Roberto Clemente is a Hall of Famer but he was an even better person off the field than on.
Born in Puerto Rico in 1934, Clemente was one of the first Latin-American players in the league. Signed in 1954 by the Brooklyn Dodgers he was drafted in the under the Rule 5 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates later that year.
Clemente spent his entire 18-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and led them to World Series victory in 1960 and again in 1971 where he was named the series MVP.
He was one of the greatest of the greats. He could field winning 12 straight Gold Gloves from 1961-1972. He could hit. In the final game of his career Clemente collected his 3,000th career hit. He was named MVP of the National League in 1966.
Off the field Clemente was a humanitarian. He collected food, baseball equipment or whatever was needed and personally delivered most of the supplies himself to other, usually suffering countries.
His life and his career were cut short after the 1972 season. There had been an earthquake in Clemente’s home country, Puerto Rico. He was on a plane carrying relief supplies to help the survivors of the disaster. There was a plane crash and Clemente was buried at sea on December 31, 1972.
He was 38-years old and his playing career would have continued. Who knows what heights he could have reached both on and off the field? Being the best in baseball yet also one of the best human beings, it is tragic that he was lost to the world too soon. It is also sadly beautiful that he got that 3,000th hit in his final game.
Celmente’s story is both inspiring and yet so very sad but a man like Clemente should always be remembered. He was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by special election in 1973 where he is immortalized.
Clemente would have turned 80 years old today. So I hope everyone will take a moment to remember – or learn about – a great man and a great baseball player! Happy Birthday Roberto! We miss you!