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.”

Pirates in a pickle between 1st and home?

Mudcat Grant

Courtesy of

Even if you don’t follow baseball, you may remember the May 27, 2021 game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the top of the third inning. Wilson Contrares of the Cubs gets a single and stole second base. With two outs, Javy Baez hits the ball to third baseman Erik Gonzalez. He throws to first baseman Will Craig, a little offline, but in plenty of time.

All Craig has to do is step on first base and the inning is over. But Baez stops running towards first and instead heads back towards home plate, gingerly evading Craig’s tag. Meanwhile, the runner Contrares is heading toward home. Craig flips the ball to the catcher, Michael Perez, but not in time to tag the sliding Contrares.

Now Baez runs to first. There’s no one there. Second baseman Adam Frazier is running over to cover the bag, but Perez’s throw is offline, and Baez ends up on second base. Perez is initially charged with an error though it is later attributed to Craig. The next batter, Ian Happ, drives Baez home.

Much was made of the fact that Craig could have just touch first, and rightly so. On CBS This Morning, Gayle King tried to mitigate his mistake, but co-host Anthony Mason was having none of it. “He gets paid to do that.” True enough. But, more than that, virtually any Little Leaguer or college player or minor leaguer would have known this.

Baseball in the headlines

This is why I love the story. Baseball, even though it’s probably not the National Pastime, was in the spotlight. Almost any fan would recognize what to do in the situation. My wife was reading a YA novel, Six Innings by James Preller. She doesn’t always understand the jargon that Preller uses – “stayed in the park,” e.g. Yet I am confident my wife would have just tagged first base.

BTW, if Craig had not tried to toss the ball to the catcher Perez, he could have just ignored Contrares and tagged Baez, because the batter can’t touch home plate in this situation, lest he is declared automatically out. Even though the runner Contrares reached home, his run would not have counted.

Rule 5.08 states: “No run shall score during a play in which the third out is made by the batter-runner before he touches first base.” This is unambiguous. Also, if the second baseman Frazier had covered first base sooner, Perez’s throw probably gets Baez, and the inning ends with no runs scored, instead of two.

Not incidentally, The Cubs won the game by two runs, 5-3. The play is #1 on the list of the Top 50 Plays of the First Half! (2021 MLB Highlights). Writers from both the New Zealand Herald and Slate called it the worst baseball play they’ve ever seen.

Will Craig was sent back to the minor leagues and was eventually released; he’s reportedly going to play baseball in Korea. Baez was traded to the New York Mets. Meanwhile, Frazier, an All-Star, was traded to the San Diego Padres for three players. This sort of thing happens when a team is last in its division, as the Pirates are, unfortunately.   


Jim “Mudcat” Grant, American League’s first Black 20-game winner, died in June at 85. He was a starter for Cleveland and Minnesota, then a reliever, with the Oakland A’s and the Pirates.

“By his account, Jim Grant acquired his nickname at an Indians tryout camp in 1954 through a combination of racial stereotyping and disregard for his geographical roots. Mudcat was the informal name given to large catfish found in muddy streams, especially in the Mississippi Delta, though Mr. Grant was born and raised in Florida.

“’In those days, they thought all Black folk was from Mississippi,’ he once told the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. ‘They started calling me Mississippi Mudcat. I said, ‘I’m not from Mississippi,’ and they said, ‘You’re still a Mississippi Mudcat.’ And it’s been very good to me.’

“Mr. Grant’s experiences with racism and his interest in Black history inspired him to write ‘The Black Aces: Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners” (2006),…a collaboration with Tom Sabellico and Pat O’Brien.”

Talk Like a Pirate Day triptych

‘Elitist’: angry book pirates hit back after author campaign sinks website

Michael Scott MooreFor this year’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought I’d look at the word three different ways.

The first one is about “The Desert and the Sea” author Michael Scott Moore talking to The Daily Show Host Trevor Noah about being “a captive of Somali pirates for nearly three years, as he describes the dangerous cycle of hope and despair.” I think some of you folks outside of the United States might not be able to see the official video, but I hope you can access this YouTube piece, because it is a compelling story.

Also check out these NPR reports, What It’s Like To Be Held Hostage By Somali Pirates For 2 1/2 Years and the followup, Journalist Held Captive By Pirates Says Focus And Forgiveness Were Crucial.

The second topic I actually purloined from Arthur, who linked to ‘Elitist’: angry book pirates hit back after author campaign sinks website. This website was stealing writers’ works but it rightly got shut down. Some folks then were outraged, saying that it is “elitist” or worse, the very idea that authors expecting to be paid for their writings. What a load of…

The third topic, as is often the case, is about the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, who are going through another mediocre year. but this story’s a bit older.

From The Greatest Forgotten Home Run of All Time: “What Roberto Clemente accomplished in Pittsburgh on July 25, 1956, stupefied the tobacco-spitting baseball lifers all around him precisely because it transcended baseball, entering the realm of pure theater and then myth.” You don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the subtext of this daring play.

I remember his early baseball cards referred to him as Bob Clemente, trying to Anglicize the Puerto Rican player. In 1972, my favorite player other than Willie Mays was 38. He had just hit his 3,000th major league hit, which surely qualified him for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Clemente did charity work in Latin American and Caribbean countries, hands-on stuff, during the off-seasons, often delivering baseball equipment and food to those in need. On the last day of 1972, he died in a plane crash while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

He was inducted into Cooperstown in 1973, “in a special election that waived the mandatory five-year waiting period.”

There is no point to Talk Like A Pirate Day. Which is the point.

Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer, would have been 80 last month.


I created one of these Talk Like A Pirate Day posts some years back and got criticism from someone who thought pirates were terrible, awful. I’m thinking that it was around the time the pirates around Somalia were so prominent. My response, naturally, was, arrrgh.

Even the official site knows this:

Pirates were and are bad people. Really reprehensible. Even the most casual exploration of the history of pirates (and believe us, casual is an accurate description of our research) leaves you hip deep in blood and barbarity. We recognize this, all right? We aren’t for one minute suggesting that real, honest-to-God pirates were in any way, shape or form worth emulating.

So what is it exactly that we’re celebrating here, if not pirates? What, you’re wondering, is the point?

We’re going to be painfully honest here, perhaps fatally so.

The point is, there is no point.

And that’s what’s fun about Talk Like a Pirate Day specifically, and talking like a pirate in general.

We’re talking about the mere image of swaggering pirateness.

The Treasure of Bedford County.
“Pirate logic … goes down the following path: If you steal a lot of gold, you can’t use all of it right away, because that will provoke the suspicion of others. Assuming that there are banks or other such financial institutions one your area of the world and your era, you can hide some there, maybe, but you run the same risk of discovery. You can’t keep the gold in your home because (a) you may not have a home, being a seafarer and (b) your house would probably be an obvious place for a would-be thief to look. (Check the flour.) And it’s not like you can rely on the local authorities to protect your loot from others, bribes aside, because you stole the loot in the first place. The solution, of course, is to bury the treasure, draw a map, and mark the treasure’s location with an ‘X.'”

The Lorain County Correctional Institution shows pirated movies to prisoners, even as inmates serve time for illegally downloading movies.
“How do you expect someone to be rehabilitated when there are authority figures that are running those institutions that are copyright infringing?”

Most people don’t stop to think that when they grab that “free” book they’re stealing from the creator of the book. “After all, it’s just one little book, right? All those one little books add up, though, and this [45-cent check] is the result of it. So, for the titles I spent a couple of hundred dollars promoting and bringing to my readers, I have earned the grand total of less than $50.”

What do Steve Jobs, George W. Bush, Martha Stewart, the Eiffel Tower, Pluto, and the entire Dark Ages have in common with the Roman Empire, Somali pirates, Three Mile Island, and the survivors of the Holocaust?
“All have been sued by Jonathan Lee Riches.”

The closing scene and end credits suite from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

The Lost Home Run.
“On October 13, 1960, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees were tied in the bottom of the 9th inning in the seventh (and, necessarily, final) game of the World Series.” Bing Crosby figures prominently into the story.

“No No: A Dockumentary” chronicles the amazing life of Dock Ellis, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates who in 1970 pitched a no-hitter while tripping on LSD.

The enduring mystery of Roberto Clemente’s bat. The Pirates Hall of Famer would have been 80 last month.

Talk Like a Pirate, but don’t walk the plank

The Pirates, who had not had a winning season since 1992, got to 81 wins, then had a four-game losing streak, before winning #82 last week.

It suddenly occurred to me a while back that all these deals whereby you get something, and you are required to pay for it over and over (and over and over) again through mandated leases, such as Software as a Service (SaaS), are forms of corporate piracy. As my buddy Steve Bissette ranted – I think it was regarding a policy by Adobe or Microsoft: “We can afford them once and that’s what we can afford. We want to own almost all things we buy. With few exceptions, we don’t wish to buy or support those things which do not wish to be purchased outright. We do not need more monthly bills. We do not wish to interact with you regularly for permission to be permitted to use what we purchase to use.”

Did you know you can’t buy an electronic copy of the Oxford English Dictionary? It is “only available as monthly rentals, services that come with expansive data-collecting policies and which cannot be owned.” Cory Doctorow “mentioned this to some librarians at the American Library Association conference in Chicago this spring and they all said, effectively: ‘Welcome to the club. This is what we have to put up with all the time.'”

Speaking of whom: The site for Cory Doctorow’s 2012 novel Pirate Radio, which I have not read, makes it sound intriguing. “When Trent McCauley’s obsession for making movies by reassembling footage from popular films causes his home s internet to be cut off, it nearly destroys his family. Shamed, Trent runs away to London. A new bill threatens to criminalize even harmless internet creativity. Things look bad, but the powers-that-be haven’t entirely reckoned with the power of a gripping movie to change people’s minds…”

A sensible Internet policy platform.

Author Scott Lynch responds to a critic of the character Zamira Drakasha, a black woman pirate in his fantasy book Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second novel of the Gentleman Bastard series.

Democracy ruled under the Jolly Roger?
We’re talking baseball here: At the All-Star break, the St. Louis Cardinals were 57-36, .613. The Pittsburgh PIRATES were 56-37, .602. Since then, these two teams, plus the Cincinnati Reds have continued to be in a heated pennant race. One of the teams will win the National League Central Division, and almost certainly, the other two will play a one-game playoff. The Pirates, who had not had a winning season since 1992, got to 81 wins, then had a four-game losing streak, before winning #82 last week, breaking that terrible string. I’m rooting for them. How could I not?

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial