EL REY DE BASEBALL | ROBERTO CLEMENTE

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

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Roberto Clemente is, was, and will always be the standard that all Latino ball players will be measured against.  He and Lou Gehrig are the only players to have the five year Hall of Fame waiting period waived so they could gain immediate entry.  A legendary baseball player– the classic five tool guy, but he also was someone who rose above sports– his selflessness and dedication to help other human beings transcended baseball, and lifted all people regardless of color, creed, or religion.   He was a trailblazer for Latin players who carried himself with grace & dignity– and possessed a fierce will to excel.

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July 1966, PA — Pittsburgh Pirates Outfielder Roberto Clemente — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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Nothing was as breath taking as watching Clemente’s batting helmet fly off as he legged out a triple after clubbing the ball into the gap or watching one of his defensive gems in old Forbes Field.  Most will never forget the fact that his 3,000th hit was achieved at his last at bat– almost as if the fates knew he would not be among us much longer.

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Sept 30th, 1972 — Roberto Clemente made his 3,000 hit. Doug Harvey, umpire, is shown handing him the ball on the field. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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The final memories of Clemente for most were from the 1971 World Series when the Pirates beat the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles.  Clemente’s stat line was epic for a seven game series-.414 average, hits in every game, two doubles, a triple, and two home runs along with best in class base running, fielding, and throwing.  Yet stats are deceiving– it was more that his force of will drove his team to victory– hard to do in a situational game like baseball.  Being interviewed in the locker room after the final out he said, “Thank you Bob (to announcer Bob Prince), and before I say anything in English, I’d like to say something in Spanish to my Mother and Father in Puerto Rico…En el dia mas grande de mi vida, para los nenes la benedicion mia y que mis padres me echen la benedicion (In the most important day of my life, I give blessings to my boys and ask that my parents give their blessing)”

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(Above left) Oct 1961, San Juan, Puerto Rico — Thousands turned out at the airport to welcome major league baseball stars Orlando Cepeda and Robert Clemente on their return home, but the number one fan turned out to be mother in both cases. Clemente, Pittsburgh’s National League batting champ, is shown here receiving a warm parental hug. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

(Above right) March 06, 1965 — Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the National League batting champ in 1964, gets an encouraging visit from his mother as he lies in Mimiya Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Clemente is recovering from what his doctors have diagnosed as either malaria or paratyphoid. The star outfielder is late for spring training but is expected to join the Pirates by April 1965. – Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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In a moment when the whole world was watching– from a man who had fought so hard to transcend narrow stereotypes– he made the conscious choice to speak to us in his native tongue and touched millions in the Spanish speaking world.  It was a moment of fierce pride not just for Clemente but for all of those that lived vicariously through him.

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Oct 1972, Pittsburgh, PA — Batting hero of the 1971 World Series  and newest member of the 3,00 hit club, Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates before the opening game of the National League playoffs 10/7. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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He died tragically trying to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua; his motto in his final years was “If you have a chance to help others and fail to do so, you are wasting your time of this earth.” It is rarity in this day and age that a star would risk his life so freely to help others in need– but for this man it was unfathomable that he wouldn’t.

Eli M. Getson

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Jan 11th, 1973, San Juan, Puerto Rico — US Navy divers take a break during the 12th day of searching for the bodies of baseball great Roberto Clemente and three others killed in a plane crash in a mercy mission to Nicaragua, December 31.  Divers  located January 10 a wallet and other personal belongings of pilot Jerry Hill, a fifth victim of the crash. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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April 13th, 1967, Flushing, Queens, NY — Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates, batting during a game in Shea Stadium against the Mets. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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June 1956, Pittsburgh, PA — Pittsburgh Pirates “Big Guns” Roberto Clemente, Frank Thomas, Lee Walls, and Bill Virdon (L to R) set their sights on the National League pennant in this pose in their dugout recently.  The Pirates, whom the “experts” figured would finish in or near the cellar, have surprised the baseball world by going in the opposite direction, and are now sitting very pretty at the top of the league standings, .004 points ahead of the second place Cincinnati Redlegs at present writing. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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’62 — Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates catching a field ball. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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May 20th 1960, Pittsburgh, PA — Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirates’ right-fielder holds up one finger to show he is first in batting in the National League.  Clemente got three hits in six trips and drove in the winning run 5/20 as Pittsburgh beat San Francisco, 5-4.  The victory was credited to reliever Fred Green (left) who moved the Bucs a game and a half ahead of the Giants atop the league standings.  Clemente displaced the Giants’ Willie Mays as the leagues leading hitter. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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April 1963, St. Louis, Missouri — Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente steals 2nd base safely in 4th inning of the Cards-Pirates game here 4/18.  Clemente beat the throw to 2B Julian Javier (left) and umpire Lee Weyer signals Clemente safe.  Pirates won 3-2 for the 1st victory of the 3 game series. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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June 1964, Queens, NY — Roberto Clemente, right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, sign autographs for left to right, Johnny Sloan, 9, and Alvin Green, 7, both of Brooklyn, New York.  Clemente visited the World’s Fair with teammates and was stopped for autographs at the Transportation and Travel Pavilion. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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Oct 1971, Baltimore, Maryland — Roberto Clemente, slugging Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder, sharpens his timing in the batting cage at Memorial Stadium, October 15.  Clemente has been the outstanding hitter in the World Series through the first five games with nine hits.  The Pirates lead three games to two over the Baltimore Orioles. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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Oct 1971, Baltimore, Maryland — Roberto Clemente homers in the deciding game of the World Series. The fourth inning shot gave the comeback Pirates the lead and they never relinquished it as they defeated Baltimore 2-1 to win the series 4 games to 3. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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Oct 1971, Baltimore, Maryland — Outstanding star of the 1971 World Series, the Pirates Roberto Clemente looks like a happy man in the Pirates’ dressing room 10/17 after the Pirates became World Champs by defeating the Orioles 2-1 in the 7th game of the World Series. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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09 Oct 1972, Cincinnati, Ohio — Getting his first hit since reaching the 3,000 hit circle, Pirates’ Roberto Clemente is as proud as a peacock in the 4th inning 10/9.  The double was his first hit of the playoffs. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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Baseball great, Roberto Clemente

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10 thoughts on “EL REY DE BASEBALL | ROBERTO CLEMENTE

  1. Great post. I’m thoroughly enjoying how the depth of your blog has evolved so much since Late 2008/early 2009. Keep em coming.

  2. Baseball in general, and my Pittsburgh Pirates in particular, could sure use another star with the manner and ability that Roberto Clemente had.

  3. Once again, phenomenal post. It’s one thing to document a celebrity or great figure, but the depth at which you outline their lives brings so much more to each of these figures.

  4. The photo of the umpire handing Clemente the ball after his 3,000th hit is absolutely haunting. After accumulating such a staggering number of hits in his career, it seemed like they would just keep coming for a few more seasons. Little did he know that this would be his final hit ever.

  5. great post. as a young kid growing up in the midwest, he was my hero. major league baseball was seriously wounded for me when he died on that humanitarian mission, and baseball officially died for me after the strike.

  6. Clemente stood out i an era of truly great outfielders. He was perhaps the best fielder of them all and surely had the best arm.

  7. Clemente was very proud of his heritage. He was compassionate to all … and gave his life trying to better help the victims of the earthquake in Managua. He was a joy to watch …. at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field. But his compassion anddignity is what sets him apart from all other baseball players.

  8. The epitomy of class. Mays and Aaron, his 2 peers, were so different. Mays hated the public, and refused autographs. Aaron was quiet, but refused to address Bonds as a cheater and take a stance. RC had the five tools and was a proud, humanitarian who gave it his best on and off the field.

    Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, A-hole, Palmeiro etc….losers and cheaters. RC was the purest and the best!! May his memory continue like him digging out a triple or making a leaping catch!!

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