This has been a momentous year for those who evoke the name of Roberto Clemente, the great Afro-Puerto Rican baseball player, 12-time Golden Glove winner, five-time National League champion, two-time World Series champion (1960 and 1971) and 1971 World Players Most Valuable Player. Valuable in his 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates 1955-1972.
Clemente hit his historic 3000th goal on September 30, 1972, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh versus the New York Mets, the first Latino to reach the milestone. Tragically, three months later, on December 31, Clemente and four other people perished when their DC-7 crashed while trying to bring food and medical supplies to the residents of earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. Clemente posthumously became the first Latina player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Puerto Rican government has officially declared 2022 the “Year of Roberto Clemente” and with the passing of July on Law 61-2022, the island’s legislature agreed to put Clemente’s name on the list of national heroes. He is remembered as one of the greatest baseball players the game has ever seen, a compassionate humanitarian and a passionate advocate for racial and social justice.
As an activist who encouraged sports activities among youth, Clemente admired Martin Luther King Jr. and once spent an afternoon with him on his farm in Puerto Rico. Major League Baseball was scheduled to open its season four days after King’s assassination in 1968. “When Martin Luther King died, Clemente later commented, ‘They come and ask’ [Black] players if we should play. I say if you have to ask [Black] Players, then we don’t have a great country.”
“What remains powerful to me, is similar to the way Clemente inspired other players,” said Adrian Burgos, Jr., professor of history at the University of Illinois and author of Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and Streamers.
“The one that really comes to mind is Carlos Delgado, who has been candid about Vieques and [U.S.] The Navy and the bombings they were doing in Vieques, not standing for the national anthem. He pointed out to himself, “Burgos expanded,” that Clemente was his inspiration because these were the kinds of things Clemente wanted to express; For those who don’t have a platform. Yes, he literally said that’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Born on August 18, 1934 to Melcor Clemente and Luisa Walker in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Roberto noted that his family was a poor working class—his father was a foreman in a sugar factory—and they instilled in their children strong strength. sense of morals.
When I was a boy, I realized how beautiful my mother and father were. I was treated well. I learned the right way to live.” As Clemente grew into adulthood and raised his family, suffering from racism in the United States, he vehemently refused to accept disrespect.
Puerto Rican attorney Diego Alcala stated that Clemente was one of the best athletes ever to come out of Puerto Rico who, while playing an essentially separate sport in a city, Pittsburgh, which had its own racial problems, overcame many of the obstacles facing Latinos. , especially black Latinos. Alcala continued, “It wasn’t ‘Bobby’, it was Roberto, because he would correct the press whenever he was interviewed.
“When you think of Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans don’t just think of him as another baseball player or one of the best players – they definitely remember his charitable work and the fact that he was proud to be black.”
This past September 15, Major League Baseball celebrated Roberto Clemente Day with celebrations across the league. Roberto Clemente Jr. and Roberto Clemente III threw the ceremonial first pitches at Citi Field as each player in both the Buccaneers and Mets wore Clemente No. 21.