Espada: The greatest forgotten home run of all time

From Martin Espada at Literary Hub on June 15, 2015, with mention of SABR member Bruce Markusen:

On July 25th, 1956, Roberto Clemente did a terrible, wonderful thing.

In his sophomore year with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clemente came to bat with the bases loaded, nobody out, and his team trailing the Chicago Cubs 8-5 in the bottom of the ninth at Forbes Field. He faced pitcher Jim Brosnan.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

Brosnan made one pitch, high and inside. Clemente drove it against the light standard in left field. Jim King had backed up to make the catch but it was over his head. The ball bounced off the slanted side of the fencing and rolled along the cinder path to center field. Here came Hank Foiles, Bill Virdon and then Dick Cole, heading home and making it easily. Then came Clemente into third. Bobby Bragan had his hands up-stretched to hold up his outfielder. The relay was coming in from Solly Drake. But around third came Clemente and down the home path. He made it just in front of the relay from Ernie Banks. He slid, missed the plate, then reached back to rest his hand on the rubber with the ninth run in a 9-8 victory as the crowd of 12,431 went goofy with excitement.

Yet, according to Bruce Markusen in his biography, Roberto Clemente: The Great One, what happened that day was “an incident” that “underscored his naivete on the basepaths”:

Clemente both heard and saw Bragan’s stop sign, but deliberately ran through it. “I say to Bobby: ‘Get out of my way, and I score,’ Clemente explained to the Associated Press. ‘Just like that. I think we have nothing to lose, as we got the score tied without my run, and I score, the game—she is over and we don’t have to play no more tonight.’” The Pirates didn’t have to play any more, as Clemente slid into home plate ahead of the tag. The unusual inside-the-park grand slam home run against Brosnan gave the Pirates a 9-8 win over the Cubs. As Brosnan wrote in the October 24, 1960, edition of Life magazine, Clemente’s feat “excited the fans, startled the manager, shocked me and disgusted my club.”

Read the full article here:

Originally published: June 17, 2015. Last Updated: June 17, 2015.