In a treatise about his own breed, Paul Gallico once said that sports writers are often cynics because they "learn eventually that, while there are no villains, there are no heroes either." But, he warned, "until you make the final discovery that there are only human beings, who are therefore all the more fascinating, you are liable to miss something."
Roberto Clemente Walker of Puerto Rico--the first Latin American to enter baseball's Hall of Fame--was a fascinating human being. And if, as Gallico observes, there are no heroes, there are men who achieve deeds of heroic dimension. Roberto Clemente was one of these gifted few.
"Without question the hardest single thing to do in sport is to hit a baseball," says the great Boston slugger Ted Williams. "A .300 hitter, that rarest of breeds, goes through life with the certainty that fie will fail at his job seven out of ten times." A baseball is a sphere with a diameter of 2⅞ inches. The batter stands at home plate and grips a tapering wood cylinder that has a maximum diameter of 2¾ inches; he tries to defend a strike zone that is approximately seven baseballs . . .