« Alma Mater Matters | Main | Goodbye, George »

September 21, 2010

The Roberts of My Youth

The Roberts of My Youth

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney

First off - credit where due.  This concept was inspired by Fr. Andrew Greeley, who's Fr. Blackie Ryan character's office is adorned with photos of the 'Three Johns of his youth': Kennedy, Unitas and the XXIIIrd.  I always thought that was a very cool way to provide all you really needed to know about the character's background.

So today, we are going to share our own "____" of our Youth.  Maybe you have three - or more, or less.  But if you think about it, you'll be surprised at how many subsets you really have in your memory banks.

Mine are 'Robert's:  Kennedy; Clemente; Redford; and Marley.  You may recognize their first names as Bobby, Roberto, Robert, and Bob.  There are others, but I will get to them in time.

Blog Robert-Redford-classic-movies-7058685-335-400  Bobby Kennedy was assassinated the same year I got interested in politics.  His brother John was already sainted on the Irish side of my family, and his death was a shock in so many ways.  Redford was my first movie star crush - "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" came out a year after Bobby Kennedy was shot. Sure, at that time, my crush was fairly innocent, but by 1973 - when he had two of his other fabulous films, it was fully realized. Sigh.  Bob Marley was a musical genius.

There were other Roberts of my youth - Frost, who's "promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep" is still one my favorite poetic stanzas, and Bob Hope, of the USO shows, and Newhart, the master of dry humor delivery, and Bobby Sherman, pop star and general dream boat.  Then there was Bob, my first real high school sweetheart.  We just got back in touch via Facebook and it is hilarious!  We both have sons named Ty - they are about ten years apart - how weird is that?  (Bob:  Why didn't you have more kids? Me:  I didn't have a wife) If you want to stretch the Robert theme a bit more, add "The Bobbsey Twins" - the first series I ever read from start to finish.

Blog clemente 3000 But it is Roberto Clemente who remains the true hero of my youth.  Clemente, for those of you who don't know, was a Hall of Fame baseball player who spent his entire - and too short - career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, for those of you who don't know, used to be a major league baseball team, who continue to parade around as one in their major league stadium (right across the Clemente bridge, by the way).  

Maybe it's the time of year, but I find myself thinking about those days frequently. In 1960, the day I was born, Clemente and the Pirates won the playoffs, and on the day I was Baptized, they won the World Series.  I was truly born a fan. 

Blog Clemente 1960 I spent the summers of the late '60s and early '70s listening to Bob Prince broadcast the Buccos, and even went to several games in Three Rivers Stadium, where I got to see a World Series Championship team, led by Clemente, play America's Game.  #21 powered our Bucs to a 1971 World Championship and finished the 1972 season with a record 3,000 hits. Then, in December of that year, he led rescue efforts for victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua.  En route from Puerto Rico, his home, to deliver supplies, his plane went down and there were no survivors.  We were grief-stricken, many of us had our first real spiritual crisis, and December 31st took on a new meaning.

Clemente was the first Latin American or Hispanic player elected to baseball's Hall of Fame - it happened in 1973, and I think it is the one and only time they have waived the 5-year waiting period for induction.  I look at sports 'stars' today - with their criminal conduct and their little tantrums and their trash talk and posturing, and I wonder if any of them would risk their precious faces or sensitive hamstrings by getting on a POS plane themselves to deliver rescue supplies.  Roberto did it despite urges from his family and his friends - including Manny Sanguillen - not to board.  Clemente insisted - he said there was no other way to make sure the supplies weren't stolen, as had happened with other shipments. 

That was the way he lived and the way he played baseball.  Any expert, including Hank Aaron, will tell you Roberto could have set home run records, but he hit to move his team mates around the bases - he knew he was putting his own stats behind what was best for our Pirates, and so did everyone else.  He was also one of the best right fielder's to ever play - he made throws from his knees that smoked out the unfortunate runners who tried to beat him.  It was a sight to behold.

As the luck of the calendar draw would have it, this is Hispanic Heritage Month, and I cannot think of a better example than Clemente.  In those days, hispanics and latinos were segregated from both white and black players and in many ways, Clemente was their Jackie Robinson - if you care to read about it, "The Great One" by Bruce Markeson has a good section.  The Pirates tried to anglo-cize Clemente to some extent - originally listing him as Bob and so forth, but he was having none of it.  In fact, the first time he had access to a national TV camera after the 1971 World Series, he did something no pro had done before.  He spoke to his parents, who were watching in Puerto Rico, in Spanish.  "En el dia, mas grande de mi vida, les pido sus bendiciones" which means "On this, the proudest day of my life, I ask for your blessing."

Like all true heroes, he still has the power to make me cry.

So those are the Roberts of my youth.  Now it's your turn.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Roberts of My Youth:


My first true love was named Bobby Goodman. We met when I was 14 and he was 16 and then, fifteen years later he went and broke my heart by dying. It's hard to find a better name than Robert, in all its variations.

Which could explain why our family mannequin is named Bob.

Kathy, I love your choices which include Bob Hope and Bob Newhart, two of my all time favorites.

Three choices that I came up all share the name John.
John Wayne was the all- time consummate movie actor who could make your heart flutter with movies including The Quiet Man and True Grit.
John Ritter was a comic genius with wonderful timing. I miss him.
My third choice would have to be Jon Hamm, movie star good looks that leap out of the televsion screen on Sunday evening in his "Mad Men" episodes.
Thanks, Kathy for such a great blog and your wonderful descriptions.

Great post, Kathy. BTW, my real name is Robert.

My #1, all-time, faithful till the day I die, Pretend Boyfriend is Robert Smith of The Cure. I love every inch of his crazy haired, smeary lipsticked chubby old silly brilliant dark darlingness.

After I wrote this late last night, I came up with so many more names that have recurred in my life - Mary (duh) and Joseph (duh) and Thomas and James and Susan and many more.

Pick a name and see how many you can come up with!

Richard was the first boy to have a crush on me - back in the 6th grade. He was a red-haired geek, so I was appalled. In high school, he became one of my closest friends and we, too, have recently reconnected on FB. Richard Nixon stands for my blossoming political awareness and the many consequences of my youthful opposition to the Vietnam War. Dick Martin stands for Laugh-In, another icon of that era. I guess everyone gets to include Dick Clark for obvious reasons :)

I guess I must have still been in elementary school when I got a very cool book of Robin Hood stories in quasi-old English. Between that and Ivanhoe, how could I not worship Richard Lionheart?

In my angsty teans, it was Richard Bach and Jonathan Livingston Seagull all the way. In college, I had the out-of-this-world honor of seeing Sir Richard Burton play King Arthur in Camelot in San Francisco. (With one little twist of the knees to take a pigeon-toed stance, he went from adult to 12-year-old boy in an instant.). Richard Dean Anderson - need I say more? And, of course, Richard Chamberlain in Shogun. Sigh.

Time to get to work - great blog, Kathy!!

Weird, but no matter which names I key into my brain, can't think of more than 2 with the same name who have had more than a superficial impact: Two Sues, two Nancys, two Johns, and for that most common of names, only one Joe.

I sent this blog to my brother (BOB!) who, as a little boy, was deeply affected by Clemente's death.

The name, Robert, is also special to me. My father was named Robert, my brother is Robert II, and I have a number of male relatives, all of whom were important in my life, also named Bob, Rob, Bobby, or Robert. It seemed for quite some time that every woman in my family was destined to marry someone named Robert and then, promptly, have a male child also named Robert. Go figure.

Nice post. Bobs Unite!

Just got an e-mail from an Indiana friend who says we need to add Robert Goulet to the list.

Except at this point, I see Will Farrell as Robert Goulet, instead of the man himself.

Such an intriguing idea, Kathy, and wow, Clemente was way more than just a ball player. Thanks for this; I had no idea what a great man he was.

Lots of Bobs in my life, including my insurance mentor. Without him my life would have never gone where it did, and he also introduced me to Steve, with whom I've had a great time for the last 32 years.

But I think the big name for me was Jim. My uncle Jimmy introduced my parents to one another, and my cousin Jimmy, my first crush at age five, was named after him. My first husband's name is Jim, and without him, even though he was a crap husband, I wouldn't have my wonderful oldest daughter--whose father-in-law's name was also Jim. Now James is her son's middle name.

Jimi Hendrix was a big favorite back in the day, and so was James Taylor. Shrug. I have eclectic tastes, what can I say? Not a big fan of Jesse James, though, that rat bastard.

And then there is Jim Smith. Did you know there is a worldwide Jim Smith Club, because it's such a common name? I can't tell you how many Jim Smiths and Jim Millers I've known. So far.

Roberto Clemente was the second person to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame without having to wait five years. The first was Lou Gehrig.

To add to your Bob list, Bob Gibson. Bob Gibson was a stand out basketball player who passed on an offer from the Harlem Globetrotters to play baseball. The Cardinals bought a hotel in Florida so all of the players could stay together in the early '60's, a time when blacks and whites could not share a hotel in the South. His 1968 season was a part of baseball changing the rules to give hitters a chance.

SMR, you reminded me that my second stepdad's name was Robert! How could I forget him?

Hepburn: Audrey. Katharine. And Tracy-and-.

You're amazing, Kathy!

I can't match your depth of thought on this one, but I'll let you have all those Roberts if I can have Tom . . . new series starts soon . . . Selleck. Who knew -- there's a cake?!!!

Having grown up with the world's most commonly bestowed female name, I can tell you calling "Mary" in a public place will most often get you more than one response. The doctor's waiting room is a confusing place now that privacy rules prohibit the use of full names. On my dad's side of the family, I have to identify myself as Mary Frances to be recognized, and in my new neighborhood there are so many named Mary that a friend wondered if I had moved into a convent . . .
For a while schools were filled with Jasons -- at one point six of my 18 students in a remedial class were named Jason. I earned $10 from Our Own Oddities for that, and used the money to buy doughnuts, proving to my students that writing had value.

And of course there's also the Dread Pirate Robert.

Mine all come from "Rock" or some variation thereof. Rocket J. Squirrel, my favorite cartoon character on "Adventure Time" on Channel 4 after school in Pittsburgh; Rocky Balboa, my first and still top cinematic hero; and most of all my grandfather Rocco, whose quiet strength and unshakable integrity will always serve as my lodestar of how to conduct myself as a man, husband, father, and citizen.

College comment: I woke up this morning thinking of our very smart friends who pondered what life would have brought with college credentials. . . knowing these women, in person or electronically, I know you are every bit as educated by your interesting lives. OTOH, if it is something you want to do, it's never too late. Ann Landers used to answer those who wrote that "if I went for that degree now, I'd be x-years old when I finished," . . . "and how old would you be in five years if you don't go?"
. . . and a slight tangent, a relative was bemoaning on FB that the Navy will require her to have 15 college credits beyond her home schooling certificate. In Missouri there are no tests for home schooled children; it's extremely (horribly) open-ended. They don't even keep track of who is supposedly being home schooled. What amazes me is that they are upset that anyone would question home-school credentials (which are a bit like having your mom write your letters of recommendation). . . 15 credits could help with missing skills . . .

As a Southerner, I must mention Robert E. Lee. Heroic? Misguided? Valiant? Evil? Whatever you think, I still love the book Traveller.

I'll also mention Robert Falcon Scott.

I guess I like the tragic Roberts.

Thanks, Mary. I have to say that not having a degree has never held me back. I had three different successful businesses, none of which depended on a particular degree to succeed, although they all required a depth of knowledge I would not have gotten in a college setting.

My oldest daughter at one point wanted me to go back, and I looked into getting life credits for skills acquired along the way. It's possible to get them, but only if you pay the equivalent of taking the classes. I decided it wasn't worth it for what I considered basically a scam on the school's part.

Tim! Great to see you on TLC.

Thanks for the clarification, Alan - I probably should have been able to guess that one.

Ramona - ya got me. Robert Falcon Scott?

On college - doesn't matter. It also doesn't really matter where you go. By the time you've worked for awhile, it doesn't matter if your diploma says Beaver County Community College or Bard. Except that I'll bet you meet very different people at those schools.

Amazing blog, Kathy. What a tribute to the Roberts in your life.

I'd have to think about it in my case, except for the name "Mike". I have a brother named Mike, a brother-in-law Mike, and a husband Mike. But, as they said on Desperate Housewives once, "What do you mean you don't know anyone named Mike? Everyone knows a Mike!"

Historic figures:

Johnny Applesead
Big Bad John: Jimmy Dean Ballad
Little John : Sherwood Forest

David's are what come to my mind. My father. My brother (miss him). A friend whom I have known since he was in diapers (I am older). Another friend from the same neighborhood.

My Robert had a tragically short life. He was hit by a car while crossing the street to get on the school bus at age 7. He was my first boyfriend, and would give me jumbo eggs from their chickens to show me his affection.

I've had some great Roberts move in and out of my youth:
Bobby Darin-first teen idol crush and still one of my favorite singers
Bobby Kennedy-perhaps better than his brothers in the times he faced, but gone too soon.
Bob Wojtas---football player and all around James Dean type (so who doesn't have one of those in her background somewhere)
BUT I've had some Williams too:

William Shakespeare-did he really write the plays? Who cares? He hooked me on drama, comedy, and all things theatre.

William Lutz-Kick-ass high school history teacher. He believed that history was much more than just dates and battles. It was people. Made me a history minor in college and someone who to this day loves to browse the history section in any bookstore or library. If there's a mystery involved,so much the better.

William Wallace-Scottish hero and supposedly an ancestor (although Robert the Bruce is said to be one too, which makes me wonder). Right or wrong, he woke up Scotland and gave the Brits a run for their money. And he didn't look a thing like Mel Gibson!

I'm off to Portland today....daughter, theatre, museum, cooking Chicken Andouille Etoufee, and great coffee!

What, Kathy, you missed the romanticizing explorers phase when you were a kid?

Captain Scott was the *second* person to reach the South Pole, and never made it back. He wrote in his diary until his dying moments.

Like Margaret, I can't really think of three of any one name that impacted me. My family is littered with Roberts and Williams, but most of my friends and people I've idolized have rather more uncommon names.

The most important Robert of all--my grandson!

I have spent the last hour contemplating the various people who've had an importance to me--and now my head is crowded with so many I can't narrow them down to a name or two. Bunches of Margarets, though (including a terrifyingly tyrannical high school English teacher who had a huge impact on my reading....and writing, I suppose) and there are numerous Barbaras, too.

Though I can't really narrow down a name of significance from my youth, in my life as an early childhood teacher the Austins and Jacksons really stand out... We had a heck of a time picking names for our kids because they all made me think of a three-year-old (or four...).

I was a child of the Jason era, though. We had a bunch in our class (but only one that mattered...[dreamy sigh]).

I've been impacted by several men named Stephen/Steven. My Little Brother (aged 42 and 6'2" tall and has been taller than me since he was 12), my daughters'dad and I were together 17 years, and we still co-parent, and my boss of 18 years.

I'm also related to a lot of Sues. Norma Sue, Sue Sue, cousin sue etc.

Nancy, I have a lot of Barbaras in my life, too. My best friend, my godmother/aunt, and my little sister. Plus several other friends, reaching back into early childhood.

Just thought of another Robert derivative: My daughter Robin. She went to a grade school for seven years, then middle/high for six; even in a fairly large district she was the sole Robin for all those years.

Very moving post about Roberto Clemente. I never really understood what he was doing when the plane went down. I have a bunch of Cheryls, which include my daughter, and friends, lots of Susans, and for a while it seemed that every man I met was called John. Here where I live there are 50 apartments, and four Bobs, most of whom are very nice.

Lil, you might want to rethink this statement, if you tell other people:

"for a while it seemed that every man I met was called John"

Could be misconstrued!

I have a cousin Rob and at one point both my sisters were married to Roberts.

I can't think of many repeating names, lots of unique ones. The one that got away was named Jon.

There've been an altogether untoward number of Sheilas (heh), Susans and Catherine variants in my life. I stopped counting all the Marys after I found the right one.

The Roberto Clemente Award is given annually to a MLB player who demonstrates the values Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others. Each club nominated a player.

Here is the list of nominees for this year and more about the award:


My childhood friend Tommy. Our parents were childhood friends. When we were teenagers he died of a heart attack while playing football in Marblehead, Mass.

Tommy Chong- many hours of laughter.

The Who's Tommy.

My cousin Tommy, criminal attorney and courthouse poet, Boston. He woke me up.

The only Bob on my list is at the top of my shit list at the moment!
I guess Tom's would be the majority.
My brother .
Tom Lawless, my art teacher thru jr. high
Tommy Smothers
Tommy Chong

The parents of my former English (language arts) students are now in the aqua-aerobics class, so now my students . . . a reversal of the usual order of these things. They told me that community college classes are free for senior citizens, so they are taking a contemporary issues class. It's auditing, though, so I guess wouldn't work toward a degree. They like not having to do homework . . .

Karen, you don't need to be "certified smart" (as a friend described her work toward a business degree). Anyone who talks to you for two minutes or read any of your posts can tell . . .

Kathy, I'm sorry to be coming in so late. I feel very moved by your tribute to Roberto Clemente. He sounds like a lovely human being. You had a very very good hero. The blow when he died must have felt overwhelming. You'd already loved him for a long time.

Was it your dad, or maybe a brother who got you interested in bball? Took you to your first game? My favorite memories of my dad are of going to Kansas City Blues games together, just the two of us in the GA seats along the first base line. I was so pissed when my mom wanted to tag along, and she didn't even like baseball!

I flirted with a Robert I used to work with. He was married. They both seemed gay. My brother says any man who calls himself Robert is gay. I don't really know about that.

My travel guide on my 11th grade trip to Mexico was named Roberto. We really hit it off. We played ping pong, went to the beach, giggled together about my ridiculous sunburn. No, he never tried anything. He was married. I was a kid. I think he just missed his family. He asked about me the following year, and I feel pretty good about that.

The l960 Pirate team at the Heinz History Museum. I don't know for how long.

Oh, and we have the Andrew thing in our family -- my brother's one, two of my sisters married them, and so my kids have 3 Uncle Andrews.

I was married (onscreen only) to both John Ritter and Richard Dean Anderson, both mentioned here -- how lucky am I? Except that John died far too soon.

@ Karen in Ohio-

I thought of it, but let it pass. Great minds, huh? I see you on some other blogs I follow. I'll try to behave myself.

Oh, Kathy, I didn't read this until now. I was off yesterday and then went to the Pirate game! They won, but my mom took me to see the new Mazeroski statue. A magnificent site, and he was such a hero for her growing up. But truly, I think the Roberto Statue is much better. She said that Stargell's statue is out front. I've never seen it (we always walk across the bridge) but I do have to walk around the stadium sometime soon. He was a true team player as well. There are very few like the great players of the past.

The comments to this entry are closed.

The Breast Cancer Site