Posnanski: Remembering Roberto Clemente

From SABR member Joe Posnanski at Joe Blogs on March 23, 2015:

There are baseball names with magic in them. DiMaggio. Koufax. Mickey Mantle. Clemente. This magic is not an easily quantifiable thing. Something about the syllables, the arrangement of consonants and vowels, the way the name sounds triggers a sensation, a consciousness that sparks beyond simple memory, a door opening. Certain songs do the same thing.

The funny thing is that the songs that open my memory are rarely my favorite songs or what I would consider the best songs. U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is an infinitely better song than John Cougar’s “Ain’t Even Done With The Night,” but when I hear the latter I am transported to 1981 and a crowded swimming pool with pretty girls wearing two-piece swimsuits and geeky guys trying to look tough. It is brilliantly sunny. The air smells like barbecue. This is a wonderful but entirely involuntary journey. I love the Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” so much more, but when I hear it, I only hear it.

Clemente, just those three syllables, inspires a whirl of grainy color images, a fierce right-handed swing at a neck-high pitch, a man running the bases as if he’s out of control, as if he’s running down a hill too steep, a man in the outfield chasing after a rolling baseball, gloving it, twirling, unleashing a throw with so much force that it garbles the mind for just an instant — something about the power of that throw just seems a little bit off, a little bit impossible.

The name Clemente opens a time portal. It launches us into the 1971 World Series, when no Baltimore pitcher could get him out. It transports us to 1961 when Clemente, furious about how unappreciated he was, decided to win a batting title and then, through sheer force of will, won a batting title. It transports us even to a time before memory, even for those of us too young to have seen him play.

Read the full article here: http://joeposnanski.com/number37/

Originally published: March 24, 2015. Last Updated: March 24, 2015.