Remembering Roberto Clemente


Clemente AP.jpgWhen I was little I was given a biography of Roberto Clemente. It wasn’t a tome or anything. It was one of those little Scholastic Readers, probably bought at an elementary school book fair. Though I would later come to appreciate Clemente’s game, his arm, his
bat and his unique and colorful personality a bit more objectively than the saintly and perfect way he was portrayed in the book, he did become a favorite of mine upon reading it. How couldn’t he have? He was a goddamn hero.

And unlike so many people who are called heroic and brave for facing down challenges, Clemente was truly heroic and brave precisely because he didn’t have to face anything at all if he didn’t want to. He could have ushered in 1973 in what I’m sure were very comfortable circumstances in his native Puerto Rico. He could have written checks to some relief fund to help those earthquake victims.  He could have organized a benefit or something.  But he didn’t. When he realized that the relief supplies he was sending to Managua were being pilfered by crooked officials, Clemente got on board the next flight himself to ensure that they got to those who needed them the most.  It was the last decision he’d ever make.

The plane took off a little after 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve with five on board. The plane — overloaded and in poor mechanical condition to begin with — encountered problems almost immediately.  The
pilot tried to return to the airport but it was too late. It crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about a mile
from the coast, killing all aboard. Clemente’s body was never recovered.  Not a New Year’s Eve goes by when I don’t think about him and the sacrifice he made. A sacrifice he didn’t have to make for people he didn’t even know.

Thirty-seven years is a bit too long to keep on mourning of course, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to think about Clemente. About both his heroism and his baseball career, the specifics of which have long been overshadowed by the circumstances of his death. But if you’re going to remember someone, you’re best served trying to remember everything.

A good place to start? This excellent mini-biography by Stew Thornley of the Society for American Baseball Research.  It’s worth it just to learn about the time Clemente claimed he was kidnapped in San Diego, set free and then proceeded to get three hits against the Padres the next day.  The story stinks to high heaven, and a lot of the other Clemente anecdotes make you realize that he could be a real pain the keister, but it’s the kind of stuff that adds a bit of life to a life story.

Anyway, you’ve got time today. Go check it out. And give a few thoughts to old Arriba before you go out tonight.

CC Sabathia’s bad weekend in Baltimore made him choose rehab

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It was inevitable that someone would report on what, specifically, was going on with CC Sabathia in the run up to his decision to go into rehab yesterday. And today we have that story, at least in the broad strokes, from the New York Post.

Speaking to an anonymous source close to Sabathia, the Post reports that the Yankees’ starter more or less went on a bender from Thursday into Friday and continued on to Saturday, which resulted in his Sunday afternoon phone call to Brian Cashman in which he said he needed help.

Notable detail: Sabathia is referred to as “not a big drinker” in the story. Which is something worth thinking about when you think of others who have trouble with alcohol. It’s not always about massive or constant consumption. It’s about the person’s relationship with substances that is the real problem. Many who drink a good deal are totally fine. Many who don’t drink much do so in problematic ways and patterns. For this reason, and many others, it’s useful to avoid engaging in cliches and stereotypes of addicts.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria may push to trade Marcell Ozuna

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First the Marlins demoted promising 24-year-old outfielder Marcell Ozuna to Triple-A in July, then they kept him there far longer than warranted because of presumed service time considerations, and now they may be looking to trade him.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria “is down on him and will consider trading him” despite several members of the front office wanting to keep Ozuna because … well, he has a lot of long-term upside.

Ozuna described being stuck at Triple-A as “like a jail” before finally being promoted back to the majors after hitting .317 with a .937 OPS in 33 games for New Orleans. His plate discipline needs work, but Ozuna has 25-homer power and the range to play center field. If the Marlins make him available via trade a bunch of teams will be calling.