We couldn't have a week devoted to the Pirates without a post about arguably the greatest Pirate of them all, Roberto Clemente. We've had posts about Roberto before because, well, how can you talk about baseball and not talk about him? Impossible. Since our last Clemente post we've taken some time to read David Maraniss' excellent biography on Roberto called Clemente, and we encourage you to do the same.
We loved some of the Clemente comments that have been posted on our facebook page recently so we've posted a few here. Please take a few minutes to read these comments, the facts below and to watch the video. Every baseball fan should learn a little more about the man who was a hero in every sense of the word.
Roberto Clemente was born on August 18, 1934 in Carolina, a city in northeast Puerto Rico. If you are even the slightest fan of baseball you probably know that Clemente was not only one of the greatest players of all time, but also one of the greatest humanitarians to ever play the game.
On the baseball side of things, Roberto was known equally for his hitting and fielding skills. He got his start with the Pirates in 1955 and remained with the team until his untimely death in 1972. Here are just a few of his accomplishments:
Member of the 1960 and 1971 World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates
1961 - 1st Latin American player to win the National League batting title
1966 National League MVP
Played in 12 All Star games
Won 12 Gold Gloves for his play in right field
Led the National League in outfield assists five times
Collected his 3,000 hit on the final day of the 1972 regular season (his last season)
In addition to all of his on field accomplishments, Clemente achieved just as much off the field. Throughout his career he continued to go back to Puerto Rico in the off season to play winter baseball. He felt an obligation to the people there and it was important to him that young kids had someone to look up to.
"A country without idols is nothing. I send out 20,000 autographed pictures a year to the kids. I feel proud when a kid asks me for my autograph. I believe we owe something to the people who watch us. They work hard for their money."
On December 23, 1972 a horrendous earthquake shook Nicaragua. Clemente quickly orgainized a Puerto Rican relief effort and named himself as Chairman. He organized all the fund raising, including going door to door himself asking for contributions. When Roberto got word that the first shipments to arrive in Nicaragua ended up in the hands of a corrupt few, he decided that he would bring the next round himself. On December 31st the plane carrying Clemente and the relief supplies crashed into the Atlantic Ocean a few miles off of the San Juan shore. No bodies were ever recovered.
In March of 1973 the Baseball Writers Association of America waived the five year waiting period and gave Clemente immediate induction into the Hall of Fame. Also in 1973, Major League Baseball renamed the Commissioner's Award the Roberto Clemente Award. This annual award is given to the player who truly understands the value of helping others.
Watch this great clip to see the legend in action and to hear some interesting anecdotes about his career.