*Sleepless Theme #19 by destroyer.tumblr.com for sleeplessthemes.tumblr.com. Please don't remove credit! Please don't remove credit! Please don't remove credit! Please don't remove credit! Please don't remove credit! Please don't remove credit! */>
Happy birthday, Roberto Clemente!
Roberto Clemente Walker (August 18, 1934 – December 31, 1972) was a Puerto Rican professional baseball player. He was a Major League Baseball right fielder who played 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 through 1972. He was a National League, Most Valuable Player once, All-Star twelve times (15 games), batting champion four times, and Gold Glove winner twelve times. In 1972, Clemente got his 3,000th major league hit.
Clemente was involved in charity work in Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries during the off seasons, often delivering baseball equipment and food to those in need. He died in an aviation accident on December 31, 1972, while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Clemente was elected posthumously to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming the first Latin American to be enshrined. He was also one of only two Hall of Fame members for whom the mandatory five-year waiting period had been waived, the other being Lou Gehrig in 1939.
Clemente is the first Hispanic player to win a World Series as a starter (1960), to receive an MVP Award (1966), and to receive a World Series MVP Award (1971).
Roberto Clemente was born in Barrio San Anton, Puerto Rico, to Don Melchor Clemente and Luisa Walker, the youngest of seven siblings, with five brothers and one sister. During his childhood, his father worked as foreman of sugar crops located in the municipality. Because the family’s resources were limited, Clemente worked alongside his father in the same fields, loading and unloading trucks. Clemente showed interest in baseball early in life and often played against neighboring barrios. He attended Vizcarondo High School in Carolina. During his first year in high school, he was recruited by Roberto Marin to play softball with the Sello Rojo team after Marin saw Clemente playing baseball in Barrio San Anton. He was with the team two years as shortstop. Clemente joined Puerto Rico’s amateur league when he was 16 years old, playing for the Ferdinand Juncos team, which represented the municipality of Juncos.
On November 14, 1964, he married Vera Zabala at San Fernando Church in Carolina. The couple had three children: Roberto, Jr., Luis Roberto and Enrique Roberto.
Clemente’s professional career began when Pedrín Zorilla offered Clemente, 17, a contract which he signed on October 9, 1952 with the Cangrejeros de Santurce, a winter league team and franchise of the LBBPR. He was a bench player during his first campaign but was promoted to the Santurce Cangrejeros (“Crabbers”) starting lineup the following season. During this season he hit .288 as the Crabbers leadoff hitter. While Clemente was playing in the LBBPR, the Brooklyn Dodgers offered him a contract with the team’s Triple-A subsidiary.
Clemente moved to Montreal to play with the Montreal Royals after signing with the Dodgers on February 19, 1954. The climate and language differences affected him early on, but he received the assistance of his teammate Joe Black, who was able to speak Spanish. Clyde Sukeforth, a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates, noticed that Clemente was being used as a bench player for the Royals and discussed the possibility of drafting Clemente to the Pittsburgh Pirates with the team’s manager, Max Macon. Clemente hit .257 in 87 games that summer. The Pirates selected Clemente as the first selection of the rookie draft that took place on November 22, 1954.
Clemente spent much of his time during the off-season involved in charity work. When Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, was affected by a massive earthquake on Saturday December 23, 1972, Clemente (who had been visiting Managua three weeks before the quake) immediately set to work arranging emergency relief flights. He soon learned, however, that the aid packages on the first three flights had been diverted by corrupt officials of the Somoza government, never reaching victims of the quake.
Clemente decided to accompany the fourth relief flight, hoping that his presence would ensure that the aid would be delivered to the survivors. The airplane he chartered for a New Year’s Eve flight, a Douglas DC-7, had a history of mechanical problems and sub-par flight personnel, and it was overloaded by 4,200 pounds. It crashed into the ocean off the coast of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico immediately after takeoff on Sunday December 31, 1972. A few days after the crash, the body of the pilot and part of the fuselage of the plane were found. An empty flight case apparently belonging to Clemente was the only personal item recovered from the plane. Clemente’s teammate and close friend Manny Sanguillén was the only member of the Pirates not to attend Roberto’s memorial service. The Pirates catcher chose instead to dive into the waters where Clemente’s plane had crashed in an effort to find his teammate. Clemente’s body was never recovered. Tom Walker, former MLB pitcher (1972-1977), helped Clemente load the plane and because of the plane’s weight load, Clemente told him not to go with him on the flight. Walker’s son is Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman, Neil Walker.
In an interview for the ESPN documentary series SportsCentury in 2002, Clemente’s widow Vera Clemente mentioned that Clemente had told her several times that he thought he was going to die young. Indeed, while being asked by a reporter about when he would get his 3,000th career hit in July 1971, Clemente’s response was “Well, uh, you never know. I, I, uh, if I’m alive, like I said before, you never know because God tells you how long you’re going to be here. So you never know what can happen tomorrow.” Clemente’s older step brother, Luis, died on December 31, 1954 and his step sister a few years later.
At the time of his death, Clemente had established several records with the Pirates, including most triples in a game (three) and hits in two consecutive games (ten). Clemente also tied the record for most Gold Glove Awards won among outfielders with twelve, which he shares with Willie Mays. He also is the only player to have hit a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam. He accomplished this historic baseball-event on July 25, 1956 in a 9–8 Pittsburgh win against the Chicago Cubs, at Forbes Field. In addition, he was one of four players to have ten or more Gold Gloves and a lifetime batting average of .317.
On March 30, (1973), the Baseball Writers’ Association of America held a special election for the Baseball Hall of Fame. They voted to waive the waiting period for Clemente, due to the circumstances of his death, and posthumously elected him for induction into the Hall of Fame, giving him 393 of the 420 available votes, or 92% of the vote. Clemente’s Hall of Fame plaque had originally read “Roberto Walker Clemente”. In 2000, the plaque was recast to express his name in the proper Hispanic format, “Roberto Clemente Walker”.
Beginning in 1973 (1971), MLB presents the Roberto Clemente Award (named Commissioner’s Award, 1971 & 1972) every year to a player with outstanding baseball playing skills who is personally involved in community work. A trophy and a donation check for a charity of the player’s choice is presented annually at the World Series. A panel of three makes the final determination of the award recipient from an annual list of selected players.