I really feel bad, because we miss him so bad," says Manny Sanguillen, the erstwhile Pirate catcher who has been assigned both Roberto Clemente's locker and the task of trying to replace him in right field this spring. "The last few years, to me he feel like my family. We used to have fun together, you know. Like when he try to make a home run inside the park, and Willie Mays throw him out. I put a towel down in the dressing room and slide into it and say, 'Oh, oh, I an old man now.'
"I don't like to talk too much about him. Everything come to my mind about him."
Dave Giusti, the Pirate player representative, cites another reason not to dwell on the memory of his late, inimitable teammate, who died Dec. 31 in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico while trying to fly relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
"He's gone," says Giusti, "and there's not a thing we can do about it. And it may not be wise to talk too much about it. We might start thinking we're going to lose, when instead we should be thinking, 'Hell, we got up to 12 games ahead last year when he was out for quite a while.' "
There is a memorial plaque on the door of Clemente's room in Pirate City, the team's training complex in Bradenton, Fla., and commemorative coins are sold at the games. Each Pirate wears a strip of black material tacked onto his left shoulder.
"But baseball ain't gonna stop for nobody," says Pirate slugger Willie Stargell. "It's just a big business and it's gotta keep goin'."
On the bulletin board in the dressing room someone has pinned a newspaper clipping headlined BENCH SAYS PIRATES WON'T BE SAME WITHOUT CLEMENTE. In the story the Cincinnati catcher says the Pirates won't come off the bench swinging anymore without Clemente to inspire them.
"That's his opinion," says Stargell. "Opinions are like behinds, everybody's got one."
But the Pirates no longer have the man who averaged .317 over 18 years, got precisely 3,000 hits and played right field the way Segovia plays a malague�a, only with more bravura. How will they replace him?
Well, the power to get those big Clemente-model Pirate bats around and into the pitch has not passed away with Roberto. Without him Pittsburgh still has nine men—Sanguillen, Stargell, Gene Clines, Milt May, Dave Cash, Vic Davalillo, Rich Hebner, Al Oliver and Rennie Stennett—whose combined lifetime major league batting average is .289. And the list does not include Bob Robertson, who when not slumping is the team's second-best home-run threat.