Not only was this man an absolute star on the field, he was arguably a bigger star off of it. Clemente, a RF for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was one of the most important men in the history of Latin American and Caribbean players in the MLB and worked hard for those in Latin America, ultimately sacrificing his life for them. Read on and hear about his amazing contributions to the game of baseball, and the world in general.
From a young age, Clemente was a talented ball player and as soon as he turned 18, he began to play professional ball in his native Puerto Rico. After playing a few seasons there, the Brooklyn Dodgers eventually offered him a Triple-A contract. However, after witnessing Clemente in batting practice and during a few games, the Pirates picked him with their first selection in the rookie draft.
Throughout the beginning of his North American career, the climate and language barrier was fairly difficult to get over. On top of that, racism was still running rampant during his time in the MLB and many players weren’t comfortable with his name or ethnicity, which obviously led to frustration on his part.
But Clemente quickly got over that and went on to have one of the best baseball careers of anyone in history. He spent 18 years in the major leagues (all with the Pittsburgh Pirates) and was named to the all-star team in 15 of those seasons. He was the NL MVP in 1966 (being the first Latin player to do so), led the league in batting average on many occasions and had an amazing twelve straight golf glove awards from 1961 through 1972, the year of his death. He was also the first Latin player to win a World Series as a starter and be named World Series MVP).
Now that you know about his amazing talents off the field, let’s take a look at the things he did off of it. Throughout his major league career, Clemente sought to be involved in tons of charity work in Latin American and Caribbean countries and would often travel to various countries in the offseason delivering food and baseball equipment to those in need. Unfortunately, it was this huge heart of his that ultimately led to his death.
After an earthquake ravaged the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, Clemente accompanied the relief flight full of goods. The plane had a history of issues and after being overstuffed with goods, immediately crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after takeoff. No one on board (including Clemente) every had their body found by search teams. As imagined, this was horrific news for sports fans and he was the first player to have the mandatory waiting period waived in order to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
His impact and importance in help usher in the current, multicultural landscape of the MLB will live on forever as, if it wasn’t for Roberto Clemente, who knows what the game would look like today.