Remembering Roberto Clemente, 40 years later

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Not a New Year’s Eve goes by where I don’t, for at least a few minutes, remember Roberto Clemente. For it was New Year’s Eve 1972 — 40 years ago today — when Clemente died a hero, trying to airlift relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Clemente was truly heroic and brave, not because he was forced into some dire situation. He was heroic precisely because he didn’t have to face anything at all if he didn’t want to. He was a man of means and status and he could have ushered in 1973 in comfortable circumstances in his native Puerto Rico, writing checks to a relief fund to help those earthquake victims.  He could have organized a benefit.  But he didn’t. He sent on relief supplies himself, and when he realized that some of 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.

As you prepare to welcome the new year, take a few moments to learn more about Roberto Clemente. Not just the circumstances of his death and the broad arc of his career, each of which are well known. Learn about the weird stuff. The not-so-great stuff. The funny stuff. Clemente may have the earned status of a hero, but he was really interesting — sometimes even kinda annoying — beyond that. We have this understandable tendency to turn heroes into saints, but knowing all of the little and random things about Clemente makes him far more human than we typically think of him, and that in turn makes his heroism seem all the greater. Greater precisely because it wasn’t his duty to do what he did. It was his choice.

(Note: some of these thoughts and words first appeared in a post three years ago. I kinda liked how I said it then, so I’m plagiarizing myself a bit).

David Wright went 0-for-4 in his rehab debut

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David Wright started at DH and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his rehab debut with High-A St. Lucie last night.

The results are not all that important compared to the fact that Wright actually played in a game. Wright acknowledged as much afterward, saying “There’s still quite a bit to go to where I want to be, but it was a good first step.” Wright said he “felt pretty good,” and that while he’d like to see better results as soon as possible, he’s happy just being out there right now.

Wright is shooting to join the Mets for the final few weeks of the 2017 regular season after being out of action since May of 2016 with back and neck ailments. It’s hard not to root for the guy.

Must-Click Link: The Day a Mascot Got Ejected

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Today Jonah Keri gives us a fantastic story about a crazy game.

The Dodgers played the Expos in Montreal 28 years ago today. The game went 22 innings. It was a 1-0 game. More notable than the 21 and a half innings of scoreless ball, however, was the fact that Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda got the Expos mascot — Youppi — ejected. The Dodgers and Expos didn’t score much that year overall, but when have you ever seen a mascot ejected?

Some good lunchtime reading for y’all, complete with silly GIFs and a video of the whole dang game if you hate yourself so much that you’d watch it all in its entirety.