil Musick, in Sport (November 1971)

  • 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

  • You were an island
    Alone where the three rivers meet
    A beautiful fury, you moved like a fish
    Ranging that great, green sea
    Un boricua
    You were summer in
    The solitary skin, the tongue
    The arm of God
    The hand of gold
    Puerto Rico’s son

  • 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

  • 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

  • The year he spoke at the baseball dinner here is something I’ll never forget. It was one of the greatest speeches I ever heard. I'll remember that night as much as anything.
    • Norm Miller in “Astros Mourn Clemente’s Death” by Joe Heiling, in The Houston Post (Wednesday, January 6, 1973), p. 3/D

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Whenever Román Mejías runs into trouble with the English lingo, teammate Roberto Clemente serves as interpreter. Roberto digs real well. On the other hand, René Valdés, Brooklyn hurler, has a good reason for not speaking English. "When North American players come to my country, they don't speak Spanish. Why should I speak English?"
    • Bill Nunn, Jr.: "Change of Pace," The Pittsburgh Courier (Saturday, May 18, 1957), p. 27

  • When I started playing for the Pirates, he was a very loved guy by the other players. As great as Stargell was, Stargell just looked at him in awe. When Clemente walked into the room, everything came to life. He respected everyone. He made you feel at ease. I was not an invited player when I came to my first Pirates camp. I was just there for a look-see, not as a serious candidate for the club. But he acknowledged me and he respected me.
    • Dave Parker in Maz and the ’60s Bucs: When Pittsburgh and its Pirates Went All the Way (1993) by Jim O'Brien, p. 273

  • 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)

  • Aside from playing baseball myself over the years, the culture of identifying with star baseball players and my hometown team is an inextricable part of my boyhood. As a young boy playing and watching baseball, I learned the value of hard work, the importance of teamwork, how to deal with success and failure, how to concentrate and stay focused on a goal, and how to look beyond personal achievement to something bigger than oneself. Roberto Clemente embodied all these virtues.

  • By chance I met Clemente once, in the humble role of autograph-seeker. He was doing wind sprints down at the Pirate training camp in Bradenton, Florida. And although I claimed I was getting an autograph for my son (true, for a change), he looked at me with a hidalgo’s contempt – at a grown man simpering over a blunt pencil; he turned his back abruptly and did another wind sprint, then slashed his name onto my scorecard and sauntered away. To hell with you, Clemente, I thought. But on the way out, I saw him funning with three old ladies from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and I have never seen sweeter courtesy.

    Arrogance and gentleness. Where did it come from? Clemente was like a Martian to most North Americans, and written about as such.
    • Wilfrid Sheed, from his foreword to Clemente! (1973) by Kal Wagenheim

  • Standing still as a statue in the October shadows, he looked, grotesquely, more like a patriot than anything usually seen on a baseball field. A trick of light perhaps. Yet what famous athlete last died for a cause bigger than himself? Clemente could sometimes seem like a pest, a nagging narcissist, with only his burningly serious play to deny it. Yet when that plane crashed carrying relief supplies to Nicaragua we saw what he had meant all along. It was like the old Clemente crashing into the right field wall in a losing game: the act of a totally serious man.
    • Wilfrid Sheed, from his foreword to Clemente!

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Roberto Clemente was deeply committed to the Sports City idea – the idea of bringing to the children of Puerto Rico a place where they could all be together and play the game of their choice. It was the subject of the last long conversation I had with him. “I need your help,” he told me at the house of Felipe Rodríguez, the singer. It was my son’s baptismal day, and Clemente had come to the small fiesta following the service. We can get the best people. Help me,” he said. Then he went on to tell me about the mechanics of how his Sports City would work. “You and Carlos can come here once in a while to motivate these kids to boxing. Orlando Cepeda and I can do the same thing for the ones who like baseball. Charley Passarell in tennis, ChiChi Rodriguez in golf…” And he went on through all the sports.

  • 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 man saved my life. It's ingrained in my memory to this day. I don't know what Neil's regimen is every day at the park, but I'm sure when he looks out to that Roberto Clemente wall in right field, he probably thinks about that too.

  • 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

  • Someone once said that if Roberto Clemente could sing, Harry Belafonte would have to learn to hit a baseball for a living, and it’s true. Clemente has more than a well-made face and a hipless physique; he has eyes that sparkle, a smile that captivates and a Puerto Rican accent that sings. When he tells a story, he tells it with a zest that fills the room – and you listen and like him. Governor Wallace would like him.
    • Dick Young, writing in The New York Daily News (August 1964), reproduced in Maz and the ’60s Bucs: When Pittsburgh and its Pirates Went All the Way (1993) by Jim O'Brien, p. 266

  • 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

Further reading[edit]



  • 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.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about: