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*On this date in 1934, Roberto Clemente was born. He was a Black Puerto Rican baseball player and humanitarian.
From Carolina, Puerto Rico, he was the seventh (youngest) child of Luisa and Melchor Clemente. As a baseball player, Clemente’s skill and verve won the acclaim of fans around the world and especially in the Western Hemisphere. He became baseballs fist pan-Caribbean super-star, respected off the field as well as on the field. After starting with the Puerto Rican Santurce Cangrejeros in 1952, Clemente signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Drafted out of the Dodgers organization by the Pittsburgh Pirates, one year later the 5’11’’, 185-pound talent was starting in right field for the Buc’s.
In his 18 seasons with Pittsburgh he won four batting titles, hit 240 home runs, and had a lifetime.317 batting average. Clemente was a perennial all-star and 1966 Most Valuable Player while winning twelve Gold Glove awards with his speed technique and rifle arm. He also hit safely in all fourteen World Series games he played in, compiling a.362 average and helping win the World Championship in 1960.
A racially proud man, Clemente protested the discrimination that Latin and Black ball players encountered. Following the 1972 season, Clemente managed the Puerto Rica National team to the world amateur championship in Nicaragua. After his return to Puerto Rico, Managua was struck by an earthquake and he plunged into relief efforts.
From his home on New year’s Eve, upon hearing of the Nicaraguan National Guard plundering relief supplies set forth to oversee the efforts. His plane disappeared into the Caribbean soon after take-off and his body was never recovered. Before his death, he had started work on Ciudad De-portiva, a sport city for Puerto Rican youth. Clemente became his island’s most illustrious native son. His wife Vera Clemente de Zabala has made his dream into a multi-sport reality.
Roberto Clemente’s passing led baseball’s Hall of Fame to waive its five-year rule, he was inducted two weeks after his untimely death.
20th Century Baseball Chronicle
Year-By-Year History of major league Baseball
Copyright 1999, Publications International Ltd.