Every once in the while, an athlete dies before he is done building on the positive legacy they have worked a lifetime to achieve. Roberto Clemente was taken away from his family, the game of baseball, and the millions he reached out to before his time should have been up. Few athletes cared about kids, about the human race, or world affairs like Clemente did. Major League Baseball should pray for someone with this kind of attitude and natural ability to come along. Let it be said, let it be written… There will only ever be one Roberto Clemente.
Roberto Clemente was born in Puerto Rico in 1934. He grew up playing baseball and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954. Clemente played 18 seasons, all with Pittsburgh. He was a 12-time All-Star selection and won The MVP in 1966. He also won 12 golden gloves and won the NL batting title four times. He was named the 1971 World Series MVP. I can go on-and-on about his onfield accomplishments but the other side of Roberto Clemente needs discussed.
Clemente was very active in his charity work for Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries. He often financed trips out of the money he made to provide baseball equipment and food to areas in need. On December 31, 1972, the plane Clemente was traveling to Nicaragua in to provide food to earthquake victims crashed and Clemente was pronounced dead. His body was never recovered. In 1973, the Hall of Fame voted Clemente in posthumously, meaning the mandatory 5-year waiting period was waived. To this day, Clemente is the only baseball player who did not have to wait five years to get in. He was also the first Latin American elected to the Hall of Fame.
In his honor, Major League Baseball annually presents the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who is a great humanitarian. He was also inducted into the Marine Corps Hall of Fame.
The right field wall at PNC Park is 21′ high in tribute to Clemente.
Few athletes in our time would have cared less about their next commercial or endorsement. Few would have been courageous enough to get into a small plane for 16 hour rides to pass out food and supplies they paid for. Thanks for the memories Roberto Clemente, there will never be another like you.