Roberto Clemente Birthday and Biography: Remembering Hall of Famer Pioneer, Humanitarian, Puerto Rican Great

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This article by Damon Salvadore appeared in The Latin Post.

The year was 1972.

On Dec. 23, an enormous earthquake had just rocked the capital city of Managua, located in Western Nicaragua. More than 5,000 people lost their lives, while 250,000 lost their homes in the process.

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente immediately became aware of the terrible situation in Nicaragua. He had spent many of his previous offseasons donating time to various Latin American communities, especially to his native land of Puerto Rico. Just one month before the devastating earthquake, Clemente contributed his time by visiting Managua.

Although it was New Year’s Eve, Clemente decided to visit Nicaragua again and bring first aid along with him for earthquake victims. Unfortunately, the aircraft (DC-7) he rented was in terrible condition and had a history of accidents and mechanical malfunctions, which Clemente was not fully aware of. Regardless, Clemente and his pilot set out for flight on Dec. 31 from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.

In a terrifying accident, the aircraft crashed into the Atlantic Ocean just over a mile from land, resulting in instant fatalities. Clemente was just 38 years old, and his body was never found.

It was reported soon afterwards that the chief reason Clemente was going was because many people suspected that previous first aid materials never made it to the victims, instead ending up in corrupt hands.

Clemente grew up played baseball in Puerto Rico at a young age. His talents on the field were immediately noticed. As a teenager, Clemente would spend time in various baseball leagues throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and even Canada. In 1954, Clemente’s wish of playing in the big leagues came true, as the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him that year at the age of 20.

In Major League Baseball, Clemente (still to this day) is considered one of the best ever.

Over the course of his memorable 18 year career, Clemente batted .317 while hitting 240 home runs. His greatest statistical achievement was gathering 3,000 career hits. At the time, he was just the 11th player ever to reach that plateau. Clemente recorded his iconic 3,000th hit in his final regular season game of his career, in 1972.

He is regarded as one of — if not the — best players of the ’60s.

Outside of eye-popping numbers and statistics, Clemente’s baseball career was filled with clutch moments. His greatest moment on the baseball diamond came in the 1971 World Series. The 37-year-old Clemente was battling injuries, and his career wasn’t going to last much longer. He put together a terrific World Series performance against the Baltimore Orioles. In that series, he hit the go-ahead home run in Game 7 and was named the World Series Most Valuable Player. Clemente is the first Latino-born player to win the World Series MVP.

In 1966, Clemente would win the National League MVP, becoming the first-ever Latino born player to do so as well. Clemente also holds the distinction of being the only player in Major League history to have hit a walk off inside the park grand slam.

Clemente finished his career with 15 All-Star Appearances, 12 Gold Gloves, 3,000 hits, Two World Series titles and a Hall of Fame induction in 1973.

Throughout his playing career, Clemente always made a point to donate his time to charity. He also joined the Marines for a period during his playing time. In 1972, Clemente may have batted .312 and had 118 hits, but his off-the-field performances were more heroic than on the field. That year, he teamed up with Eastern Airlines in efforts to improve conditions in various Latin American territories. In the process, he also wanted to help increase the awareness of Puerto Rican talent in the United States with video producers.

Just one year after his tragic death, Major League Baseball came up with the Robert Clemente Award. The trophy is awarded annually to the player who shows great talent and sportsmanship on the field with great community work of it. Clemente has also received the two highest civilian awards a person can get in the United States: the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Clemente will always be remembered as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He will be known as the guy who brought Pittsburgh fans two World Series titles. But in the process, his charitable work off the field had a bigger impact, especially in and to the Latin American community.

”Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.”

-Roberto Clemente

For the original report go to http://www.latinpost.com/articles/19450/20140818/remembering-hall-fame-pioneer-humanitarian-puerto-rican-great-roberto-clemente-pittsburgh-pirates.htm

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