Roberto Clemente 1963 Timeline

From BR Bullpen

This is the 1963 installment in a chronology of memorable moments in the professional career of Roberto Clemente.

__ Mar 26 __ Att. Koufax-Clemente Completists!... One More HR

Add this one to RC's six career regular season Koufax clouts. It sounds like pretty much an all-or-nothing kind of day for Sandy in this not-ready-for-prime time preseason performance – long balls from the law firm of Clemente and Clendenon [1] mixed in among the six runs scored by Pittsburgh in between striking out 9 times in 7 innings.

“Koufax, who was rattled for all six Pirate runs in the seven innings he pitched, brought his spring strikeout total to 27 in 22 innings.” [2]

__ Apr 09 __ Despite His O-fer, RC Manages to Save Face

Ninth inning, no one out, bases loaded, Braves and Bucs newly knotted at two all:

“Bob Clemente helped out with a remarkable diving catch of Del Crandall's short blooper to right... Clemente's arm is as strong as ever. He tossed one more than 300 feet on a fly to Bailey at third on Frank Bolling's sacrifice fly that sent Cline to 3rd in the first inning.” [3]

RC's game-saving grab makes particularly strong impression on opposing manager – and former Pirate skipper – Bobby Bragan:

"He also made special mention of Roberto Clemente's ninth-inning catch that choked off another Milwaukee chance. Del Crandall had lofted a fly into short right with the bases full, and Clemente raced in to make a diving catch and roll to his feet before the Braves had a chance to score. 'I don't believe there's another fielder in the league who could have caught the ball,' Bragan said, 'It was a great play. If he hadn't caught it, we would have gotten at least one run. Maybe we could have blown it wide open.'” [4]

Incidentally, for yet another example of ex-Clemente skipper offering in-print praise to former right fielder for killing current team, see "Clemente's Catch Astrodome's Greatest: Best Ever Saw, Says Houston's H. Walker".

__ Apr 17 __ RC's Annual Rocket to St. Louis' RF Roof

“The only three runs Washburn yielded were homers. Roberto Clemente hit one on the first pitch to the right field roof in the fourth inning.” [5]

__ Apr 24 __ Pirates Prevail / Robby Makes a 'Friend'

“Clemente, who tripled the first time up and later walked twice, greeted Johnny Klippstein with a smash down the left field line in the seventh to score Dick Schofield and Ted Savage and provide Bob Friend with his third victory of the year.” [6]

__ May 03 __ Slump-Busting Tape-Measure Triple

“Clemente came out of his slump with a triple and a single [...] Clemente had watched his average dip to .209 when he cracked a triple to the flagpole.” [7]

__ Jun 13 __ Clemente Crushes 400-Foot.. SINGLE?!!

Foreshadowing – and perhaps even outshining – his May 1, 1966, 436-foot double, Clemente's laser to left center, midway through this 4 -2 loss to Cincinnati, reaches the wall with such dispatch, and caroms back so quickly to centerfielder Vada Pinson, that Clemente, fleetest afoot of all the 1963 Pirates, is held to a 400-foot single. Adding injury to insult, just moments later, is that same unforgiving centerfield barrier, now interrupting the flight of Clemente himself, in the midst of his desperate attempt to thwart Johnny Edwards' extra-base bid. Instead, it's Clemente who's thwarted, the ball jarred loose, and Edwards aboard with a leadoff triple which, in turn, will lead to a crucial insurance run for Cincy. [8]

__ Jun 23 __ Yet Another Waveland Avenue Special

3-Run Shot Bests Baby Bruins By One

Deja Vu all over again [as in April 16, 1962] – same ballpark, same pitcher, same destination.

“Hobbie advanced the baserunners with a wild pitch before Clemente drove the ball over the screen back of the left-field bleachers.” [9]

__ July 02 __ RC Severs 0-for-11 String to Deliver Decisive Blow

“It took Roberto Clemente a while to get warmed up against Philadelphia, but when he did he delivered a key blow that provided the Bucs with the margin they needed to defeat the Phillies, 3-2.” [10] "[It was] Clemente's first hit in the series – a thunderous two-bagger off the scoreboard in right center." [11]

__ July 05 __ High and Tight Offering = Opposite Field Upper Decker.

We are talking Polo Grounds here, so "upper right field seats" [12] clearly does not equal 'moon shot.' Bearing in mind, however, that the pitch he hits almost hits him in the head, the following account by Maury Allen gives a nice illustration of what National League pitchers are up against:

“‘I was trying to waste a pitch,’ [Stallard] said. ‘I figured if maybe I could get him to swing again at a pitch around his head.’ [So Stallard] threw a real pitch to Clemente, the kind any human being hitter would duck away from and scream for the umpire. Naturally, Clemente hit it upstairs.” [13]

_ July 11 __ Close Encounter of the Blurred Kind – JW, meet RC

Rookie shortstop Jimmy Wynn having an all-too-close encounter of the unnerving kind with a UFO off the bat of our protagonist, not unlike that experienced six years later by Don Drysdale (see August 5, 1969), who, unlike Wynn, is simply a headhunter receiving his just desserts. Both, however, will find these incidents to be career-altering ones, Wynn moving shortly thereafter from infield to outfield and Drysdale from baseball to broadcasting. Thirty years later, Wynn dredges up this traumatic moment for our benefit:

"My first major league game was at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and Roberto Clemente almost killed me! Not many people know this, but I came up as a shortstop. Clemente hit a screaming line drive, and I got my glove up just as the ball hit the left field wall." [14]

_ July 17 __ RC Helps Bucs Salvage 2-3/3-2 Twin Bill Split

After bowing, 3-2, to San Francisco, courtesy of bases-empty bombs from Cepeda and McCovey, and a barely inside-the-parker from Mays,[15] Pittsburgh returns the favor via more modest means, with Clemente scoring the tying run and driving home the winner:

"Clemente, a terror in the four games with seven hits in 15 trips, scored a run in the third inning on his long double off the screen and a pop fly two-baser by Mazeroski off Jack Sanford. And it was Clemente who drove home what proved to be the winning run in the fifth after Virdon tripled." [16]

_ July 25 __ Koufax Clocked in Third Round; KO'd in Six

3rd-inning, three-run shot puts Bucs up 3-0 in 6-2 win. Though dimensions aren't specified, anytime you beat Koufax with a home run, it qualifies as BIG, certainly a worthy standard bearer in Clemente's 7/25 tape measure parade proceeding from 1954 through 1956 and 1960.

"With Bill Virdon and Manuel Mota on base, Clemente clouted a two-strike ["fastball" [17]] into the left-field stands.” [18]

_ July 27 __ Mays – and Marichal – vs. Momen: From Bad to Worse

At first glance, M & M's matching 0-for-4 lines seem to speak for themselves, but not so fast. RC also culminates collective 8th-inning defensive meltdown by Bucs:

“With the score tied 1-1, Jose Pagan scored from first when reliever Alvin McBean fielded Juan Marichal's sacrifice bunt and threw it into center field, from where Bill Virdon fired it past third base. Marichal raced to third on the two miscues. Then he tallied when Clemente caught Harvey Kuenn's line drive and fired the ball over the head of Smokey Burgess.” [19]

Alas, it doesn't end there. After Virdon and Clemente have provided SF with, respectively, one-run lead and one insurance run (even – to be fair – after Mays has helped them out by hitting into inning-ending DP), who should happen to lead off next – and last – half-inning? You guessed it. Afforded this golden opportunity for instant redemption, V and C go down in flames, swinging and looking respectively; that's three K's in 4 at-bats for RC. Thus Marichal emerges as clear winner in this three-way matchup.

_ Aug 09 __ Walkoff Bases-Loaded Single Ends Marathon Twin Bill At 2:30 A.M.

"It was believed to be the latest windup in major [league] history. It erased what was believed to have been a record set by the Pirates and Reds at Forbes Field on June 6." [20]

_ Aug 10 __ Game-Tying Triple, Forbes Field-Style – i.e. 400-Plus to 450 Feet

"The Pirates went ahead in the sixth on a double to right by Bill Virdon, a triple to deep center by Bob Clemente and Jerry Lynch’s sacrifice fly." [21]

_ Aug 22 __ Grand Slam Coup-de-Grace: Anywhere from 400 to Wayyy Over 400 Feet

“Clemente finished off the job with the sixth grand slam of his career... Clemente hadn’t hit a ball out of the infield until he deposited his 12th homer of the season into the vacant expanse of the center-field bleachers.” [22]

_ Aug 24 __ Two-Out, Two-Run, Light-Tower Shot Puts Pitt Ahead To Stay

Connie Mack's right field light tower gets the RC treatment:

“Clemente blasted his 13th homer off the light tower above the right-field fence in the third to score Manny Mota ahead of him.” [23]

Third-inning, 2-out, 2-run shot makes it 2-0 and Bucs never look back; 7-0, four-hit performance by starter Don Cardwell.

_ Aug 28 __ Two-Out, Two-Run, Non-Light-Tower Shot Puts Pitt Ahead To Stay

“The first two Pirate runs were solidly earned off the bat of Roberto Clemente, who smashed his 14th home run with a man on to give Don Cardwell a 2-0 lead.” [24]

As they say in Yogiland: ‘Déjà Vu All Over Again.’ Eerily similar to August 24: Third-inning, 2-out, 2-run shot etc., etc. – 7-2 this time, as Cardwell assumes more human proportions, giving up 8 hits and 2 runs and requiring Face to finish up. More on this particular home run from Jack Hernon:

“Clemente sailed a two-ball, no-strike pitch over the bricks in left center.” [25]

_ Sep 10 __ 420-Foot Footnote to Koufax Masterpiece

"Koufax threw 133 pitches ... 3 were sliders, a pitch the Pirates didn’t know Sandy had picked up in the last ten days. Roberto Clemente hit one of them into Schenley Park and that moth-balled the slider for the night. But, as one of the Pirates observed, giving Koufax a new pitch is like giving Rockefeller a dime. Neither of them really needs it.” [26]

“Clemente’s 420-foot wallop cleared the left-centerfield barrier with two out in the eighth inning, after which Koufax retired the next four batters without a struggle.” [27]


  1. (AP), “Koufax Fans Nine Pirates,” The Washington Post (Wednesday, March 27, 1963), p. D9
  2. (AP), “Koufax Fans Nine Pirates”
  3. Johnny Bunarozya, “Sportraits” The Valley Independent (Wednesday, April 10, 1963), p. 10
  4. (AP), “Dame Fortune Unkind: Bragan Sees 'Better Bounces' For Braves in Coming Games” The Chicago Tribune (Wednesday, April 10, 1963), p. 10
  5. Lester J. Biederman, “Washburn Has Picnic With Pirates,” The Pittsburgh Press (Thursday, April 18, 1963), p. 44
  6. (UPI), “Pirates Beat Phils” The Chicago Tribune (Thursday, April 25, 1963), p. D3
  7. Lester J. Biederman, “Pirates Snap Batting Slump; Bailey's Two Homers Lead 15-Hit Attack,” The Pittsburgh Press (Saturday, May 3, 1963), p. 6
  8. Lester J. Biederman, "The Scoreboard: Virdon Still Ailing" The Pittsburgh Press (June 14, 1963), p. 28
  9. Richard Dozer, “Pirates Defeat Cubs; 3-RUN HOMER BY CLEMENTE DECISIVE, 7-6,” The Chicago Tribune (Monday, June 24, 1963), p.
  10. (UPI), “Clemente Strikes Key Blow,” The Beaver County Times (Wednesday, July 3, 1963), p. 10
  11. Les Biederman: "Phils Right Diet For Pirates; Law Gains 3-2 Win With Help Of Relievers," The Pittsburgh Press (Wednesday, July 3, 1963), p. 14
  12. William N. Wallace, “CLEMENTE HOMER BEATS STALLARD,” The New York Times (Saturday, July 6, 1963), p. 8
  13. Maury Allen, “Don’t’ Mention Clemente to Stallard,” The New York Post (Sunday, July 7, 1963), p. 34
  14. Al Doyle, “Jimmy Wynn: former Dodger has many memories of his 15 years in the majors, including his grand slam in 1974 to help L.A. win N.L. West Division – The Game I’ll Never Forget,” Baseball Digest, March 2003
  15. Jack Hernon: “Cardwell Victim Of SF Home Runs,” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Wednesday, July 17, 1963), p. 18
  16. Les Biederman: “McBean Keeps Vow As Pirates Split,” The Pittsburgh Press (Wednesday, July 17, 1963), p. 48
  17. (UPI), “Pirates’ Sisk Gets First Major League Win, 6-2 Over Dodgers,” The Connellsville Daily Courier (Friday, July 26, 1963), p. 7
  18. Frank Finch, “KOUFAX KO'D IN SIX---STREAK ENDS AT 9; Bucs Win, 6-2; Sandy Whiffs 12 KOUFAX BEATEN, 6-2,” The Los Angeles Times (July 26, 1963), p. C1
  19. (UPI), “Giants Topple Pittsburgh, 3-1,” The Lima News (Sunday, July 28, 1963), p. C-2
  20. Les Biederman, "Bucs-Colts Marathon Ends at 2:30 A.M.," TSN (August 24, 1963), p. 15
  21. (AP), “Dodgers Spank Redlegs 10-3; Giants Cardinals Keep Pace; Pirates Trim Colts,” The Panama City News Herald (Sunday, August 11, 1963), p. 10
  22. Richard Dozer, “PIRATES GET 5 IN NINTH; TRIUMPH, 9-3,” The Chicago Daily Tribune (Friday, August 23, 1963), pp. C1, C2
  23. (UPI), “Pirates Blank Phillies, 1-0,” The Lima News (Sunday, August 25, 1963), P. C2
  24. (UPI): “Bucs Seek 15th Win Over Mets In Season Finale,” The Connellsville Daily Courier (Thursday, August 29, 1963), p. 7
  25. Jack Hernon: “Mets' Errors Contribute to 7-2 Buc Victory: Clemente's Home Run Scores Two,” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Thursday, August 29, 1963), p. 32
  26. Jim Murray, “Ghostly Echoes,” The Los Angeles Times (Thursday, September 12, 1963), p. B1
  27. Frank Finch, “KOUFAX TAMES BUCS, 4-2, FOR 23RD WIN; Moon Hits Homer to Spark L.A. KOUFAX SETS WHIFF MARK,” The Los Angeles Times (September 11, 1963), p. B1

Roberto Clemente
Roberto Clemente
The Toolbox
The ArmThe GloveThe LegsThe BatThe ClubThe Total Package
BooksNewspapers and Periodicals (full text) • TSN (full text by subscription only)