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My most poignant memory of Roberto Clemente's leadership was the night before the 1971 World Series in Baltimore. Staying at the Lord Baltimore Hotel, my wife and I got on the elevator with Roberto and Willie Stargell. As the elevator door closed, Roberto said to Willie, “Do not press or try too hard in the Series, Willie. I will carry the team.” He then said, “When we get off the elevator, come over to my room. I want to talk with you.” I told my wife, “Roberto is a clever man. He knows that if Willie can play as well he did before a knee injury in August, Willie will carry the team. But if he can't, Roberto will handle the job.”
It turned out that Roberto did carry the team, batting .414, fielding and throwing superbly, and hitting a big home run in the fourth inning of the final game. Stargell, who struggled throughout the series, scored the winning run in the eighth inning of the seventh game for a 2-1 win.
Years later, I asked Stargell what they talked about in Roberto's room that evening. He said that Roberto told him that the excitement and media attention of his first World Series in 1960 made it difficult for him to concentrate and play at his best. “He told me not to try too hard and that he was now ready now to handle this leadership role because his experience in 1960. I did the same thing before the 1979 Series, gathering the younger players together to inform them of this, as Clemente did with me in 1971.” Unsurprisingly, Stargell carried the Pirates in the 1979 Series and, like Clemente, was named the Series MVP.