This is Roberto Clemente. He played right field like a prison break. Vin Scully once said that “Clemente could field the ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pennsylvania” and he was only lying a little.
Bill James, the great baseball writer, gave a wonderful description of Clemente years ago: “I’ve been trying a little experiment, asking baseball fans that I meet who had the best throwing arm they ever saw. It’s very rare that anybody who is old enough to remember seeing him play doesn’t immediately say “Clemente.” For younger fans, you just can’t believe what it was like; I hope we see another one like it, or you’ll never believe that it was possible. His throws combined strength, accuracy and speed of release in whatever proportions were necessary to get the job done, Freddie Patek once told me he saw Clemente throw people out at the plate from the warning track at Forbes Field, over 350 feet away. I never saw him do that but I saw him grab a double in the gap and fire it to second base to make it an oops/single, when the entire transaction was so lightning fast that even having seen him do it four or five times, you still couldn’t believe it was possible.”
Glenn Anderson treated hockey’s neutral zone like Roberto Clemente played right field. To the point of pure physical violence, Glenn Anderson mashed everything in sight–defensemen, linesmen, sticks, pucks, goalies, nets and if the boards hadn’t been there he would probably have killed the zamboni. When Glenn Anderson was in full flight with the puck on his stick, you didn’t need to see the defenseman say “oh shit” to know he was in fact saying it.
Defend it? Hell, surviving it was the goal.
From the group who made up the Boys on the Bus, he’s the strange one, the personality who never really spent the time across the table so the folks could get to know him. Gretzky the nice guy, Messier the bull in a china shop, Kurri the thinking man’s player. Anderson? His personality on the ice was as colorful and electrifying as any other, but his off-ice indifference and wooden answers and live hits with television left fans with the feeling that Anderson never really bought in, never helped with the chores. That was a long time ago, and as with all families it doesn’t matter now what’s done is done. The important thing is that he’s back for a reunion and perhaps one final chance to bond in a real way with the people who watched him fly through the neutral zone like a hurricane.