On October 12, 1971 Roberto Clemente and the Pirates were playing in Game 3 of the '71 World Series, and they were in a must-win situation, trailing 2-0 to the powerful Baltimore Orioles. There was a memorable play from this game which is rarely shown today, but captures the essence of one of baseball's all time great players. The Bucs were nursing a 2-1 lead behind Steve Blass in the bottom of the seventh at home, and Roberto was leading off the inning.
Veteran Mike Cuellar was pitching for Baltimore, he was one of the O's four 20 game winners that season, as Baltimore was trying to repeat as world champs. Cuellar threw a pitch, and Clemente mistakenly took a half swing, and the ball harmlessly bounced right back to the pitcher. The 37 year old Clemente must have known he was sure out, but he absolutely tore off down the line, Cuellar bobbled the ball, but still had plenty of time to throw out Roberto, but Clemente beat out the throw anyway. Unnerved, Cuellar promptly walked Willie Stargell on four pitches, and then Bob Robertson homered, sealing the 5-1 win as Pittsburgh was back in the Series. I've seen similar plays over the years involving hall of fame players, and in a similar situation, those players gave 75%. But the 1971 World Series was Clemente's showcase, and he played with a sense of urgency which has stood the test of time.
We often see the great throws, diving catches, and extra base hits from highlights of Roberto, but for me, this singular play really captured what #21 was all about.