Clemente, Roberto Walker (1934-1972), Puerto Rican professional baseball player,the first Hispanic player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (1973) and the secondplayer to be honored on a United States postage stamp.Roberto Clemente Walker was born in Barrio San Anton in Carolina, PuertoRico, August 18, 1934. The youngest of four children, Roberto excelled in track andfield, winning medals in the javelin throw and short distance races. However, hisreal love was baseball. He played amateur baseball with Juncos Double A Club andsoon went on to play with the Santurce Crabbers in the Puerto Rican WinterLeague.
From Santurce he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and was assigned toplay for their top affiliate, the Montreal Royals.In 1954, the Pittsburgh Pirates obtained Roberto with the # 1 pick of thedraft, which was awarded to the Pirates. Clemente joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in1955, where he played his entire eighteen year Major League Baseball career from1955 to 1972. Roberto played in two World Series, batting .310 in 1960 and .414 in1971.
He was the National League Batting Champion four times, was awardedtwelve Gold Gloves, selected National League MVP in 1966 and was chosen as theMVP in the 1971 World Series. On November 14, 1964, he married Vera CristinaZabala in Carolina, Puerto Rico. They had three sons: Roberto Jr.
, Luis Robertoand Roberto Enrique. Proud of his heritage Roberto insisted that Vera give birth toall three sons in Puerto Rico. The boys were six, five and two, respectively, whentheir father met his untimely death. New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1997 marked the 25th Anniversary of a tragic planecrash. The plane was taking medical, food and clothing supplies to earthquakestricken Nicaragua. Vera and friends begged him not to take the trip (poor weatherand an unstable cargo plane) but Roberto was determined. He was infuriated thatthe previous supplies had not made it to the victims.
Roberto was going to personallysee to it that the victims received the much needed supplies. Unfortunately, the planewent down off the coast of Puerto Rico. Roberto’s body was never found. Justmonths after Roberto joined an elite group of players with 3,000 hits, he was gone.December 31, 2001 will mark the 30th Anniversary since his unforunatedeath and still today Roberto is remembered as one of the greatest athletes andhumanitarians of all time. One of Roberto’s dreams, the Roberto Clemente SportsCity, is one part of the legacy he left behind.
Visitors to Carolina, Puerto Rico aregreeted by a twelve foot statue as they enter into a 304 acre sports complex. RobertoClemente’s legacy is continued by his wife Vera, Luis Roberto and Roberto Enrique,who have been instrumental in continuing Roberto’s Dream.