Gene Clines Reflects on Clemente

Gene Clines Reflects on Clemente


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



That ’71 team was so special because as a unit, 25 players did everything together. If there was a kid who

had a birthday party, a function at my house, or a party at Clemente’s house, we all showed up. We were

always there. Being in that clubhouse that was crazy at times, we could get on each other, joke with each other

or call each other names, it stayed in that clubhouse.



Clines Reflects on Clemente, Stargell, and the Team of Color

By Danny Torres



Dec 31, 2006

FLUSHING, NY- 35 years ago on September 1, 1971, observers in the press box and in particular, as legend has it, a Pirate batboy noticed that the Pittsburgh Pirate lineup consisted exclusively of African-American and dark-skinned Latin American players. This would be a significant date in major league history considering the United States was still at war in Vietnam where a large number of African-American and Latinos were dying in an unjust war while racial division was still an ongoing battle being fought in America. Yet baseball would be “America’s game” and a Pirate manager, Danny Murtaugh said it best by stating, “When it comes to making out the lineup, I’m color blind.” Amazingly only 11,278 at Three Rivers Stadium witnessed history unfold, as the Pirates went on to defeat the Phillies 10-7. Former Pirate and 10-year veteran, Gene Clines was on that unbelievable team playing center field between his two mentors, Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente. Clines, who is also the former hitting coach of the Chicago Cubs, spoke exclusively to LATINOSPORTS and reflected on being a part of that historical team, what he learned from Clemente and Stargell and the advice he imparts to today’s MLB players.Danny Torres: If you had to take a moment and think about it, what was it like playing between Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell?Gene Clines: It was a dream come true. When I played high school baseball in California, the bat I used was a Roberto Clemente model bat. Not ever thinking I would play with him, next to him on the outfield or be one of his teammates. As a kid growing up, I admired Clemente and to finally get a chance to play along side of him was truly a dream come true. Danny Torres: In 1971, it was probably a dream come true for Clemente to see a mixture of races on his team, if by accident, can you talk about the ‘All-Minority Team’ or as I like to call it the ‘All Brother Team’? I heard it was a batboy that noticed it? Gene Clines: (Laughter) I’ve been thinking about who that batboy was for a long time. It wasn’t till the National Anthem that I thought about what was said. I’m in center field, I look to my right and there’s Clemente. I look to my left, there’s Stargell. Then I said, “Oh my God.” (laughter) The press tried to make it look so negative and Danny Murtaugh summed it up perfectly. They asked him you know you made history today because there’re nine black ballplayers on the field. Murtaugh’s perfect statement was “I put the nine best ballplayers out that night that I thought could win for us.” That was the bottom line, we went out to win. It didn’t matter who was out there. We had the same goal; to win. Danny Torres: It’s been 35 years, talk about the chemistry of the ’71 team that won the World Series? Gene Clines:  That ’71 team was so special because as a unit, 25 players did everything together. If there was a kid who had a birthday party, a function at my house, or a party at Clemente’s house, we all showed up. We were always there. Being in that clubhouse that was crazy at times, we could get on each other, joke with each other or call each other names, it stayed in that clubhouse. If you messed with one Pirate on that ballclub, you’re messing with the whole team. That’s how close we were. You talk about a ‘Dream team,’ I don’t think you’ll ever have a team that was as close as that Pirate team. Danny Torres: Where were you when you heard the news of Clemente’s passing? It’s been 34 years since that tragedy occurred. Gene Clines:  I was at home and I was in bed. My wife woke me up. I thought it was a dream and she said there was a plane crash, Clemente was on it and he died. I went back to sleep so when I woke up later on I talked to my wife, I told her that I had this strange dream. She said it wasn’t a dream but that it actually happened. I was in a total shock. Danny Torres: After Clemente’s passing, you knew what you got from Clemente but what advice did Willie Stargell impart on to you? Gene Clines: It was like the passing of the torch. I was fortunate to be around those guys and they were my mentors. They showed me how to play the game, how to play the right way and to respect the game. Stargell received the torch and kept it going. I learned so much from those two men and I’ve passed on what I learned to all my players. I can’t say enough about them because they meant so much to me. Here’s the historical lineup card as it was presented that day on September 1, 1971:

Rennie Stennett, (Panama) 2B Gene Clines, (African-American) CF Roberto Clemente, (Puerto Rico) RF Willie Stargell, (African-American) LF Manny Sanguillen, (Panama) C Dave Cash, (African-American) 3B Al Oliver, (African-American) 1B Jackie Hernandez, (Panama) SS Dock Ellis, (African-American) P  

Danny Torres, son of Puerto Rican parents and a native New Yorker, was born in 1966 and raised in the South Bronx. He is a graduate of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he majored in Industrial Design. In 1990, he began teaching Art to HS students with an emphasis on Design. In 1998, a transformation would occur where another hidden passion began to evolve. After seeing a baseball display in honor of Pittsburgh Pirate great, Roberto Clemente, he was inspired to begin collecting Roberto Clemente memorabilia. After a few years, his collection has grown to about 300 items with close to 15 rare, “one of a kind” pieces. In 2002, he was able to take a trip with another fellow collector to Puerto Rico and attend a VIP opening on a museum exhibition dedicated exclusively to Roberto Clemente.On his trip, he had the opportunity to meet his widow, Mrs. Vera Clemente. From that moment, a close relationship began with the Clemente family. Every year, he volunteers his time to assist the Clemente family in their annual charity event in Puerto Rico. In 2003, he began to submit stories to a sports website, and was able to obtain press credentials with the NY Mets. He has interviewed over 100 sports personalities. He has been featured in the NY Times, USA Today, Bronx Times, Bronx Net TV and XM Radio. He resides in Queens where he married his college sweetheart. He has two children ages 12 and 10.

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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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posted 2 December 2007 




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Related files:   The Defeat of the Great Black Hope  Clines Reflects on Clemente, Stargell    Unforgivable Blackness     Dick Tiger   Pediatrician Eliseo Rosario Dreams Like Roberto Clemente   

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