Remembering Roberto Clemente

26 Comments

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.

Kenley Jansen hopes to be back next week

Getty Images
1 Comment

When Kenley Jansen experienced an irregular heartbeat last week some speculated that he could miss a month. That won’t be the case if he has his way. He said yesterday that he expects to be back next week, assuming he suffers no side effects from his medication between now and then.

Jansen threw a successful bullpen session on Monday, did conditioning work yesterday, and is planning to throw to hitters today. He’ll then travel with the Dodgers to Seattle and face hitters again on Friday at which a point a decision will be made about activating him. Given that the Dodgers are struggling, particularly with the bullpen, that decision is likely to be affirmative unless there is any reason to be concerned with Jansen’s health between now and then. He’s currently on blood-thinners and says he’s responding well.

All of that said, Jansen told reporters yesterday that there’s a good chance he will need a heart procedure in the offseason, the sort of which he had after his last occurrence of an irregular heartbeat back in 2012.

Jansen’s 32 saves ties him for the NL lead with Wade Davis of the Rockies.