As an impressionable young boy growing up in the hills of West Virginia, I remember many life altering events which took place around the globe ... many in the form of blurry images beamed into the living room by way of an old, black and white RCA TV ... we were able to receive a breathtaking total of eight stations from an antenna positioned at the crest of a briery knoll ... in those days that TV was my primary window to the world ... I listened and watched in disbelief as CBS's Walter Cronkite brought news of the tragic and untimely death of our promising, young President John F. Kennedy, and the seemingly endless days which followed as he was finally put to rest in Arlington National Cemetery ... nearly as shocking was the fatal shooting on live TV of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby as Oswald was being led from a Texas jail ... later on the airwaves were filled with news of the assassination of the great Martin Luther King, Jr., then a couple of months later JFK's brother Bobby Kennedy would meet with the same fate ... I saw the arrival of The Beatles to America, and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show ... I watched in confusion as dying and dead Americans were carried away on stretchers and in body bags from the dense jungles and rice paddies of Viet Nam, while long-haired protesters marched and masked rioters burned our cities to the ground ... and I believe I saw a man walk on the moon.
The following is one of the more memorable and cherished images ... among those eight TV stations that we were able to receive was WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh PA ... that meant the Pittsburgh Pirates were aired each evening on nearly a daily basis ... I hardly missed a game, and would listen intently to every word as Pirate's announcer Bob Prince called the games ... the Pirates had very good teams during a span of several years back then, good players too, such as Bob Robertson, Manny Sanguillen, Mudcat Grant, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski and a young fellow by the name of Roberto Clemente ... Roberto Clemente was something else ... born in the small barrio of San Anton in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Roberto was the youngest of seven children ... I would watch with amazement at how gracefully and effortlessly Clemente played the game, his movements were deceptive, his natural talent and abilities made it look easy, but Clemente always gave his all, and at full speed ... he played right field, could catch a fly ball at the wall, then in one smooth motion fire it all the way to the catcher behind home plate ...yes, he was something else ... I'll never forget game six of the 1971 World Series between the Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles when slugger Frank Robinson came to the plate and launched a 300-foot fly toward Clemente that would have surely scored Merv Rettenmund who was standing on third base ... as soon as Clemente pinched the ball in his glove, in a flash he ripped it out and rifled a strike straight to the catcher ... Rettenmund was forced to scurry back to third base unable to score, and the Orioles were held at bay ... the Pirates went on the win the '71 World Series in seven games ... Roberto Clemente was named the 1971 World Series MVP ... yes, he was something else.
"He played the game of childhood dreams, with humble grace of mountain streams. He learned so early through his time, the selfless purpose of his life, His human pride, his elegance, not in a hundred years surpassed. From far away gave us a gift, too valuable to leave adrift, Some saw the game as being the end, he knew the end and played, he played! When in the face of human pain, some wasted time, he ran and helped, For all who knew and didn't know, they were in front of royal grace, a modest place where rivers wed, saved us a wall of right field fence, On holidays of cheer and joy, when smiles abound for girl and boy, there is a town down by the sea, where grown men cry on New Year's eve, Remind me game of boyhood dreams, that men of grace knew how to play. The game's true leaders learn early in time, the selfless purpose of their lives." ... Juan A. Perez