Who was Roberto Clemente?
In my eyes he was the greatest right fielder ever to play the game of baseball. Some people may disagree with me, but of course I might be a little biased because I’m a Pittsburgh Pirate fan.
I had the good fortune of watching this man play the game. When I was a youngster my dad and I would go to Forbes field and sit in right field just to watch him play. Well that’s what I thought – maybe we sat in right field because the seats were cheaper.
At any rate Roberto Clemente became my baseball idol as I was growing up. I can remember how graceful he was, when a high fly ball game to right field, he would move under it and hold his glove around his waist open it up and the ball would just drop in.
He also had a fierce throwing arm; Roberto Clemente’s arm was so powerful that not too many players would attempt trying to make it to home plate from 2nd base if the ball was hit to right field. He could throw almost a perfect strike or at least a one hopper to home plate from right field. You don’t have to take my word for this, as his record speaks for itself, Roberto Clemente holds the record in the Major League with 260 assists from right field.
Born in Puerto Rico, Roberto was the youngest of seven children. As a young boy he worked with his dad in the sugar cane fields, and developed a passion for baseball at an early age. He played baseball in high school and at age 18 was offered a contract to play in the winter league in Puerto Rico.
His first game with the Pittsburgh Pirates was on April 17, 1955. It was a tough road back in those days due to racial tension in the league, but as the years went by Roberto and everybody else got through it.
Roberto Clemente had a successful career as he was a National League All-Star for twelve seasons, one season as most valuable player, Golden Clove winner for twelve seasons, and NL batting champion for four seasons.
He spent the off seasons playing in the winter league in Puerto Rico, along with donating time and money to charity, he was a great humanitarian. He died in a plane crash on December 31, 1972 delivering supplies the earth quake stricken Nicaragua. I was a teenager by then and he was still my idol. I will never forget hearing this news on New Years Day.
Interesting Fact of Fate:
On December 31st, 1972 teammate Tom Walker helped Roberto Clemente load the airplane that would later crash. Clemente talked Walker out of boarding the airplane, knowing that the plane was overloaded. As fate would have Tom Walker’s son born in 1985, (Neil Walker). At the time of this writing Neil is the current 2nd baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Read the story of Roberto’s life written by his family:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR. SAM MONACO