AFTER BEINGmercilessly booed by New York fans for having the temerity to wear PaulO'Neill's old jersey number, Yankees reliever LaTroy Hawkins, an off-seasonfree-agent acquisition, last week switched to number 22. O'Neill's 21 is notretired, but it has gone unworn in the regular season since the serialwatercooler smasher retired six years ago. Hawkins's reason for wanting it hadnothing to do with O'Neill; he wore it to honor Roberto Clemente.
This is an article from the April 28, 2008 issue
The story of thelate Pirates star is told in the current episode of PBS's PeabodyAward--winning American Experience. (Check listings or watch at pbs.org.)Experience makes the case that the path traveled by Clemente—from the sugarcanefields of Puerto Rico to spring training in the Jim Crow South to rightfield innearly Latinoless Pittsburgh—was just as tough as Jackie Robinson's. Robinsonat least spoke the language; Clemente talked in heavily accented, brokenEnglish. Reporters anglicized his name, calling him Bobby, yet they embarrassedhim by printing his quotes phonetically. (Hit became heet, for instance.) Suchtreatment contributed to Clemente's complex nature. "You see it in hiseyes," says David Maraniss, author of the definitive Clemente biography."There was an interesting combination of pride, fury andmelancholy."
Clemente's playmade him a king in Pittsburgh, but he never forgot his heritage. During a liveTV interview after the Pirates won the 1971 World Series, he insisted onaddressing his family in Spanish before answering questions in English. Hereturned to Puerto Rico to give baseball clinics to kids, and he died at 37flying supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The gracefully producedExperience should be required viewing for Yankees fans; perhaps after watchingit, they'll encourage Hawkins to again honor a star even bigger than theirbeloved O'Neill.
KOBE BRYANT was under more scrutiny than usual when theLakers beat the Spurs 106--85 on April 13. Inspired by a 2006 day-in-the-lifedocumentary on Zinédine Zidane, director and Knicks fanatic Spike Lee—whoapparently wanted to see some good hoops for a change—used 18 cameras to filmBryant's every move on and off the court. Lee is making the movie, which hasBryant's blessing, for ESPN films.