Roberto Clemente was my boyhood hero and I vividly remember crying when news reports came in that he had died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972. Clemente's plane, loaded with relief supplies, was en route to Managua, Nicaragua, where a devastating earthquake had taken place about a week earlier.
A recent issue of Sports Illustrated featured an excerpt from a forthcoming Clemente biography, written by David Maraniss, author of two fascinating biographical portraits of Vince Lombardi and Bill Clinton. The excerpt detailed the fateful hours prior to the crash, when an unscrupulous gentleman who owned a broken down DC-7 airliner buttonholed Clemente and offered his plane for the relief effort. Clemente took him up on it, boarded the plane and met his fate. It's a horrible tale, well told, and I am looking forward to reading Mr. Maraniss's full treatment of Clemente's life. Charles Barkley famously said that he was not a role model. But Roberto Clemente saw it differently. In this ever more cynical world, I miss my boyhood hero more than ever.