Remembering Roberto 'The Great One' Recalls Clemente through the Eyes of a Female Reporter

By Eberson, Sharon | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), February 20, 2014 | Go to article overview

Remembering Roberto 'The Great One' Recalls Clemente through the Eyes of a Female Reporter


Eberson, Sharon, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


"The Great One" of the title refers to Pittsburgh's great one, Pirate Hall of Fame right fielder Roberto Clemente. He helped the team win the 1971 World Series and was named series MVP. In 1972 he smacked his 3,000th hit, and on New Year's Eve of that year died in a plane crash while on a charitable mission.

He was a hero to many Pittsburgh children, including Molly, the protagonist of the one-woman play by Shaler native Russ Babines. Like the playwright and his friends, Molly is a local girl who grew up a Pirates and particularly a Clemente fan before moving to New York, where she works as a sports writer. Her return for the funeral of a childhood friend sparks nostalgia for bonds forged and broken in one memorable year, as a 12-year-old in 1971.

Tressa Glover plays Molly as an adult and a youngster, and takes on the characters of two neighborhood boys as well. She was recently seen as a basketball coach and her younger self in "Charles Ives Take Me Home," so it would seem that she's the go-to actress when the role calls for a woman and sports.

"I'm just going to make my way through the sports, one at a time," she said, laughing.

Her parents emphasized a "well-roundedness" even as she studied acting from a very early age, so that she was always playing softball or basketball or volleyball, she said. "But when the basketball show [at City] came up I was like, 'No way.' "

Ms. Glover grew up in Pittsburgh hearing about Clemente, the same as many next-generation kids who didn't get to see him play.

"My dad had all these stories. [Clemente] was a hero of his and he would talk about watching him play, throwing guys out at first base from the outfield. He was amazing, there's still nobody like him. Having a chance to relive that, but as a woman's story, that's a unique aspect of it and really cool."

The play reaches back to that era and is a family-friendly story. Pittsburgh Playwrights founder Mark Clayton Southers is producing the Pittsburgh premiere of "The Great One," which began as a film script before taking its current form.

Like many theatrical works that use sports as a nostalgic touchstone, there's a more universal picture to be drawn here.

"It's about thinking back to that time in our lives -- and it could be at any age -- who were the people that were closest to you and you had these discoveries together and you had these firsts together, and you were all figuring out at the same time who you might be? …

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