Roberto Clemente

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Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente Walker was born August 18th, 1934 in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He was the youngest of seven children to parents Melchor and Luisa Clemente. His father worked as a foreman on a sugarcane plantation and his mother ran a grocery store for plantation workers. Roberto worked as a young boy delivering milk and taking odd jobs to help the family with money. He always made time for his true love which was baseball. He would play on the sand lots with his peers until the age of 18. In 1952 Roberto was spotted playing baseball by a scout for a professional baseball team, the Saunturce Crabbers in Saunturce, Puerto Rico. They offered him a contract to play baseball for them. He signed with the team for $40 a month and received a $500 bonus.

Not long after joining the team Clemente caught the eye of another scout, this scout came from the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball in America. His next stop was the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league team in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Three years later he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and started immediately as there right fielder. Clemente took some time to adjust to the style of play in the major leagues, but by 1960 he was dominating the league. Clemente played so well that year, he earned his first of twelve all-star appearances. Also he helped his team defeat the New York Yankees, to win the World Series.

While playing at an all-star level as a ball player, he experience racism as a black Latino baseball player in a racially divided America. Off the field he was building a legacy that would surpass his legendary baseball career. He was an active force in helping as many poor people as he could, taking philosophies from Dr. Martin Luther King. On the field Clemente was known for his rocket arm and pinpoint accuracy, also his unusual but effective hitting style. In 1961 Clemente was injured in a car accident but his determination to play kept him from missing a game.  He played well that year; he won the batting title for the best hitter in the league. In 1961, Clemente lead his team back to the World Series and they won again defeating the Baltimore Orioles. He won the World Series MVP and his popularity grew off the field because of his near perfect talents, as described by one sports writer.

Clemente married the love of his life, Vera Christina Zabala in 1964, they had three sons and he made sure they all were born on the Island of Puerto Rico. Clemente played a total of 18 years in the major leagues. 1972 would be his last baseball season little did he know. During that winter Clemente and his family were in Puerto Rico working on his dream, opening a sports clinic for the youth in San Juan. December 23rd, 1972 an earth quake struck Managua, Nicaragua killing thousands of people. Clemente quickly organized an aid effort to help the people affected. After getting word that the Nicaraguan government was not getting supplies to the people, he rented a small plane to take the supplies. On December 31st 1972, the plane that was carrying Clemente and three other people crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and his body was never found. He died at the age of thirty-eight.

Because of his contribution on and off the field, The Baseball writers Association bypassed the usual five year waiting period and immediately inducted Roberto Clemente into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Roberto was the first Latino baseball player ever elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1973 the Pittsburgh Pirates retired his number 21 jersey and inducted him into their Hall of Fame. Roberto Clement was a true hero, an example of goodness and manhood. Roberto Clemente was an inspiration for black and Latino players home and abroad. Roberto was greatness personified, he quoted; “Anytime you have an opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.”  Mr. Roberto Clemente, we stand on your shoulders.

 

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