Roberto Clemente Biography

Roberto Clemente Allstar Exhibition, July 2006.

Roberto Clemente Memorabilia

Name: Roberto Clemente Walker.
Birth date: August 18, 1934.
Birthplace: Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Breakthrough: When in 1954 he was scooped up by the Pittsburgh Pirates for $4,000.

This Roberto Clemente biography is, of course, filled with spectacular baseball achievements.
Clemente was a star player, both with his bat and with his amazing defensive skills. But even more so, is about humanitarianism, about Clemente’s drive to help others and be a source of pride for his native Puerto Rico.

Statue of Roberto Clemente At Three Rivers Stadium.

Statue of Roberto Clemente
At Three Rivers Stadium
by Peterrieke.

This Roberto Clemente biography begins with his birth, as Roberto Clemente Walker in Carolina, Puerto Rico on August 18, 1934 to Luisa Walker and Melchor Clemente, who worked as a sugar crop foreman. Clemente was the youngest of seven children and he spent his childhood pitching in to help the family by working.

Any Roberto Clemente biography tells the story of a natural athlete. He triumphed in track and field, winning medals in the javelin throw and running. He also took an early interest in baseball and by the time he entered high school, he was recruited to play softball with the Sello Rojo team.

According to Bruce Markusen’s book “Roberto Clemente: The Great One,” Clemente wrote in his personal journal at the time: “I loved the game so much that even though our playing field was muddy and we had many trees on it, I used to play many hours every day.” He played shortstop with the team for two years before joining Puerto Rico’s amateur baseball league at age 16, playing for the Ferdinand Juncos team.

It wasn’t’t long before Clemente was offered a contract with the Santurce Crabbers of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League (LBPPR). He sat on the bench for the first season but for the second season he hit .288 in the leadoff spot.

Roberto Clemente Playing in Pittsburgh.

Roberto Clemente Playing in Pittsburgh.

 

The change in climate and culture was a bit of a shock for Clemente. But he adjusted thanks in part to one of his teammates, Joe Black, who spoke Spanish. Clemente spent most of his time with the team on their bench and in 1954 he was scooped up by the Pittsburgh Pirates for $4,000.

Starting His Career

He made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates the following April but he had a rocky start in Pittsburgh. Racial tensions between he and his teammates as well as local media frustrated Clemente, according to Paul Robert Walker, author of Pride of Puerto Rico: The Life of Roberto Clemente. “He was not only black. He was Puerto Rican,” Walker wrote. “Even on his own team, some of the players made fun of him and called him ‘nigger.’”

Newspapers talked about Roberto Clemente calling him a “Puerto Rican hot dog,” Walker wrote, and exaggerated his Spanish accent. “Me like hot weather, veree hot. I no run fast cold weather,” they wrote, according to Walker.

Clemente responded to this racism, Walker said, by declaring, “I don’t believe in color… I always respect everyone and thanks to God, my mother and my father taught me never to hate, never to dislike someone because of their color.”

The Roberto Clemente biography hit a bumpy part of the road at this point: he had to miss a chunk of his first season due to a back injury he sustained when a drunk driver hit his car. He also struggled at the plate, but managed to compile a .255 average for the season.

Clemente liked to play baseball in Puerto Rico during the winter season but in the winter of 1958-1959, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. He spent six months as an infantryman and gained a great deal of physical strength from the tough training regiment. He remained in the reserves until 1964.

The 1960 baseball season was written in the Roberto Clemente biography as a triumphant one for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Clemente himself who lead the way.

With a .314 average, 16 home runs and exemplary defensive play, Clemente earned a spot in his first All-Star game that season. That October, the Pirates also managed to fend off the New York Yankees and captured the World Series. Clemente hit .310 during the series.

Throughout it all, more and more baseball fans learned about Roberto Clemente and began to cheer him on. Clemente never shied away from meeting his fans and signing their baseballs and programs. Although many players would leave the stadium as soon as the game was over, he would stay for hours after a game, and the Roberto Clemente autograph became synonymous with humility and grace in baseball.

The following year, Clemente was selected as the starting right fielder for the National League in the All-Star game. He hit a triple in his first at-bat and scored the team’s first run. In the tenth inning, he hit a double that gave the team a 5-4 win.

Clemente put up huge numbers in the 1961 season: he lead the league with a .351 batting average and had 201 hits, including 23 home runs, 30 doubles and 10 triples. He drove in 89 runs and scored 100. He was also a star defensively: he led the league in runners thrown out, knocking out 27 runners that year. For his play in the field, he was awarded his first Gold Glove.

Following the season, Clemente traveled home to Puerto Rico with friend Orlando Cepeda, a fellow Puerto Rican who played for the San Francisco Giants and had lead the league that year in home runs and runs batted in. The pair received a hero’s welcome, with tens of thousands of fans greeting this dynamic baseball duo who hailed from “La Isla del Encanto,” the island of enchantment.

Clemente came home as often as he could and during the 1960s, Clemente was very involved in both managing and playing with the Senadores de San Juan of the LBPPR.

After 1961, Clemente went on to win a Gold Glove every year for the rest of the decade and was also selected to the All-Star team every year.

Throughout the 1960s, the Roberto Clemente biography talks about a disciplined and talented athlete who hit above .300 every year, except 1968 when he hit .291. He lead the National League in batting average three more times during the decade, in 1964, 1965 and 1967 and lead the league twice in hits (in 1964 and 1967).

In 1966, Clemente won the league’s Most Valuable Player award, after posting a .317 average, 29 home runs and 119 runs batted in (RBIs). The following season he hit a career high .357 with 23 home runs and 100 RBIs.

Roberto Clemente Allstar Exhibition, July 2006.

Roberto Clemente
Allstar Exhibition, July 2006
by Komra

The 1960s were also an important time in the Roberto Clemente biography for a more personal reason. On November 14, 1964, he married Vera Zabala in Carolina. The couple would go on to have three sons, Roberto Jr., Luis Roberto and Enrique Roberto.

On July 24, 1970, the home game in Pittsburgh took on a deep meaning for the Roberto Clemente biography: it was declared Roberto Clemente Night and the right-fielder was honored for his contributions to the game of baseball.

Any Roberto Clemente biography talks about this night as a very special one. Over in the right field stands, Clemente saw hundreds of pavas, the white straw hats worn by Puerto Rican sugar workers in the field. Officials from both Pittsburgh and Carolina were on hand, as was Clemente’s family, including his father, who, in ill health, had made his first airplane trip to be a part of the big event, which was being broadcast by satellite to Puerto Rico.

During the same night, Clemente was presented with a scroll containing the signatures of 300,000 Puerto Ricans—1 out of every 10 that lived on the island. Before the start of the game, and before the traditional playing of the Star Spangled Banner, players and fans stood for “La Borinqueña,” the Puerto Rican national anthem.

In 1970 Clemente compiled a .352 batting average and the following year he once again helped his team win the World Series, this time defeating the Baltimore Orioles. Roberto Clemente’s baseball skills shined throughout the series, as he hit .414, made important defensive plays and hit a home run in the 2-1 seventh game win that decided the series. Clemente walked away with the World Series Most Valuable Player award.

Clemente the Philanthropist

But the Roberto Clemente biography is not just about baseball accomplishments. Throughout his career, Clemente was a devoted philanthropist, often giving money to charities and helping out when he could.

When the Nicaraguan city of Managua was hit with a massive earthquake in December 1972, Clemente was concerned. He had been to the city only weeks before with a baseball team he was managing and he was worried about the people there.

Clemente arranged several relief flights but soon found out that the aid packages were being diverted by corrupt government officials and had never reached the victims. On the next flight, Clemente decided to accompany the relief himself, hoping that his presence would lead to food and medicine reaching its intended recipients. On New Year’s Eve, Clemente and several others boarded a plane for Nicaragua. The plane crashed soon after take-off, falling into the Atlantic Ocean and killing Clemente. His body was never recovered.

roberto-clemente-biography-3But the Roberto Clemente biography does not end with his death. Normally, a player cannot be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame until at least five years after they have stopped playing.

In March 1973, a special election was held for the Baseball Hall of Fame and Clemente was posthumously inducted. Clemente was the first player from Latin America to be inducted.

 

Roberto Clemente Jerseys

After achieving some much in baseball even after his death it is not surprising many baseball fans want to honor his name by wearing Roberto Clemente jerseys. They are also a symbol because of Clemente’s indelible mark not only in baseball but with his personal charities.

What else is impressive about the Roberto Clemente biography? The achievements of this Hispanic baseball player after his death. He was also posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1973 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. He was inducted into the U.S Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. An award was set up, the Roberto Clemente Award, and is given out each year to the baseball player who has followed Clemente’s example with humanitarian work.

In Puerto Rico, the coliseum in San Juan has been named after Clemente as well as a stadium in his hometown of Carolina.  In Pittsburgh, they renamed a bridge after him and the Pirates retired the number, 21, which was the number on Roberto Clemente’s jersey, at the start of the 1973 season.

Roberto Clemente schools —places named after the baseball star—have also popped up in places such as Allentown, Penn., and Chicago, Ill. Clemente had dreamed of starting a place in Puerto Rico where young people could play and read and learn skills they could use in life. Clemente’s widow helped create such a place, Sports City, and thousands of young people have taken part in programs there, including Major League baseball stars Bernie Williams, Juan Gonzalez and Iván Rodriguez.

The Roberto Clemente biography is one of astounding baseball statistics, love of the game and his native Puerto Rico, and a desire to help others. In this way, with his charity work and accomplishments, Roberto Clemente’s legend lives on and he continues to inspire not only Latinos, but people all over the world.

Roberto Clemente Bridge, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Roberto Clemente Bridge, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Picture by Sleestak66

 

Roberto Clemente Memorabilia

This Hispanic baseball player was not only a skilled player but a great humanitarian. Many baseball enthusiasts want to honor his name and remember his accomplishments by acquiring a piece of history through Roberto Clemente’s memorabilia. Most of the Clemente’s photos available in the market are not signed, and the ones that are can go for thousands of dollars. But to have a piece that honors this great Hispanic athlete there are also other items like the jerseys and posters. Here is a selection of excellent Roberto Clemente memorabilia that come with certificate of authenticity.

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