As a kid, I fell in love with this card because Roberto Clemente just looked so cool in this photograph, blithely tossing a ball in the air. Judging from the background, my best guess is that this picture was taken sometime during the 1971 season at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. It holds special meaning in that it was the last card issued by Topps of Clemente while he was still alive. To this day, it still delights.
On the occasion of what would have been his 81st birthday, I wish Happy Birthday to one of the most iconic baseball figures of my childhood, Roberto Clemente. I remember having a poster of the above photograph that I had pulled out of a 1973 Baseball Preview magazine and it hanging on my wall for years. It simply read : In Memoriam Roberto Clemente, 1934 -1972. Roberto had died of course, on New Year’s Eve 1972 in the course of attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. His death had the profound effect of making him a larger than life character to me and even now, he looms large in my lexicon of baseball giants. I believe this to be so not only because I grew up hearing and reading stories from older baseball fans and writers that he was without question one of the greatest outfielders ever to play the game, but more so because of the very nature of the way he died – in the course of serving others. Without naming names and and without condemning the current generation of players as a whole, I will say , however, that there are a number of current players /stars who could take a lesson and cue from Roberto Clemente and his humility and sense of humanity. I will have much more to write about this great athlete and man in future posts on this blog but for today, let it suffice for me to say,Happy Birthday Roberto, we miss you still.
I know I am late posting this as far as anniversary dates go , but before we leave July, I feel I have to write a post commemorating the 1970 MLB All Star game, so here goes. 45 years ago this month on July 14,1970, the 41st Major League Baseball All Star Game was held in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio and while I was an emerging baseball fanatic, I can honestly say I have no memory of this game. I remember going to one of the last games at Crosley Field earlier that Spring and I even remember going to see one of the first games at the newly christened Riverfront Stadium earlier that Summer, but of this classic game that ended with the famous Pete Rose /Ray Fosse collision, I have no personal recollection. Much is made of the fact that between the two teams, 21 Hall of Famers were on the rosters ( plus non Hall of Famer Pete Rose as well), but a quick glance at other MLB All Star games of the years immediately after it show that this was not uncommon for this time period. In fact, the 1970 All Star game was the first of four MLB All Star games in the early 1970s where the great players from that generation were on full display. Consider this fact – in each of the next three MLB All Star games following the 1970 game, there were 25, 29 and 22 Hall of Famers on the combined respective rosters of the two leagues. My personal memories of the Midsummer Classic started the year after this game with the 1971 game at Tiger Stadium when Johnny Bench, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew and Reggie Jackson all hit home runs to provide all of the scoring in a 6-4 win for the AL. Below is a collection of images from the 1970 game starting with batting practice and various players hanging out around the batting cage and ending with multiple images of the iconic Rose/Fosse collision at home plate. To me, they are priceless because they commemorate a brief moment in the summer of 1970 when so many of my baseball heroes, from my favorite generation of players, were in my hometown playing at my hometown team’s stadium. For those who may have trouble recognizing some of the more non obvious players, I have provided a link to the comprehensive box score from the game from Baseball Reference.com here – 1970 MLB All Star Game Box Score