Greatest Forgotten Home Run of All Time

black, Puerto Rican, and Spanish-speaking

The Greatest Forgotten Home Run of All Time took place on July 25, 1956, the Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates. Here’s the box score.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Bucs were trailing 8-5. Here’s the play-by-play from SABR:

“With Turk Lown pitching for the Cubs, a walk to Hank Foiles, a single by Bill Virdon, and another walk to Dick Cole loaded the bases for Clemente. Jim Brosnan relieved Lown and threw one pitch, described by Jack Hernon as ‘high and inside.’ There was no doubt that Clemente would swing.

“He hit the ball over Jim King’s head in left field and after the ball struck the fencing, it rolled along the cinder warning track toward center field. The three runners easily scored and Clemente ignored the outstretched arms and stop sign of Pirates manager and third-base coach Bobby Bragan as the relay throw came in from center fielder Solly Drake to Ernie Banks to catcher Hobie Landrith. The last moments of the improbable were captured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: ‘He slid, missed the plate, then reached back to rest his hand on the rubber with the ninth Pirate run in a 9-8 victory as the crowd of 12,431 went goofy with excitement.'”

Roberto Clemente hit an inside-the-park, walk-off grand slam. Now the term walk-off wouldn’t enter the lexicon until three decades later.

If Pete Rose had done it…

Martín Espada suggests in the Massachusetts Review suggests that the REASON it is The Greatest Forgotten Home Run of All Time – emphasis on FORGOTTEN – was Clemente’s ethnicity.

“Brosnan’s reaction—that he was ‘shocked’ and his team ‘disgusted’ —is key to understanding why Clemente’s amazing accomplishment has been diminished and even forgotten. First of all, consider the fact that this quote comes from an article published in 1960—four years after Clemente slid past home and slapped the plate with his hand. It is distinctly possible that tiptoeing up behind Jim Brosnan and whispering ‘Roberto Clemente’ in his ear was enough to send him into a babbling fury for the rest of his life…

“It was no coincidence that Brosnan was writing about Clemente for Life magazine in October of 1960… Brosnan was commissioned by the magazine to write a scouting report in advance of the World Series between the Pirates and the Yankees.

Bias, maybe?

Here is Brosnan’s previous quote in context:

Clemente features a Latin-American variety of showboating: “Look at número uno,” he seems to be saying… He once ran right over his manager, who was coaching third base, to complete an inside-the-park grand slam homer, hit off my best hanging slider. It excited the fans, startled the manager, shocked me, and disgusted my club. (And no, he did not run over his manager, he just ran through Bragan’s stop sign.)

“Roberto Clemente was black, Puerto Rican, and Spanish-speaking in the 1950s… According to [author David] Maraniss, Al Abrams of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covered Clemente in spring training 1955—his rookie season—and wrote: ‘The dusky Puerto Rican… played his position well and ran the bases like a scared rabbit. It seemed that every time we looked up there was Roberto, showing his flashing heels and gleaming white teeth to the loud screams of the bleacher fans.’ Even his admirers utilized a racially charged vocabulary; thus, Clemente’s detractors, like Brosnan, felt perfectly free to couch their criticisms in racial terms.”

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