Roberto Clemente: Why a baseball star is being remembered during Hispanic Heritage month

The Puerto Rican player won numerous awards in a stellar career with a Google Doodle also marking his humanitarian efforts

Chris Stevenson
Friday 12 October 2018 16:57
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Roberto Clemente is known as one of the greatest players in of Major League Baseball (MLB) - the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be enshrined in the hall of fame.

But in honouring Clemente with a Doodle, Google is also pointing to the Puerto Rican’s humanitarian efforts for his community and beyond to mark Hispanic Heritage month in the US.

The son of a sugar can worker was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico on 18 August 1934, the young Clemente showed plenty of athletic promise and joined the Puerto Rican amateur baseball league at the age of 16. By 18 he had joined the Santurce Cangrejeros (Crabbers) in the island’s baseball league.

Signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league affiliate in Montreal soon after graduating high school in 1954, Clemente hit a game-winning home run on his first appearance at the plate.

He made his major league debut the next year - for the Pittsburgh Pirates - and started a career that would be littered with awards. He won 12 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, given to the best player in each fielding position, as well as four National League batting titles and 3,000 career hits.

Clemente also received the 1966 National League Most Valuable Player award, as well as two World Series rings and the 1971 World Series MVP award.

Clemente spent much of his off-season delivering food and supplies to those in need across Latin America and the Caribbean. This is as well as running baseball clinics, and generally looking to be a role model for his community to look up to.

This work would eventually lead to tragedy in the wake of a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Nicaragua on 23 December 1972.

Deciding to personally escort a plane packed with supplies to ensure that they reached those in need, Clemente was killed on 31 December when the plane crashed shortly after take-off.

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On March 20, 1973, Clemente was inducted into the Major League Baseball (MLB) hall of fame, after the league waived its waiting period. He received 393 out of 420 available votes.

The MLB has honoured his legacy since then by presenting the Roberto Clemente Award each year to an outstanding player who shows a strong commitment to community work.

Other posthumous awards Clemente has received include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Presidential Citizens Medal. Puerto Rico’s professional baseball league was also later renamed the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente.

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