Puerto Rican Baseball Star Roberto Clemente
Born on 18 August 1934, in Carolina, Roberto Clemente was the youngest of his seven siblings. His father, Don Melchor, was a hard working man, but money was very tight, forcing Clemente to start work at a young age. He showed a passion for baseball at an early age, playing at every opportunity he could get. Roberto Marin saw talent in the young Clemente while watching him play in the Barrio San Anton and recruited him to play softball for the Sello Rojo team – a small start that would lead to a big future.
At the age of sixteen Roberto Clemente played for the amateur league in Puerto Rico, and his professional career took off when he was spotted by Pedrin Zorilla and offered a place with the Santurce Crabbers. He started off as a bench player but soon showed his worth and was quickly placed in the starting lineup of the team. He moved to play with the Montreal Royals where his team mate, Joe Black, assisted him with the language barrier, as Black was able to speak Spanish.
Clyde Sukeforth was the talent scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates and in 1954 he noticed Clemente. Seeing that he was only being used as a bench player, he spoke to Max Macon, the Pirates team manager, about recruiting Clemente. In November of that year Clemente made it onto the rookie draft for the team. He made his debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955. Unfortunately he was the victim of discrimination at the start of his career, but as time passed and his talent began to delight the crowd, things started to look up. He still played for the Santurce Crabbers in the off season.
The 1960s were the impressive years for Clemente, as he experimented with changing up his game, improving in leaps and bounds. He also got married during this time, and had three children. He was awarded the Golden Glove for every season following 1961, led the batting average in the National League in 1961, 1964, 1965 and in 1967, and even won the Most Valuable Player Award in 1966.
Clemente was at the height of his career when tragedy struck in Nicaragua, in the form of a devastating earthquake. Clemente volunteered to be a part of the aid relief team. After realizing that due to corruption in the government the aid was not reaching the people, he made the decision to board a flight and accompany the fourth load of aid products. Investigation showed that the plane was overloaded and crashed into the ocean on 31 December 1972. Search and rescue efforts never recovered Clemente’s body.
The Pittsburgh Pirates retired his number, 21, and he was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. The Roberto Clemente Coliseum was named in his honor, and he was also posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal and Congressional Gold Medal in the same year. Many more awards and honors were bestowed on Clemente after his passing, and his legacy lives on, on the baseball fields.