Former Pirate Credits Latino Players and Why Roberto Clemente’s Number Should Continue to Live • Latino Sports


Former Pirate Credits Latino Players and Why Roberto Clemente’s Number Should Continue to Live


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PITTSBURGH – Those memorable ballplayers from the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t sprint onto the beautifully-manicured grass of PNC Park as if they were still playing this beloved sport.

Wearing their replica jerseys and fitted caps from their extraordinary championship season, the players from that historic team, along with the spouses and family members of their deceased teammates, slowly walked towards second base and waited for their introductions.

Father Time may have put some wear and tear on their once athletic bodies, but the minds can still tell a narrative and reliving those glorious moments will never grow old.

Prior to the pre-game ceremony to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ World Series championship, I wondered what could possibly be on the minds of these former players who stood by second base to hear the adulations and jubilant cheers throughout the ballpark.

Jackie Hernandez, (shortstop) – “To help make the final out of the series was the biggest day in my life.”

Bill Mazeroski (second baseman) – “We were winners, losers don’t have these things.”

Milt May (catcher) – “1971 was my rookie year, I was fortunate enough as a first year player to be with Clemente, Stargell and Mazeroski.”

Steve Blass (pitcher) – “It never goes away. It’s an acknowledgement of what you did and how you represented the city. The great game of baseball put us together.”

Rennie Stennett (infielder) – I am so proud to be here. As a team, we were always close just like a family.”

And yet, what I found quite enlightening was the remarkably candid response from Bob Robertson, the Pirates’ first baseman who played 11 seasons and actually caught the final out in Game 7 of that unbelievable series.

“Thank God we had Latin players,” Robertson said matter-of-factly.

Raised in a small town in Maryland, Robertson made his major league debut in 1967. The Pirates were well aware of his “Paul Bunyan” strength for hitting tape-measure blasts and even making the comparisons to another legendary Pirate, Ralph Kiner. In 1970-1971, he would go on to hit a combined 53 homers and 154 RBI’s.

Describing his three years playing in the Dominican Republic, Robertson enjoyed the camaraderie with his fellow teammates and observed the adulation the players had for one another.

But, Robertson made it quite clear that if it weren’t for the talents of his Latino brethren, there would not have been a World Championship in 1971.

“Some of the Latin ballplayers deserve a lot more credit than they’ve clearly received. They were a big part of the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

Robertson added, “Standing on the field during the ceremony, it kinda hit me. I’m proud of the whole team but the Latin players were a big part of that whole team. It didn’t matter what color; black, green or brown, we played as a team.”

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About Danny Torres

Bronx native, Danny Torres is a high school teacher, an avid baseball fan and freelance sports journalist. Besides his work with, he has written for, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y, the N.Y. Mets, the Puerto Rico Daily Sun and Manhattan Times. He was a frequent guest on 'Solamente Pelota', a now-defunct sports program on XM/Sirius satellite radio. In 2010, he contributed to an updated prologue for the re-released book, 'Clemente, the Enduring Legacy' by Kal Wagenheim. In 2011, as part of a series commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month on, he contributed to a five-part series saluting the greatest Latino pitchers in baseball. Finally, in December, 2011, he participated in a panel discussion connected with the Smithsonian exhibition, 'Beyond Baseball, The Life of Roberto Clemente' in Baltimore, Maryland. In December, 2012, he appeared on the front page of 'El Diario/La Prensa', a NY Spanish daily newspaper and was featured in a five-part series dedicated to the legendary Puerto Rican baseball player, Roberto Clemente who tragically died 40 years ago.

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