"The extraordinary appearance of [Roberto] Clemente always helped him to reach those heroic dimensions. He was born as much for baseball as for photographs, busts and statues. That aspect was accentuated with an aristocratic gravity that convinced one as if it were another feature, more than his virile and Apollonian beauty. While the smile of Peruchín ([the Little Bull] Orlando Cepeda) always insinuated that easy-going confidence like my homeboy that went back to his origins in Santurce, back there in the space of the saoco* and Sunoco, Clemente even when he was smiling didn't lower his guard, in his persistence to prove himself, as a Black Puerto Rican baseball player, worthy of the greatest respect. In him there was something tense and fateful, as he hit those three thousand unstoppable balls; it was the Apollonian Kabbalah, the one of an ambition in which no excess fits, neither more nor les. He was a man touched by perfection. Peruchín, by comparison, is pure Dionysian exaltation."
--Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá, from Peloteros (San Juan: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1997), p. 37. (My translation)
*Saoco is a drink that mixes rum and coconut milk.
In this past weekend's Newark Star-Ledger, sportswriter Allen Barra strongly praises David Maraniss's new biography, Roberto Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero. Clemente was more than just one of the finest batters and fielders, and a widely praised humanitarian; according to Barra's account of Maraniss's book, he was also a pathblazer in other notable ways, including being one of the first players on this team to join the union and, as Rodríguez Juliá notes in the passage above, outspoken against racial or ethnic prejudice.