On August 18th, 1934 the world welcomed a new life to the world who would very soon end up to be a MLB icon. This is the story of Roberto Clemente, a Latinx hero.
Luisa Walker and Don Melchor Clemente lived in a small town in Puerto Rico when they had Roberto, the youngest of seven children. As a child, Roberto did several odd jobs to help his family pay the bills. He was also an extraordinary athlete. From an early age, Roberto ran track and threw javelin. He earned several medals and developed a very strong arm from his javelin skills.
By eighteen, several coaches started to notice this spectacular talent that Roberto had. Very soon, Clemente was recruited to play for the Puerto Rico professional baseball team. Here he played with several future MLB stars including Willie Mays. It was not long before the MLB had taken an interest in this young star.
Roberto was signed out of high school to the Brooklyn Dodgers where he played minor league ball for a year before he was officially drafted to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955. Clemente did not wait very long to make a lasting impact on the league.
“Between his innovations to the game of baseball, and standing up for Latinx inclusion in sport,” MLB fan Cameron Jacobs said in an interview. “His influence is still very much present in and around the sports community today.”
He played his entire 18 year career in Pittsburgh, and racked up 15 all star appearances. This was accompanied by 12 gold gloves, an MVP, and a world series. Clemente finished his career above the legendary 3,000 hit mark, and totaled 1,305 RBIs with a career .317 batting average.
“He played a kind of baseball that none of us had ever seen before,” American sports journalist Roger Angell said. “As if it were a form of punishment for everyone else on the field.”
Not only was he a legend on the field, but off the field as well. He held several baseball clinics in his hometown of Parque Isla Verde. Roberto also led several humanitarian efforts in several Central American Countries.
On New Year’s Eve, 1972 Roberto Clemente tragically died doing what he loved. Clemente was flying to Nicaragua to help aid the country with an earthquake relief project. The full plane went down off of the coast of Puerto Rico. Clemente’s body was never recovered.
In 1973, Clemente was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in a one of a kind election that got rid of the mandatory five year waiting period to be elected. He was also the first Latinx player to ever be inducted.
“He brought a diversity to the sport that was lacking during the time he played,” baseball fan Matthew Kilmer said in interviews. “Not to mention he was the first Latin-American to be enshrined into the baseball hall of fame”
Today he inspires Latinx athletes around the world as an example of what an athlete should represent. Clemente was and is still regarded as one of the best, and most influential baseball players of all time.