Roberto Clemente's 'Toolbox': The Club

From BR Bullpen

Clemente's Contemporaries Chime In

Now we reach that corner of the toolbox, i.e. 'hit for power', that denies so many otherwise qualified candidates—including Clemente, according to many—entry into that exclusive 5-tool fraternity. Sadly, David Maraniss, renowned Clemente biographer (and one who, by his own count, saw Clemente in the flesh twice),[1] essentially reinforces this notion. By contrast, eyewitness testimony—both retrospective and contemporaneous—from a wide assortment of participants and observers paints a very different picture.


_______ Witnesses _______

__ Teammates Black, Groat, Skinner, Stuart, Robertson, and Howe—plus ringer John Boles—believe their eyes... and ears (HOFer George Sisler notwithstanding) _

Likewise, players who played alongside Clemente for an extended period had the best perspective on the threat he posed in any given at-bat. Nonetheless, even Joe Black, a teammate for scarcely two thirds of Clemente's six-month-long minor league career (1954 in Montreal), could see just how strong Clemente was:

"The thing that amazed me is that sometimes one of his legs would be up in the air and he’d be hitting, and it’d still go out of the ballpark. He was just strong." [2]

For those of more recent vintage, a useful frame of reference regarding Black's perception is provided by former Florida Marlins manager John Boles, whose Chicago upbringing, circa late '50s / early '60s, afforded him ample opportunity to witness numerous Waveland Avenue lunar landings, courtesy of 'Cape' Clemente. Here, in a mid-May millennial encounter with division rival New York, the Marlins manager sees his team manhandled by the Mets' Mike Piazza, who touches Florida starter Brad Penny for an opposite-field grand slam.

"I saw him hit that darned thing with his back foot off the ground. He one-footed that thing. I thought I was watching Roberto Clemente in his heyday." [3]

Pirate shortstop Dick Groat (1955-1962), 1960's NL MVP, was on hand in the spring of 1956 to witness Clemente's career take shape under the influence of Pittsburgh's scout and sometimes batting coach, HOFer George Sisler, who would be promoted to full-time batting instructor the following season, based largely on Clemente's 56-point rise in BA following Sisler's spring training tutorial (which, to be fair, and as Sisler himself acknowledged, amounted to little more than addressing a subtle-to-detect but easy-to-correct batting flaw—"He was moving his head around. It was up in the air most of the time when he swung"—that sounds suspiciously like something that may have simply lingered, dating back to Clemente's 1952 tryout in front of Al Campanis of the Dodgers):

"He could have adapted his hitting style if he wanted to be more of a home run hitter, but George Sisler wanted him to spray the ball around and be a high percentage hitter." [4]

George Sisler's own words, circa January 1957, tend to support Groat's recollection, at least to the extent that Sisler seems to view Clemente as intrinsically a "singles hitter," despite the disproportionate number of tape measure triples and home runs produced during RC's rookie season (e.g. Mar 23, Apr 18, May 3, May 6, May 21, Jul 10, Aug 19):

"This is a young team and one of the advantages of working with youngsters is they’re eager to learn and they’re good students. They’re willing to accept advice. We don’t have too many power hitters on the Pirates and naturally it isn’t my aim to develop the singles hitters into home run hitters. I feel if they’ll just meet the ball solidly, they’ll fill the bill. I think the averages have declined in recent years because most players are looking for the home run every time at bat. But we’ll be satisfied with a good, consistent performance. Virdon and Clemente hit only 17 home runs between them but they ran two-three in the National League batting race." [5]

The following comments, by corner infielder/outfielder Frank Thomas (RC's teammate from 1955 through 1958), though not directly pertaining to Clemente, do strongly reinforce the perception of coach Sisler's single-minded (pun intended), one-size-fits-all approach:

"Maz was also a solid hitter. He had good power and hit 19 homers, batting .275. Yet the batting coach, George Sisler, would change him into a Punch-and-Judy hitter, like he tried to do to me. I was too stubborn to change but Sisler made Maz hit the ball to all fields and he would never hit that many homers again or have that high an average." [6]

Bob Skinner (1956-1963), Pittsburgh's other corner outfielder, could clearly see Sisler's influence at work from first pitch to last out, but before the game, his 'toolsy' teammate would put away the putter and put on a show:

"Clemente always chose average over power. He could have hit a ton of home runs. Playing around in batting practice, he’d hit one ball after another over the fence." [7]

Pirate slugger Dick Stuart (1958-1962), someone who certainly knew a little bit about hitting for distance, if not much else on a baseball field (hence the 'Dr. Strangeglove' moniker), speaks here in February 1965, recalling the teammate he had described not quite 4 years earlier as “the best 169-pound slugger in baseball” [8]:

“Don’t let anybody kid you he can’t hit for distance. When he wants to, he can power one as far as anybody in baseball. He's smart enough to go for line drives at Forbes Field. That's no park for home run hitters.” [9]

From a later generation of sluggers, Bob Robertson, the one member of the early 70's Pirates – Willie Stargell included – whom scout/coach Howie Haak conceded might have a "little more power' than Clemente, confirms what Bob Skinner had observed almost 15 years earlier:

"Clemente, the way he used to do some things at the batting cage... He used to tell us, 'Well, I'm gonna hit one to right-center now, I'm going to hit one to center field, I'm gonna drive one into left-center. Well, I'm gonna hit this one out.' And it was amazing how we would stand around the cage, and he would say things like this and back 'em up. That was such fun..." [10]

Although Art Howe would not crack the Bucs' big league roster until two years after Clemente's death, the Pittsburgh native was allowed to take BP with the Bucs at Three Rivers in '71 and '72 after his minor league seasons had concluded.

"He used such a big bat, I recall – a big, long, heavy bat. He was so strong with his hands; the ball just jumped off the bat. When him and Stargell hit – when they were in the cage – you actually didn’t even have to be around the cage to know that one of those two was in the cage hitting. The ball had a different sound coming off their bats. It was like a rifle shot. When the rest of us were in there hitting, it didn’t sound quite like that.” [11]

__ 3,000th hit donor Jon Matlack receives uniquely up-close-and-personal advance scouting report on powerful Puerto Rican _

In Puerto Rico, almost a year prior to participating in Clemente's career-capping milestone moment, Matlack had a singularly eye-opening off-field interaction with 'The Great One' (Matlack's manager on the San Juan Senadores), recalled here some 30 years after the fact:

“He was a nice fellow. There were about eight Americans on the team and he invited us over to his house, which I thought was a very nice gesture – opening his house, making us feel comfortable, talking baseball… And he was very impressive. Not a huge guy, but well-proportioned and obviously very strong. He used a maximum-dimension bat – as big and heavy and long as the rules say a bat can be. Huge. The handle was almost as big as the barrel of the bat. It was around 54 inches in length* and weighed I don’t know how many ounces." [12]

* Either the maximum bat length allowed in Puerto Rico was significantly greater than that in the States (42 inches, as it had been ever since 1869), or Matlack’s perception and/or memory is at fault, or some combination of the above. Nonetheless, Roberto Clemente at the plate wielding a four-and-a-half-foot-long club would certainly be something to behold.

''One day, he was talking to us about hitting and was handling this bat. The size and shape of it sort of intrigued me; I should have been listening to what he was saying. Might have helped me later. Anyway, he set it down. I went over to pick it up. I couldn’t get it off the floor. Here he was holding it and moving it around like it was nothing and I could barely lift it. That was very impressive * to me.” [13]

* Just how impressive – and how indelible the impression – could be seen some 10 years later still, when, in a 6/11/2011 piece by the NY Times' Tyler Kepner, the 61-year-old Matlack would recreate the 'big bat' encounter in remarkably similar – if, understandably, slightly less detailed – terms.

__ Opposite Field BOMBS:

__ Bobby Bragan: "longest ever by a right-handed batter" _

Equally impressed, almost ten years before, was Bucs ex-skipper Bobby Bragan, witness to Robby's barely unsuccessful bid to become the only right-handed batter in Forbes Field's 62-year history to reach its right-field roof.

Aside from digging Houston a quick 3-run hole (an advantage which Pirate starter Vernon Law would not relinquish), Clemente's tremendous opposite-field moon shot nearly made Forbes Field history (even as it both echoed and foreshadowed respective RC "longest" wrong-field blasts of August 30, 1960 and July 23, 1969):

''Roberto Clemente almost made history Saturday - missing by a foot or so of being the first right-handed batter to hit a ball to the right field roof. Clemente's homer in the first inning landed against the facing of the right field roof, a tremendous blast as it was.” [14]

Fortunately for us, Roberto's talkative ex-manager Bobby Bragan just happened to be employed by Houston at this juncture and, in this capacity, is present in the visiting bullpen (located in foul territory down the right field line), well situated to witness Clemente's handiwork. Here's his account, as told to Les Biederman:

"The ball was within a foot or so of landing on top of the roof and perhaps two or three feet in fair territory. It probably was the longest ball ever hit to that field by a right-handed batter.” [15]

__ Larry Dierker's longest opposite field shot nominee _

As Clemente's career progressed, particularly after the manager-mandated mid-sixties power boost, players around the league began to take notice, pitchers in particular subject to a singularly rude awakening. Larry Dierker, a pitcher who actually had pretty good success against Clemente himself, nonetheless received some vicarious chills in July 1969:

“There were four home runs in the 1969 All-Star game – two by Willie McCovey, the [game’s] MVP, and one each by Frank Howard and Johnny Bench. With all of the long balls, the one I remember most was hit by Roberto Clemente. The Great One hit it all the way into the upper deck, but it was foul. I had seen balls hit farther, but I had never seen a ball hit that far to the opposite field!” [16]

On the other hand, there was nothing vicarious about the victimization of the following commentator, some obscure southpaw named Sandy Koufax, likewise undone by unspeakable opposite-field power.

__ Sandy Koufax fields his own nominee, hit off him by RC _

“The longest ball I ever saw hit to the opposite field was hit off me by Clemente at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1961 [sic – actually 1960[17]]. It was a fastball on the outside corner, and he drove it out of the park – not just over the fence, he knocked it way out. I didn’t think a right-handed batter could hit it out of the field just at that point but Clemente did." [18]

Landing far beyond the 394-foot mark, Clemente's blast is put into perspective the following spring by LA Times beat writer Frank Finch, illustrating how difficult it was for a right-handed batter at the Coliseum – especially prior to 1961 – to get a ball over the right-field fence at all, much less "way out":

"In the matter of home runs, it is evident by now that the Coliseum right-field fence was moved closer to the plate [this season], despite the wails and doubts of some long-ball blasters. In 10 games, five round-trippers were hit to right – by Johnny Callison, Duke Snider, Bill Virdon, Bill Cunningham and John Roseboro. That’s an average of one every two games.

"Last year, right-field homers were hit on an average of every 2.75 games – 28 in 77 games, to be exact. The Dodgers hammered 18: Duke Snider (7), John Roseboro (3), Frank Howard (3), and one apiece by Willie Davis, Ron Fairly, Jim Gilliam, Norm Larker and Irv Noren. Visiting athletes connected 10 times: Willie McCovey and Billy Williams (twice each), and [one each by] Ed Bailey, Gordy Coleman, Roberto Clemente, Eddie Mathews, Bill White and Willie Kirkland." [19]

A quick click on each of the above-mentioned names will confirm that only one of the Dodgers – the 6 foot 7, 255 pound Frank Howard – and not a single visiting player other than Clemente, all 170 – to – 175 pounds of him – were of the right-handed persuasion.

__ Koufax fastball CRUSHED: 440 ft. by 55 ft. plus & still climbing _

Clemente also hit what may have been the longest ball in any direction off Koufax on May 31, 1964. LA Times beat writer Frank Finch reports:

"Koufax also was bombed for one of the longest home runs in Forbes Field annals, which hark back to 1909. In the third inning, with a 1-and-2 count on him, Senor Clemente touched off a moon shot that struck high on a light tower in center field, some 450 ft. from the plate. Had it missed the tower, it certainly would have sailed at least 500 ft." [20]

Koufax's own impression was recorded in his 1966 autobiography:

"Roberto Clemente hit an outside fastball that was still rising when it hit against the light tower in left center field, 450 feet away from home plate. And on a 1-2 pitch at that." [21]

Later that same year (i.e. 1966), Clemente's own recollection would be recorded by Les Biederman:

"This one hit a transformer on the left field light tower [sic [22]] on the way up and it stopped. No telling how far it might have gone." [23]

Last but not least, watching from the stands, one Gregory M. Gyauch, his recollections recorded more than 40 years later, unambiguously echoes the Koufax-Clemente consensus:

"Roberto Clemente hit a home run off Sandy Koufax. The ball was still rising as it hit the light tower in left center field." [24]

BTW, in an interview conducted some 35 years after the fact (published in 2008 on pages 224-25 of Tim McCarver's Diamond Gems), Koufax would deepen the aforementioned consensus by independently – if inadvertently – confirming Clemente's 'transformer' recollection (which, BTW, would place the point of impact at somewhere between 55 and 65 feet above the ground), though, in a poignant illustration of the vagaries of human memory, he would mistakenly link the right destination with the wrong HR, i.e. another of RC's six career clouts off Koufax (7 including his spring training blast), namely his relatively modest 420-foot foray into Schenley Park, hit on 9/10/63 off Sandy's not-ready-for-prime-time slider.

Now, notwithstanding my painstaking presentation of the consensus reached, re this ball's trajectory, by 3 different witnesses, from 3 different vantage points, I must acknowledge that many – notably Greg Rybarczyk at Hit Tracker Online and writer John Pastier – have pooh-poohed this sort of thing, the 'still rising' flourish in particular. Pastier personally dubbed said flourish the 'maraschino cherry' that enhances many an already prodigious poke. Still, is it typically the victimized pitcher who spearheads this PR campaign?

__ Darrell Sutherland dredges up a 500-foot nightmare _

Maybe so. Certainly the following traumatic spring training encounter dredged up by Darrell Sutherland would indicate that Clemente's seemingly Svengali-like sway over opposing pitchers was not confined to his frequent victim Koufax:

“One time in spring training, I was pitching against Clemente and Wes Westrum came out and said, ‘He can’t hit the fastball inside off the plate.’ I threw a fastball about a foot inside and he hit it on a dead line. It was still going up as it went over the center field fence.” [25]

Just the third home run in Terry Park's 12-year history to clear the high center field fence,[26] this mammoth Met-killer was "estimated at 500 feet" by UPI,[27] TSN,[28] and Post-Gazette sports editor Al Abrams.[26] A less conservative estimate is suggested by Clemente himself, speaking with TSN; his professed inability to recall having ever hit a longer home run,[28] combined with previously published remarks regarding the Wrigley Field home run of 5/17/59, would place this one at better than five hundred fifty feet.[29]

In any event, on top of his 450-foot game-winner 10 days earlier vs. St. Louis [30], this blast made for a resounding opening volley in RC's unprecedented 1966 aerial assault which, while ultimately leaving the Bucs three games shy of a National League pennant, did net Clemente that elusive NL MVP award.

__ Opposite Field BOMBS (Pt. 2):

__ Multiple Assaults on Forbes Field's 436-Ft mark, witnessed by Ron Swoboda, Dick Young, Les Biederman, Bill Christine and Charley Feeney _

On May 1, 1966, 21-year-old Ron Swoboda, who would go on to become one of the heroes of the 1969 World Series upset of the favored Baltimore Orioles by the upstart 'Miracle Mets', saw something he would not soon forget:

"I saw him hit line drives off the brick wall at Forbes Field. One of them was the hardest ball I ever saw hit. I saw Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey and Dick Allen hit some long balls against us, up and out, but Clemente's was different. I just never saw a ball hit so hard." [31]

This almost certainly refers to the shot – high off the wall above the 436-foot mark (as witnessed in profile by then left fielder Swoboda) – described on May 2, 1966 by Dick Young of the New York Daily News and Les Biederman of the Pittsburgh Press:

"The second Buc run, just before the burst of five, was set up by Roberto Clemente’s blast high off the [right] center wall, above the 436-foot marker. The ball got there so fast, and bounced back to Murphy so hard, that the speedy Roberto got only two bases." [32] "But the blast caused a rumble through the stands and no doubt unnerved Jack Fisher."[33]

This was not the first time Clemente had come close to clearing this rarely violated right-center barrier (rarely violated by right-handers, that is); almost 5 years earlier, Roberto shot one just beyond the reach of Dodger center fielder Willie Davis, en route to approximately the same spot [34]. The next ball he hit this way would not only clear the heretofore formidable fortress wall but leave it far, far behind. Scarcely one month after creating Swoboda's indelible impression, 'Cape Clemente' launches the following moon shot:

“Stargell hit his first homer of the game in the second inning and Clemente followed it with a blast over the 436-foot sign.” [35]

Veteran Pirate – and Clemente – observer Les Biederman elaborates:

“Clemente hit one ball between the Barney Dreyfuss monument and the right-center light tower – a rarity for a right-handed slugger." [36]

Four days later it would become a little less rare:

"This happened against the Astros [June 5] with Dick Farrell pitching and five days later [sic - actually four], he did it again." [37]

Apparently Clemente had finally thrown in the towel vis-a-vis hitting the ball through the wall and opted, instead, for a path of lesser – if not least – resistance. Here Biederman fleshes out the June 5th blast:

"[It] traveled out of the park between the 436-foot sign on the right-center fence and the Barney Dreyfuss memorial to the left. It [the Dreyfuss monument] actually is center field, although the flagpole (457 feet) is regarded as dead center. The ball landed approximately 60 feet beyond the wall on a diamond where some youngsters were playing." [38]

Biederman is not as definitive re the second ball's destination, though the direction seems to have shifted towards straightaway center.

"This time the ball disappeared over the monument with Al Jackson of the Cardinals on the mound, and the fans gasped. Two titanic shots in less than one week." [39]

A little more than three years later, the unsung slugger would revisit the scene of the crime, as it were: propelling one last lunar expedition far beyond that once-seemingly-impregnable barrier.

“Clemente’s third hit of the game will provide conversation for at least the rest of the week. It went over the gate in right-center field, just to the right of the light standard and the 436-foot mark.” [40]

As usual, Bill Christine is frustratingly vague with the tape measure, as would be the entire crop of post-Biederman Pittsburgh Press beat writers as a rule. Charley Feeney of the Post-Gazette, while he doesn't exactly get out the tape measure, does at least let us know that RC's ball cleared the wall with plenty to spare:

"Clemente's drive, off Bill 'No-Hit' Stoneman, carried well over the wall in centerfield. Few righthanded hitters have hit a ball out of the park in this sector, which is to the right of dead center between the exit gate and the light stanchion." [41]

__ Gaylord Perry plays with fire, with the predictable results _

Returning to the realm of victimized HOFers, spitball specialist Gaylord Perry might take issue with those who maintained that Clemente couldn't pull the ball:

“They said don’t pitch him inside. I didn’t pitch him inside for three or four years. When I did pitch him inside, he hit a home run... ” [42]

Writing on August 2nd, 1967, in the immediate aftermath of GP's never-to-be-forgotten gaffe, Sid Hoos of The Hayward Review wrote:

“Perry made only one serious mistake: the 9th-inning slider, intended for the outer edge of the plate, that instead floated inside to Roberto Clemente. The .356-hitting Clemente blinked in happy disbelief, then lashed the pitch over the left-field fence.” [43]

And not just over the fence, mind you, but "25 rows in" with "the wind blowing 30 miles per hour against him." This from the evidently still shell-shocked Perry almost 30 years after the fact. [44]

__ Clemente's majestic May 6, 1960 blast into the teeth of Candlestick's crosswind, described by Arnold Hano _

The 1967 shot off Perry is not the first instance of Clemente getting the better of that infamous Candlestick crosswind. It is, at the very least, the third of at least four such blasts, the first two coming in 1960, the first year of that bizarre windtunnel's existence. The very first came on Clemente's very first visit (reminiscent of his similarly prodigious Polo Grounds debut, back on April 18, 1955), which, as fate would have it, came on the birthday of his one-time mentor Willie Mays.

Ever the ungracious guest, Roberto, just as he'd done 5 years earlier, comes to the birthday boy's house and crashes—and I do mean 'crashes'—the party; incidentally, becoming the first player in Candlestick history (then all of three and a half weeks old) to conquer the soon to be infamous crosswind.

Appropriately enough, Mays has his moment, as do all the Giants' Willies en route to a 6-1 win, but this game's signature moment is easy to discern, even for the winning pitcher, Sam Jones. "Don't forget the home run," replied the Giant starter when commended for his complete-game, 3-hit performance.

"Easily the most satisfying homer was hit by the ‘birthday boy,’ Willie Mays, who reached the age of 29 with an off-field shot in the sixth inning off shell-shocked Pirate pitching ace, Vernon Law. The line drive just eluded the acrobatic leap of Roberto Clemente, hit the top of the right field barrier and bounced high over the fence. [...] 'The lost balls were belted, in order, by Willie McCovey (a 410-foot liner to right center), Willie Kirkland (a 430-foot job that bounced into the right field parking lot), Mays’ birthday hit, and then the biggest shot of them all, and that one belonged to Roberto Clemente. Roberto’s blow traveled 410 feet, but it was hit into the treacherous cross-wind in left center. Pittsburgh manager Danny Murtaugh said afterward that he’d ‘like to see Clemente’s hit on a clear day with no wind and see how far it really would go.’"[45]

Precisely how far it did go remains unclear. 450 feet or thereabouts is the figure published by Clemente biographers Anold Hano and Kal Wagenheim, whereas AP's Ed Wilks eschews distance in favor of direction ("a shot that cleared the left centerfield fence at the 397 foot mark") while echoing the editorial consensus: "It was really hit, into a crosswind."[46] Arnold Hano elaborates (circa winter 1962, presumably drawing on some of the same player interviews that formed the basis for his article "What's Wrong With the Giants," published in the previous year's edition of True's Baseball Yearbook):

"Clemente's bat hit the ball, and the result absolutely clubbed the crowd into awed silence for a long moment. Right into that wet whipping wind the ball carried. Right on through, hit 120 feet high in a long soaring majestic parabola that came down finally over 450 feet away. There is just no way of telling how far Clemente’s home run blast would have traveled had it not been for that wind. Suffice it to say partisan Giant fans suddenly broke their shell-shocked silence and let loose a gigantic roar. For two innings the stadium buzzed. For days the Giants talked about it. Even today if you slip up behind a Giant pitcher and suddenly whisper in his ear: ‘Remember the home run Clemente hit?’ he’s likely to jump as high as if he’d been caught putting spit on baseballs." [47]

A piece published in the Los Angeles Times 10 days after the fact puts Clemente's clout into context:

"Speaking of the wind, and everybody does, it blew so hard here the other night that the minute hand on the big scoreboard clock actually was blown ahead 10 minutes. And Willie Mays, who has yet to hit a homer into the left-field stands, has an opinion of Candlestick which is graphic, specific and fulsome, but is unfit to print. Excluding Ed Bressoud’s inside-the-park round-tripper, there hasn’t been a homer hit to left in the daytime to date. Four players – Ernie Banks, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente and Jim Davenport – parked balls in the seats under the lights." [48]

Two of those home runs (Banks’ and Cepeda’s) were hit in a single game, and all but Clemente's were hit in virtually – and atypically – windless conditions. Regarding the first two, Oakland Tribune writer Alan Ward writes:

"It was noticeable that the wind had dwindled to the mildest of breezes when both the homers were recorded. Later the air currents were reactivated and there were no more homers to left field. A pair to right, yes, and both by Giants – Willie Kirkland in the seventh and Willie McCovey in the eighth." [49]

Similarly undeterred was Davenport's modest drive, hit on May 2nd:

"His first pitch was a fastball, inside and around the shoulders, and Davenport pulled it into the left field bleachers near the 335 foot mark on the foul line.

No Wind

This was the fourth home run of the season for Davenport, who hit only six all last year. And the ironical part of it was that he hit it in a direction in which home runs were supposed to have been next to impossible because of the prevailing winds in the new park. 'They talk about how hard it is to hit a home run to left field, yet a Punch and Judy hitter gets one to beat us.' coach Bob Scheffing said after the game." [50]

While undoubtably the most scary one, Clemente's Candlestick debut was scarcely the first example of RC crashing his old friend's birthday party. That came five years earlier in the Polo Grounds, when the rookie rudely celebrated his new friend's birthday by tripling over Willie's head in the midst of a decisive Pirate rally. A couple of Giants beat writers fill us in:

“Two tallies followed on Roberto Clemente’s 430-foot triple to center and a two-out single by Felipe Montemayor." [51]

“Roberto Clemente tripled so far over Mays’ head that even Willie on his charger, shedding the cap, couldn’t catch it." [52]

In the birthday party-crashing portion of their ongoing rivalry, Willie was at a bit of a disadvantage, as they played opposite each other on Roberto's birthday only once, in 1956. Mays, however, made the most of the opportunity:

"'Leave it to Mays' could serve as a slogan for the New York outfield; the infield, too, sometimes. Willie went in, then out for the first two putouts in the second inning. It was difficult to pinpoint the more spectacular grab. Mays caught Walls’ sinking liner just off the shoetops. Then, following a long gallop, he took Clemente’s drive in front of the left-centerfield bleachers over the right shoulder." [53]

__ RC's 1200th RBI_aka_Veterans Stadium Inaugural 'Liberty Bell' Ringer, recalled by Gene Collier_

Personal milestone aside, this pinch-hit, game-winning upper deck shot to center field at Philly's recently opened Veterans Stadium is pretty monumental in its own right. Struck near the tail end of an action-packed twin bill, on Sunday, June 27, 1971, it's recalled 32 years later by Gene Collier on the eve of the Vet's retirement:

“In those earliest years, there was an enormous mock Liberty Bell mounted on the facing of the upper deck in dead center, maybe 40 feet above and behind the fence, which was and is 408 feet from the plate. Roberto Clemente lined a homer off that bell that afternoon, which was, pretty clearly, unforgettable." [54]

That would make Clemente not only the first player ever to reach the centerfield upper deck in the new ballpark (a feat that would be accomplished only seven times in the stadium's 33-year history)[55], but also the first to 'ring' the bell, preceding by more than ten months the only officially recognized bell-ringer, Greg Luzinski's prodigious May 16, 1972 shot. Just to give a frame of reference, Luzinski's drive would later be estimated at 505 feet by home run researcher Bill Jenkinson.[56]

Paul Giordano's contemporaneous account in the Bucks County Courier Times is vivid if somewhat more vague:

"The breeze had nothing to do with Clemente’s center field shot. The only ballparks the ball wouldn’t have carried out of would have been the old Polo Grounds and the current Yankee Stadium." [57]

The Philadelphia Inquirer is even less forthcoming and the Pittsburgh writers, for their part, were not even on the premises, thanks to a newspaper strike nowhere near resolution. Clemente's clanger, thus, will forever lack contemporary confirmation. Nevertheless, whether or not Robby's ball actually 'rang' the 'Liberty Bell,' it certainly had the distance. That this blast reached at least the facing of the Vet's upper deck – the 'Liberty' Bell's location – is confirmed in the 2003 Philadelphia Phillies Media Guide, which, in commemoration of the closing of Veterans Stadium after 33 years, lists every documented upper-deck home run.[55]

Incidentally, aside from the Clemente hiccup, Phillie reliever Joe Hoerner had little trouble that inning, striking out the side, including Willie Stargell before, and Gene Clines and Al Oliver after. (All three, it should be noted, were left-handed batters facing a tough lefty in Hoerner; had an ill-timed injury not limited his options, claimed Philly manager Frank Lucchesi, he never would've let Hoerner face Clemente.)

_ RC's Scoreboard Flyby_aka_Wrigley's Longest HR, according to Hornsby, Banks, Brickhouse, Buhrke and Scheffing _

_ The View from Inside _

On Sunday, May 17, 1959, more than 12 years before his inaugural Liberty Bell-ringer (and not quite one year prior to his similarly prodigious Candlestick debut), Clemente had come closer than any batter ever has, before or since, to reaching an even more distant target—namely, the scoreboard that has, ever since 1938, resided above and beyond the vast expanse of Wrigley Field's centerfield bleachers. One of the many eyewitnesses who judged this feat unique in Wrigley annals was Chicago's then shortstop, Ernie Banks (he of the 512 career home runs). More than a decade later, as his own playing career neared its end, Banks would find no reason to revise his original verdict.

“Some of you fans may remember the ball he knocked out of Wrigley a few seasons ago, just to the left field side of the scoreboard. That’s the longest one I’ve seen hit there and we all agreed it must have traveled more than 500 feet on its trip into Waveland Avenue." [58]

Although actually situated considerably to the right of straightaway center field, Wrigley's pre-War scoreboard has, for convenience' sake, been routinely referred to as the 'centerfield scoreboard,' with the predictable but unfortunate consequence that Clemente's near miss, despite having occurred in straightaway center (the most distant possible point of egress from Wrigley, short of clearing the scoreboard, altogether), has, in turn, been routinely—albeit unwittingly—relocated to left center, thus obscuring its truly prodigious nature, relegating it instead to the realm of ballpark books and coffee table trivia.

Rogers Hornsby, arguably the greatest right-handed hitter ever (and most decidedly not of the Punch-and-Judy variety), also happened to be present that day in Wrigley Field in his capacity as Chicago Cubs' batting coach. Hornsby called Clemente's home run the longest he'd seen anywhere. His concise evaluation was captured by TSN:

"Rogers Hornsby, the Cubs' batting coach, said it was the longest he ever witnessed and [Cubs' skipper] Bob Scheffing agreed it was No. 1 in his book." [59]

For the record, Hornsby had previously been present (as the opposing player-manager) at Sportsman's Park on October 6, 1926 to witness a pair of absolute bombs set off by Babe Ruth in Game Four of the World Series. Ruth researcher Bill Jenkinson estimates these blasts, respectively, at 515 and 530 feet. (These were actually the last two of three Ruthian round-trippers in the game, the first being 'Ruthian' in name only, clocking in at a piddling 395 feet.) [60]

Additional historical perspective is provided by Baseball Digest, circa spring 1982, courtesy of longtime Cubs' sportscaster Jack Brickhouse, who evidently viewed Dave Kingman's legendary 1976 shot as somewhat overblown (pun intended):

"Retired Cub sportscaster Jack Brickhouse, who saw this home run, revealed that the ball was greatly helped by a strong wind of about 35 miles per hour. Brickhouse estimated Kingman's blast in reality went about 500 feet. In fact, Brickhouse stated Kingman's drive was not the longest ball he had ever seen. A 500-foot blast by the late Roberto Clemente remains the hardest hit ball Brickhouse has seen which was not aided by the wind." [61]

Inadvertent support for Brickhouse is lent by the aforementioned Mr. Jenkinson, who—without taking wind into account (or lack of same)—describes the Kingman and Clemente home runs as, respectively, the longest hit to left field (est. at 540 feet) and the longest to left centerfield (est. 510 feet) in Wrigley Field history.[62] Jenkinson also places Clemente's home run in a 27-way tie for the 73rd longest ever hit in a major league game,[63] and in his 'Tape Measure Calendar,' proclaims it the longest ever hit on May 17.[64]

Reflecting the prevailing confusion regarding the peculiar positioning of Wrigley Field's putative 'centerfield' scoreboard, Jenkinson mistakenly portrays this home run as having been hit to left center field rather than straightaway center.

Quoted directly in 1989, Brickhouse—who'd covered the Cubs from 1948 to 1981—leaves nothing to interpretation:

"Clemente's was the longest I ever saw at Wrigley; longer than Kingman's. That's the one I'll always remember." [65]

_ Clemente's Two Cents _

As it happens, one of the few persons to offer more than an educated guess as to the distance of this home run—or at least do so in print—was none other than its author. While, unfortunately for him, there was no Pittsburgh Pirates publicist chasing down his moonshot with tape measure in hand, the timing of this bomb—last half-inning of the nightcap of a Sunday afternoon twin bill—afforded Clemente himself the opportunity to play the Red Patterson role. The results of that effort would be mentioned in passing during an interview published the following year by The Pittsburgh Courier:

"That remind me, I hit 565 foote hum-rum in Chicaga last year; the bol' disappear from centerfield, and Raj Hornsby tell me it longest drive he ever saw hit out of Wrigley Field." [29]

Six years later still, both the blast and the post-game pace-off were recalled by Clemente in a conversation with Pittsburgh Press sports editor Les Biederman:

"Clemente, himself, paced off the distance from the centerfield wall to the scoreboard right above, and when he was shown where the ball landed, he knew this was No. 1." [66]

It is sad to note that, in the latter interview, Clemente, evidently still not over the effects of the veteran sportswriter's aggressive behind-the-scenes efforts, some six years earlier, to undercut Clemente's MVP candidacy in favor of teammate Dick Groat's,[67] would feel compelled to gild the lily for Biederman's benefit ("perhaps 600 feet"). It is also unfortunate that in neither interview does Clemente appear to have been asked where he'd been led to believe the ball landed.

That being said, considerable retrospective reinforcement for Clemente's initial, unembroidered claim can certainly be gleaned from the following eyewitness account, recorded almost half a century later at Baseball Think Factory:

"I remember the ball Clemente hit at Wrigley, it was to the leftfield side of the scoreboard, the camera work on that ball was poor (one camera still?). It seemed to me that if it was hit 20 feet toward center it would have hit near the bottom of the scoreboard. References to the homer say it landed on Waveland, but based on its trajectory (no I'm not a marksman) I think it would have gone over Waveland and landed on Sheffield (okay I haven't seen a replay in almost 50 years)." [68]

_ The View from Waveland Avenue _

This is at least in part confirmed by Chicago-based sportswriter and author George Castle, who wrote in 1998 that Clemente's "missile left the ballpark to the left of the Wrigley Field scoreboard, landing in a gas station across the street."[69] That there was indeed a gas station near the northeast corner of Waveland and Sheffield is indicated by a 1938 photograph of that intersection, depicting, at least in part, "a gas station [that] stood in the centerfield shadows."[70] As pictured, however, it is clear that the gas station was located directly behind the as-yet-untouched scoreboard and thus not directly accessible to any batted ball except one that actually cleared it.

Speaking in 2015, veteran Wrigley Field ballhawk Rich Buhrke confirmed that Clemente's blast did at least "end up in the gas station," after having barely missed the scoreboard's bottom left-hand corner on its way out of Wrigley.[71] Just 12 years old and one month into his own rookie season, Buhrke witnessed the ball's landing from a distance of about half a block, while rapidly approaching from his starting point at the corner of Kenmore and Waveland Avenues. Once past the scoreboard, recalls Buhrke, the ball carried over Waveland Avenue, landing either on or within inches of the curb near the northwest corner of Waveland and Sheffield Avenues.

"It took a tremendous bounce when it hit right on the corner there. And I don't know whether it was Waveland yet or Sheffield or what, but I would say it was more right on the corner of Waveland and almost hit the curb and took this gigantic bounce—back in Dave Kingman's day, we used to call them King Kong bounces—and it took a gigantic bounce and landed near the sidewalk on the other side of Sheffield and went into the gas station. [...] Of course, I never saw a ball land there before, and I've never seen a ball land there since." [72]

Regarding the wind factor, and/or lack of same, Buhrke echoes Brickhouse, and explains:

"Well, the wind probably played a part in the one Kingman at least, for sure. When the wind blows out at Wrigley Field, it blows out, there's no doubt about that. They do carry. But when Clemente hit his, it was late in the second game of a doubleheader [ 2 outs in the 9th inning, in fact ]. As it gets later in the day, the wind dies down. If there is a wind at all, it dies down by then." [73]

Presumably, this refers to 5/17/79, the famously "hurricane"-propelled 23-22 loss to Philadelphia,[74] although Jenkinson also describes as "wind-aided" the nearly identical Apr 14, 1976 shot,[75] and the April 14 issue of The Chicago Tribune does predict southerly winds of 10 to 20 miles per hour.[76]

Writing in 2013 for ESPN, Greg Rybarczyk, designer of ESPN HR Tracker, identifies the landing spots of hypothetical home runs in five current ballparks, each of which would equal the reputed distance of Mickey Mantle's famous Griffith Stadium home run of April 17, 1953, namely, 565 feet (precisely the distance given by Clemente for his Wrigley Field shot). For one of his hypotheticals, Rybarczyk chooses Wrigley Field, projecting a home run hit to straightaway center field, its designated landing spot coinciding almost precisely with that specified by Buhrke in reference to Clemente's home run.

"At Wrigley Field, a 565-foot homer to straightaway center field would pass just to the left of the scoreboard in center field, passing it about three-fourths of the way up, and land on the northwest corner of the intersection of Waveland and Sheffield Avenues." [77]

More recently, Rybarczyk recounted in greater detail his Wrigley Field calculation:

" If you look at the image at this link, look at the tree on the right side of the image, closest to the camera. That tree is very close, within a few feet, of where I was referring to in my article. As for whether that is where Clemente's homer landed, I can't really say, but that is approximately where my hypothetical 565 foot homer was landing. I arrived at that point by first making an accurate scale diagram of Wrigley Field, and then running a line just past the scoreboard and out to 565 feet. The original diagram came from some overhead imagery, and also lots of high-def photos of the entire ballpark & surroundings." [78]

Variant trajectories notwithstanding, Rybarczyk and Buhrke appear to have confirmed to within 15 feet the accuracy of Clemente's original, paced-off estimate (making this a 550 to 560-foot drive, depending on just how close to the corner the ball was when short-hopping the curb). For his part, Buhrke echoes Brickhouse's opinion regarding the relative merits of Kingman's much-touted Bicentennial blast—which he likens, at least in terms of pure distance, to Sammy Sosa's June 24, 2003 home run—and Clemente's celebrated scoreboard shot:

"Again, it was not anywhere near 560; we measured it off at about 520, 525. And Sosa was the same way." [72] "Kingman's two shots [April 14, 1976 and May 17, 1979] were fantastic, as was the steroid induced Sosa's, but to me, those, as well as the Glenallen Hill shot that landed on the roof of the yellow apartment building, would have to finish behind the RC monster shot." [79]

_ Batting Practice Bombs: Robby vs. Robby & Wrigley Redux _

It must be noted that, until verified by any of the surviving participants, the incidents described below should be taken with sizable grains of salt. Although each is very much in keeping with the capabilities documented throughout this page, there are obvious questions raised by the first story—regarding both chronological discrepancies and authorial omniscience—and, more to the point, each author has seen his journalistic career end under a cloud, with questions regarding, respectively, originality [80] and authenticity.[81]

_ Battle of the 'Bobs': Robertson vs. Clemente _

Phil Musick recreates a somewhat more adversarial variation on Bob Robertson's fondly conjured recollections of RC's BP prowess:

"Midsummer, 1970. Wrigley [Field]. Batting practice before a Cubs’ game. Noon or so. A day so hot that in the distance beyond the Chicago tenements, the heat seems to gather in columns, like germs in a test tube. One by one, young Bob Robertson drives batting practice fastballs over the left field fence. Four… five… six… Even the older players stop what they’re doing to watch. Seven...eight.

"How you do it, old man,” the brash Robertson snickers at a quiet Pirate next to the cage. Soft laughter rises from a nearby gaggle of players, writers and front-office types. Roberto Clemente replies with a stony look. Robertson hits a ninth consecutive BP home run, then skies the next pitch into a low-hanging cloud over the infield and gives way to the next hitter, his grin a challenge of sorts. Clemente replaces Robertson in the cage.

"Old Frank Oceak, the third-base coach, short-arms a 60 m.p.h. pitch tight on the hands. Clemente turns on it like a snake, catching it fatly and just so on the barrel of the thick-handled bat. It leaves Wrigley on a rising trajectory, as though it had come from the end of a .12 gauge. The ball clears the fence, the high brick wall behind it, and the width of Waveland Avenue, before striking sharply next to a tenement building window. Clemente flips the bat toward the mound, heel over barrel, purposely ignoring Robertson, and strides briskly off to the dugout. Excited babble trails in his wake. The young Robertson just shakes his head. In the tunnel leading from the dugout to the clubhouse, Clemente permits himself a small smile." [82]

_ Batting practice bomb recalls both Koufax light tower crash and Wrigley scoreboard near miss _

Even in mid-September 1972, the day after the final regular season home run of his career, Clemente was still up to his old tricks and conjuring up memories of a couple of his longest shots in the process. Writer Bart Ripp remembers:

“[On Wednesday, September 13, 1972 at Wrigley Field], Clemente went three-for-three against Ferguson Jenkins, including a home run that won the game.

"The next day, the Pirates took batting practice and I saw something I shall always remember. Pittsburgh had a rookie just up from triple-A named McKee throwing batting practice. Let’s say shooting instead of throwing. This guy was about 6' 8" and he could bring it. Stargell had trouble connecting on him. Al Oliver couldn’t get a ball out of the infield. Richie Hebner was so disgusted he slammed his bat against the supports of the batting cage.

“Clemente stepped in, practicing left-handed swings. Some of the Cubs tossing a ball around stopped and came over to watch. The sportswriters stopped chatting among themselves and interviewing players and started to gather around the cage. Even Clemente’s teammates, who see him swing every day, wanted to see if Roberto could connect on the big rookie.

“Clemente dusted his hands, then took his usual righthanded stance deep in the box, as far from the plate as possible. Standing still, Clemente heard the first pitch go by, then primly stuck his bat out over the plate at the next three. Each time, the ball hit the club, then pirouetted to the grass, just fair, and there they stuck as if they had landed in wet cement. Roberto then took three swings, but did not move his legs or hips, just the arms and wrists – he was merely getting his eye in. The result was three line drives – to left, to center, to right. All base hits in any game.

“Clemente slowly hauled out his familiar swing: the front leg lifted and cocked to the catcher, his torso leaping at the ball, the swing ending with his back foot hanging in the air. He proceeded to undress the rookie, smacking severe line drives all over old Wrigley Field. Not paying any respect to a god, Hebner shouted taunting encouragement to Clemente, ‘Come on, take one more swing.’

“Clemente motioned to the pitcher, wiping the side of his hand across the letters of his uniform. McKee put it right there, right on the outside corner, and Clemente swung once more. The ball nearly tipped the button of McKee’s cap, then once past second began to rise on a straight line. It was still rising when it struck the bleachers just below the scoreboard, 450 feet away. The people around the cage surveyed the landing site for a few seconds, then closed their mouths and looked back into the cage. It was empty, as Clemente walked back to the dugout, rolling his head about to relieve a crick in his neck.” [83]

_ Career Drives of 400 feet & up and / or upper deck _

__ Opposite field (anything to the right of dead center) __

__ Left & Center __

Under Construction - (MUCH) More to Come

________ Notes ________

  1. Revealed during the Q&A portion his April 2006 book signing at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble in NYC. Moreover, how much he would have seen of RC even on the tube is questionable, seeing as how the 16-year-old Maraniss, a Milwaukee native, didn't even have an NL team in his town from 1966 on, just in time to miss all but a handful of NBC 'Games of the Week' during each of Clemente's two career years.
  2. Markusen, Roberto Clemente, p. 18
  3. Tyler Kepner: "Mets’ Hampton Has the Angles Covered," The New York Times (May 15, 2000) p. 18
  4. O’Brien, Remember Roberto, p. 223
  5. Les Biederman: "Sisler to Drill Buc Hitters on Art of Timing," The Sporting News (January 23, 1957), p. 23
  6. Danny Peary:We Played the Game: Memories of Baseball’s Greatest Era, p. 398
  7. Bruce Jenkins, "The Gamers -- Driven by Competitive Fires - Bonds seems aloof, but it's all a big lie," San Francisco Chronicle (Tuesday, April 25, 1995), p. C-11
  8. Les Biederman, "Clemente’s Clouting Keeps Corsairs Hot on Trail of Treasure," TSN (May 31, 1961), p. 10
  9. Al Abrams, "Sidelight on Sports: Clemente Not Appreciated?," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Friday, February 26, 1965), p. 20
  10. Bruce Markusen, Roberto Clemente: The Great One, pp. 220-221
  11. Bruce Markusen, Roberto Clemente: The Great One (Champaign, Sports Publishing, Inc. 1998), p. 220
  12. Victor Debs, Jr., That Was Part of Baseball Then: Interviews With 24 Former Major League Baseball Players, Coaches & Managers, p. 130
  13. Victor Debs, Jr.: That Was Part of Baseball Then: Interviews With 24 Former Major League Baseball Players, Coaches & Managers (Jefferson, NC; McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers; 2002), p. 130
  14. Les Biederman: "The Scoreboard: Law's Arm Better; Clemente, Skinner Clouts Whoppers," The Pittsburgh Press (Monday, June 4, 1962), p. 28
  15. Biederman: "The Scoreboard: Law's Arm Better; Clemente, Skinner Clouts Whoppers,", p. 28
  16. Larry Dierker, "ALL Star Monday / Commentary / ON BASEBALL / Hanging with stars in summer of '69," The Houston Chronicle (Monday, July 12, 2004), p. 6
  17. Sandy's mistaken here; of the two home runs given up by Koufax to Clemente at the Coliseum, only the first – hit on 8/30/60 – went out to right field. The '61 shot was also hit well, but in the other direction – 35 rows beyond Wally Moon's favored target, the infamous left-field screen. See "Dodgers Regain NL Lead," The Long Beach Independent (June 8, 1961), p. 4 and Home Run Log.
  18. Koufax: “My Toughest Batters,” Sport (May 1965), p.19
  19. Frank Finch, “THE BULLPEN: Wally Moon in Orbit, Enjoying Best Take-off Since Rookie Year,” The Los Angeles Times (Thursday, April 22, 1961), p. A3
  20. Frank Finch, "Are Dodgers Waking Up? That’s 3 Wins in a Row!; Perranoski Staves Off Pirates, 6-4 PERRANOSKI SAVES 6-4 DODGER WIN," Los Angeles Times (Monday, June 1, 1964), Part III – pp. 1, 3. Also see "Dodgers Bop Bucs Third In Row, 6-4," Simpson's Leader-Times (Monday, June 1, 1964),p.12.
  21. Koufax with Ed Linn, Koufax (New York, The Viking Press, 1966), p. 220.
  22. That would be the left-center light tower; Clemente's clearly either misspeaking or misquoted here.
  23. Lester J. Biederman: "The Scoreboard: Big Day For Two Pirates; Stargell Started Streak Against Roberts; Clemente's Friend Retrieves Ball; Longest Drive In Wrigley Field" The Pittsburgh Press (Monday, June 6, 1966), p. 36. (Scroll down through the Stargell-related material.)
  24. David Cicotello and Angelo Louisa, Forbes Field: essays and memories of the Pirates' historic ballpark, 1909-1971 (Jefferson, N.C.; McFarland & Co.; 2007), p. 189
  25. William Ryczek, The Amazin' Mets 1962-1969, p. 201
  26. 26.0 26.1 Al Abrams: "Clemente's 500-Foot HR Beats Mets, 7-5; 8th Inning Sock Nets Buc Victory," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Friday, March 25, 1966), p. 24
  27. (UPI): “Bucs Host Washington Today; Tape Measure Job,” The Jeannette News-Dispatch (Friday, March 25, 1966), p. 12
  28. 28.0 28.1 Les Biederman: “Bucco Rookies Make It Tough On Regulars,” The Sporting News (April 9, 1966), p. 8
  29. 29.0 29.1 David Maraniss: Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero, p. 98
  30. (AP) "Cards Lose Again; Bucs Win Fourth," The St. Petersburg Times (Tuesday, March 15, 1966), p. 1-C
  31. O'Brien: Remember Roberto, p. 270
  32. Dick Young: Veale Chokes Met Streak, 8-0,” The Daily News (Monday, May 2, 1966), p. 59
  33. Les Biederman: "Clemente Shows He's Bat-Man: Hitting Mets Like Robbin' for Roberto," The Pittsburgh Press (May 2, 1966)
  34. See Frank Finch, "Homer Binge by Dodgers Beats Bucs; Howard, Larker, Neal Connect in 4-2 L.A. Triumph DODGERS," The LA Times (Monday, May 8, 1961), p. C3
  35. (UPI): "Stargell Powers Pirates to 10-5 Win Over Astros," The Bridgeport Telegram (Monday, June 6, 1966), p. 10
  36. Les Biederman, "Veale Volunteers -- Then Learns Relief Isn't His Dish," TSN (June 25, 1966), p. 8
  37. Biederman, "Veale Volunteers -- Then Learns Relief Isn't His Dish," TSN (June 25, 1966), p. 8. Also see "Cards Use Homers To Down Pirates," The Jeannette News-Dispatch (Friday, June 10, 1966), p. 10.
  38. Biederman: "Clemente Uses Bat to Send ‘All Well’ Message to Family," TSN (June 18, 1966), p. 15
  39. Biederman: "Veale Volunteers...," TSN (June 25, 1966), p. 8
  40. Bill Christine: "Blass' 3-Hitter Ends Pirates' Skid; Long, Long Blast," The Pittsburgh Press (Wednesday, July 9, 1969), p. 57
  41. Charley Feeney: "Blass Rights Pirates With 3-Hitter, 8-1; Expos Bow, Slide Ends At 7; Clemente Drills Long Homer," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Wednesday, July 9, 1969), p. 18
  42. Heuck and Fitzpatrick, "Pittsburgh's Claim to Fame: Hall-of-Famers Tell of Times In Our City," The Pittsburgh Quarterly (Winter 2006).
  43. Sid Hoos: "Clubhouse," The Hayward Daily Review (Thursday, August 3, 1967), p. 30
  44. Heuck and Fitzpatrick, "Pittsburgh's Claim to Fame: Hall-of-Famers Tell of Times In Our City," The Pittsburgh Quarterly (Winter 2006).
  45. Mike Berger: “Shots Are Heard at Candlestick,” The San Francisco Chronicle (Saturday, May 7, 1960), p. 27
  46. Ed Wilks: "Hail of Giant Willies' Home Runs Whips Pirates, 5-1," The Indiana Gazette (Saturday, May 7, 1960), p. 26
  47. Arnold Hano, “Roberto Clemente: ‘Arriba,’” from Baseball Stars of 1962, Ray Robinson, editor (New York, Pyramid Books, 1962), pp. 115-116
  48. Frank Finch, “THE BULL PEN; Craig's Collarbone Improved, May Start Throwing in Month,” The Los Angeles Times (Monday, May 16, 1960), C3
  49. Alan Ward, “Giants in 6-5 Loss To Cubs,” The Oakland Tribune (Friday, April 15, 1960), p. 41
  50. Bob Wolf: “Bad Pitch to Davenport Ends Streak: Light Hitting Infielder Clouts Four Bagger,” The Milwaukee Journal (Tuesday, May 3, 1960), p. 18
  51. Joseph M.Sheehan, "PIRATES' 3 IN 7TH UPSET GIANTS, 3-2; Pittsburgh Wins Sixth in a Row by Routing Antonelli in Night Contest Here," The New York Times (Wednesday, May 7, 1955), p. 11
  52. Jesse Abramson, “Bucs Nip Giants for 6 in Row, 3-2,” The New York Herald Tribune (Saturday, May 7, 1955), p.13
  53. Louis Effrat, "GOMEZ IS DOWNED BY PIRATES, 9 TO 1," The New York Times (Sunday, August 19, 1956), p. 172
  54. Gene Collier, "Of veterans: One spit on, the other knocked down," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Friday, September 26, 2003), p. B-2
  55. 55.0 55.1 "Veterans Stadium Home Runs: Upper Deck Homers". Philadelphia Phillies 2003 Media Guide. March 15, 2003. p. 24.
  56. Jenkinson, Bill (2010). Baseball's Ultimate Power: Ranking the All-Time Greatest Distance Home Run Hitters. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press. P. 108. ISBN 978-1-59921-544-0.
  57. Paul Giordano, “Clemente Super,” The Bucks County Courier Times (Monday, June 28, 1971), p. 17
  58. Ernie Banks, "The Wonderful World of Ernie Banks: Clemente Toughest in Banks’ Opinion," The Chicago Tribune (July 6, 1969), p. B1
  59. Les Biederman, "Tape Measure Homer Belted by Clemente at Wrigley Field," TSN (May 27, 1959), p. 10
  60. Bill Jenkinson. "Babe Ruth's Career Home Runs". The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. 2007. pp. 338, 339 .
  61. Paul E. Sussman: "Mantle: All-Time King of Tape-Measure Homers!" Baseball Digest (June 1982), p. 47
  62. Bill Jenkinson: "Appendix C: Stadium Photographs" Baseball's Ultimate Power. Guliford, CT: Lyons Press. 2010. p. 247.
  63. Jenkinson: "Top 100 Longest Drives in Major League". Baseball's Ultimate Power. p. 241.
  64. Jenkinson. "Appendix D: Tape Measure Calendar". Baseball's Ultimate Power. p. 272.
  65. Ed Sherman: "Tales of the Tape: It's Natural; Home Runs Live On," The Chicago Tribune (Wednesday, May 3, 1989), p. 84
  66. Lester J. Biederman: "The Scoreboard: Big Day For Two Pirates; Stargell Started Streak Against Roberts; Clemente's Friend Retrieves Ball; Longest Drive In Wrigley Field," The Pittsburgh Press (Monday, June 6, 1966), p. 36
  67. Markusen: Roberto Clemente: The Great One, p. 104
  68. "BBTF's Newsblog Discussion:: Kallas Remarks: YES, CLEMENTE REALLY DID HAVE EXCELLENT POWER!!!" Comment #12, posted: December 30, 2008 at 10:58 AM
  69. George Castle: Sammy Sosa: Clearing the Vines. Champaign, IL: Sports Publications. 1998. p. 68.
  70. "Set of 10 Note Cards and Envelopes: #6 – Outside the Wrigley Field Bleachers at Waveland and Sheffield (1938)". Remember Wrigley Field.
  71. Email correspondence, November 25, 2015
  72. 72.0 72.1 Telephone interview with Rich Buhrke, December 2, 2015
  73. Telephone interview with Rich Buhrke, December 10, 2015
  74. Tyler Kepner. "On a Sunny Day at Wrigley, a Perfect Storm of Offense". The New York Times. May 17, 2009.
  75. Bill Jenkinson. "Longest Home Run Ever Hit". Baseball Almanac. 1996. "When Kingman launched his wind-aided blow in Chicago, The New York Times somehow concluded that it had flown 630 feet. It has been confirmed that the ball struck against the third house beyond Waveland Avenue, which is situated about 530 feet from home plate."
  76. "Weather: Chicago and Vicinity". The Chicago Tribune. April 14, 1976. p. 1.
  77. Greg Rybarczyk: "Can Mantle's 565-foot homer be matched?" ESPN. April 17, 2013.
  78. Email correspondence. March 17, 2016.
  79. Email correspondence, December 10, 2015
  80. Robert Dvorchak: "Phil Musick / Columnist who swung for the fences," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (January 6, 2010)
  81. "Briefly: Tacoma Journalist Quits Over Questionable Sources," The Spokane Spokesman-Review (Tuesday, March 9, 2004), p. B6
  82. Musick, Reflections on Roberto , p. 10
  83. Bart Ripp (The Daily Iowan): “A Fan Remembers Roberto Clemente,” Sport (April 1973), p. 64: "Roberto Clemente: He was a gifted player and an extraordinary man," Baseball Digest (March, 1973), pp. 18-20

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