Roberto Clemente : biography
Roberto Clemente Walker (August 18, 1934 – December 31, 1972) was a Puerto Rican baseball right fielder who played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 through 1972. Clemente was awarded the National League (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award in 1966. He was a National League All-Star for twelve seasons (15 games), received 12 Gold Glove Awards, and led the National League in batting average four times. In 1972, Clemente got his 3,000th major league hit.
Off the field, Clemente was involved in charity work in Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries, 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 to the National Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 1973, becoming the first Latin American to be selected and one of only two Hall of Fame members for whom the mandatory five-year waiting period had been waived, the other being Lou Gehrig. Clemente is the first Hispanic player to win a World Series as a starter (1960), receive an MVP Award (1966), and receive a World Series MVP Award (1971).
Clemente’s professional career began when Pedrín Zorilla offered him a contract with the Santurce Crabbers of the LBBPR. He was a bench player during his first campaign, but was promoted to the team’s starting lineup the following season. During this season he hit .288 as the team’s leadoff hitter. While Clemente was playing in the LBBPR, the Brooklyn Dodgers offered him a contract with the team’s Triple-A subsidiary. He then moved to Montreal to play with the Montreal Royals. The climate and language differences affected Clemente early on, but he received the assistance of his teammate Joe Black, who was able to speak Spanish. In 1954, Clyde Sukeforth, a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates, noticed that Clemente was being used as a bench player for the team and discussed the possibility of drafting Clemente to the Pirates with the team’s manager, Max Macon. The Pirates selected Clemente as the first selection of the rookie draft that took place on November 22, 1954.
Clemente debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 17, 1955 in the first game of a double header against the Brooklyn Dodgers. At the beginning of his time with the Pirates, he experienced frustration because of racial tension with the local media and some teammates. Clemente responded to this by stating, "I don’t believe in color". He noted that, during his upbringing, he was taught to never discriminate against someone based on ethnicity. Clemente was at a double disadvantage at both being a Latino who knew very little English as well as being a black Latino; the Pirates themselves only became the fifth team in the National League and ninth in the majors to break the baseball color line the year before when Curt Roberts debuted with the team, a full seven years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line with the Dodgers.SportsCentury: Roberto Clemente Upon arriving in Pittsburgh, Roberts would befriend Clemente and help him adjust to life in the majors, as well as to get used to life in Pittsburgh.
During the middle of the season, Clemente was involved in a car accident; this caused him to miss several games with an injury in his lower back. He finished his rookie season with an average of .255, despite confronting trouble hitting certain types of pitches. His defensive skills, however, were highlighted during this season.
During the off season, Clemente played with the Santurce Crabbers in the Puerto Rican baseball winter league, where he was already considered a star. The Pirates experienced several difficult seasons through the 1950s, although they did manage a winning season in 1958, their first since 1948. During the winter season of 1958–59, Clemente didn’t play winter baseball in Puerto Rico; instead, he joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He spent his six-month active duty commitment at Parris Island, South Carolina, Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. At Parris Island, Clemente received his basic training with Platoon 346 of the 3rd Recruit Battalion."Clemente, The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero"; By: David Maraniss; p. 88; Simon & Schuster; ISBN 978-0-7432-1781-1 The rigorous training programs helped Clemente physically; he added strength by gaining ten pounds and said his back troubles had disappeared. He was a Private First Class in the Marine Corps Reserve until September 1964.