Talk:Roberto Clemente

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  • 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."
  • If you think you've seen the best of Roberto Clemente so far in a Pirate uniform, wait until the weather is more to his liking—very hot. "I no play so gut yet," the Puerto Rican star tried to explain yesterday. "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 and Connie Mack Stadium the best of all the parks he's played in but has a strong dislike for Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds because of the crazy bounces the balls take as they ricochet off the walls.
    • As paraphrased and quoted in "The Scoreboard" by Les Biederman, in The Pittsburgh Press (Friday, June 10, 1955), p. 30
  • 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
  • The Pirate rightfielder seems a bit miffed because the new owners of the Santurce team in the Puerto Rican league upped and sold him [to San Juan] when they bought the team this season. "I didn't like the trade," Clemente explained. "Santurce is close to my home town and I like the fans there. They good to me and cheer me all the time. I may not go back. I may work in Pittsburgh."
  • "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."


  • 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
  • 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 was looking for an inside pitch," said Clemente, describing his game-winning grand slam. "I don't know whether it was a fastball or not, but it came in a little inside and I was ready for it. I know it went out of here fast," he grinned. Although Clemente's drive cleared the centerfield fence like a shot, the Pirate outfielder recalled it was not the hardest ball he has hit here. "Last year I hit one harder to the left field bleachers. That was a high fly ball. But this was a line drive. And I liked this hit better because it won the game."
    • Discussing his game-winning 7/14/61 HR, and contrasting it with a prodigious shot hit on 5/6/60, also at Candlestick Park; as quoted in "The Big Grand Slam: Clemente Was All Set" by Phil Berman, in The San Francisco Chronicle (Saturday, July 15, 1961), p. 26
  • I sick, I have nervous stomach,” the Puerto Rican said Monday while relaxing at home on a Pirate day off. “I can hardly eat. I’m taking lot of vitamins and I’m getting stronger. But I still sick.” Clemente was ill—he says—last week, too. But just look what he did against the pitching of St. Louis and Houston. In 33 at bats, he slammed 14 hits, including two homers and a pair of triples, and also drove in eight runs. It’s a wonder the Cards and Colts didn’t call for Dr Kildare. [...] Clemente said he’s been bothered by stomach trouble since last August. "During the winter I feel real bad,” Clemente said. “I lost 18 pounds but I’ve picked my weight back up a little since then. I don’t feel too strong and sometimes when I run I get short of breath. Sometime I feel good and sometime I don’t feel like playing ball at all.” For a guy who doesn’t always ‘‘feel like playing ball” Clemente wields a wicked stick. His current .281 average is third behind Dick Groat and Smoky Burgess of the Pirate regulars. His 23 runs batted in is second only to Bill Mazeroski’s 28, and he is tied for second in home runs with five —one less than the Pirates’ slugger Dick Stuart. “If I get a little stronger, I hit with more power and I help the club more,” Clemente said. He could be wrong on that statement. He’d probably help the club more by catching a cold.
  • Like he says, the 30-year-old Pirate right fielder doesn’t have to apologize to anyone. He lost 12 pounds after an operation on his right thigh last January, then lost 25 more when he was hospitalized by an attack of malaria a month later. The popular belief is that he’s all over his malaria now because he’s leading both leagues with a .342 batting average. But that belief is wrong because Clemente isn’t completely over the ailment yet. “I take these pills all the time before every game,” he said, fishing a small bottle from the top of his locker. “I never had to take them before I got sick. It kills me to play doubleheaders. I get real run down. The night before the All-Star game I woke up four o’clock in the morning with cold chills all over. I was sweating and I had the shakes. People ask me if I’m surprised to be hitting what I am. They have no idea how surprised I am. I never thought I’d be able to play at all this year. I was weak when I came to spring training and I made up my mind if I felt the same way in mid-season I would quit for the rest of the year.” Clemente admits he still doesn’t have his full normal strength. “But I’m not so nervous as I was before. The batting title? It’s all right, but I’d trade it to be with a pennant winner this year. I’d much rather we would win than I should win the title. But it will mean more to me if I win it this year because of the condition I’m in.
    • As quoted and paraphrased in "Clemente Is One of BB's Best" by Milton Richman, in The Los Angeles Sentinel (Thursday, August 5, 1965), p. B4
  • 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.
  • "Lots of sportswriters come up and ask me, ‘Is there anything wrong with you now?’ I tell ’em all to go to hell,” Clemente snapped. That answer does nothing to enhance his popularity, but Clemente, who has racked up three National League batting titles already, including a pair in the last two years, says he really doesn’t care. “People say I complain a lot and there’s always something wrong with me. Only I can feel my trouble, though. They can’t. I’ve always had a nervous stomach. The doctors tried to find the reason, but they couldn’t. There have been times I had it real bad. It took a lot out of me… I worried about it and couldn’t sleep."
    • As quoted and paraphrased in "Clemente Not Thinking of Batting Title" by Milton Richman, in The Cumberland Evening Times (Tuesday, March 15, 1966), p. 12
  • "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.
  • "Walker is thinking always about the players and the problems they might have. Maybe he is not the best manager there is, but for me he is tops." Comes next spring training, Clemente hopes to resume his role as club leader. He hopes to bring added unity within the club. He wants the players to understand Walker. [...] Roberto was willing to change his batting style for Walker. "If Walker wants more homers, it's okay with me. Then I'll keep going for the fences." Walker wanted more homers last season. He urged Clemente in spring training to aim for a higher RBI total. Clemente recalled the conversation yesterday. "Harry even named the figure: 25 homers and 115 RBI." The Bucs' right fielder swung away and batted .317, swatted 29 homers and his 119 RBI was second to Atlanta's Hank Aaron and it marked the first time in Clemente's 12-year career that he went over the 100 mark in RBI. "I never cared about hitting homers," Clemente said. "I think a .350 batting average does the same good for a team as 25 homers and 100 runs batted in. But of course, if Walker wants more homers, it's okay with me."
  • Roberto Clemente aches. That's a good sign. "It has to happen," says the MVP. "If it doesn't, that means you're not working hard enough. [...] I play when I ache. Sometimes I tell somebody I ache. I'm not complaining. I'm just telling 'em how I feel."
  • "I feel better now than I did at any time last season; the shoulder really hurt me bad last year." '"The shoulder" was the right one, which Clemente injured in a fall in his home in San Juan in February, 1968. This spring he injured the left shoulder trying to make a diving catch of a foul fly ball in an exhibition game in Bradenton, Fla. "The left shoulder still gives me some trouble," Clemente says. "It makes me swing differently. I have to adjust. Sometimes I find I'm over-cutting the ball. That is not my natural style." Clemente, now in his 15th year as a Pirate, says that hitting no longer comes naturally to him. "I used to swing and I just knew I could hit the ball hard. I knew when I could hit to right field, when I could pull. Now it's different. I have to force myself more than I ever did. Maybe it's because I'm getting old. Maybe."


  • "If they are hurt, they are hurt and should not be expected to play," said the Pirates' super star, who last week in Philadelphia said he would not play in the All-Star game because of a painful neck injury. Detroit's Al Kaline and Dick McAuliffe, and Boston's Rico Petrocelli requested to be left off the All-Star team because of injuries. [...] Clemente said the pain in his neck has eased following treatment at the Logan College Chripractic Center in St. Louis last weekend. "If I still felt like I did a week ago in St. Louis, I would not be here tonight."
  • Sitting on the bench with the Pirates because of a bad back, Roberto Clemente attempts to earn his $115,000 salary in a lot of little ways. [...] "I watch how the pitchers are throwing to our hitters. If I see a pitcher throwing a lot of breaking pitches outside to Stargell, I tell Stargell about it. Or Robertson, sometimes he overswings. Sometimes I can tell him what he is doing wrong." Clemente also plays defense—on the bench. He motions with his hands where Al Oliver should play certain hitters in right field. "Sometimes a few steps can mean so much." Clemente says sitting on the bench is frustrating only when the Pirates lose. "That's when I feel bad about not being able to play." [...] This current back injury—a severe sprain of the lower back—developed when Clemente swung at a pitch Sept. 4. He hasn't played since. He has been to more doctors' tables than dugouts since the injury. "The back feels better than it did two days ago," he said. "I can bend over—sometimes." Clemente is 36 now and people in other walks of life often develop back problems at that age. Few, however, earn a yearly salary in six figures. Clemente isn't talking about retiring after this season. He will be back in 1971. The Pirates could use him in the closing days of 1970. "If I thought I could play, I'd be in there. This is one of the worst times of my life, being here with the fellows having a chance at the pennant and not being able to play."


  • 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.
  • 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

Further comment[edit]

The above texts don't classify as quotes, and therefor have been moved from the article to the talk page. I have no problem if the embedded quotes are added back to the lemma (with or without comment). -- Mdd (talk) 15:16, 10 April 2017 (UTC)