December 31, 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Roberto Clemente.
We are daydreamers, we lot of baseball simulation aficionados. With names and cards and dice and numbers and pencils and spreadsheets we imagine whole worlds of what-ifs and what-might-have-beens. We run alternate reality simulations, we create leagues within worlds within universes of our own making, and with just the instruments on our tables, the grass and leather smell as real as any under the sun.
One of my favorite alternate reality daydreams is this: What if the Brooklyn Dodgers had protected Roberto Clemente in the 1954 Rule 5 draft?
Click here for a link to an article published in the Gettysbug Times, November 23, 1954. This article was published the day after that infamous Rule 5 draft. In it, Branch Rickey brags about stealing Clemente from Brooklyn. Read it and weep for the tragedy that befell your club that day in 1954, Dodgers fans. Read it and weep for the tragedy that befell your hero this day in 1972, baseball fans.
“He was the No. 1 draft choice on at least four or five clubs,” said the jubilant Branch Rickey, Jr., Pittsburgh Vice President. “He can run and throw. I think he will hit, too.”