p> Roberto Clemente’s biography must encompass and display his universal reputation in baseball circles as “The Great One.” He is widely considered the best throwing outfielder in the history of baseball. Roberto Clemente was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He grew up playing against other teams in his village and demonstrated exceptional baseball ability at a very young age. He played on the local amateur team as a shortstop at age 16.
Roberto Clemente joined the Pittsburg Pirates in 1954. Experiencing racial tensions from a variety of sources within baseball and also struggling at the plate, Clemente struggled during his rookie campaign. However, even by this point, Clemente had already opened eyes in terms of his defensive prowess.
By 1961, Roberto Clemente had cemented himself as a starter, making the league’s All-Star team as the starting right fielder. In 1964, Clemente married Vera Zabula from his hometown of Carolina. The wedding was a semi-worship fest by his fellow villagers, as thousands flocked to the church of San Fernando. Later in his offseason, Clemente experienced back problems after crashing into a cement wall trying to catch a fly-ball in a winter league game. Players and coaches had to carry him off the field after this display of passion and intensity.
Roberto Clemente won his only MVP of his career in 1966, hitting .317, with 29 HR and 119 RBI. Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers, the best pitcher in the league during this decade, stated the following regarding Clemente: “He’s the strangest hitter in baseball, figure him one way and he’ll kill you another.”
Clemente would win two World Series with the Pirates during his illustrious career. In the 1971 World Series, he would bat a scorching .414 as Pittsburg vanquished the favored Baltimore Orioles and their vaunted pitching staff led by the great Jim Palmer. In game six of this series, Frank Robinson, the Orioles slugger, launched a deep fly ball to right field. Clemente chased down the fly and further showcased his legend by firing a 300-foot laser to keep the Orioles Merv Rettemund at third base.
In 1972, Clemente would perish while continuing to display his acts of charity to his native homeland. Nicaragua had been hit with a horrible earthquake. Clemente was on his way to deliver food and other supplies to the people of Nicaragua. Mechanically impaired and overloaded, the DC-7 free-fell into the Caribbean. His body was never recovere even though one distraught teammate from the Pirates, who didn’t attend Clemente’s funeral, physically dove into the Caribbean looking for it.
Roberto Clemente was the first ever Latino baseball player elected to the Hall of Fame, gaining the honor in absence in 1973. Whether tearing around the bases at break neck speed, lining balls down the 1B line, or famous rockets from the depths of the outfield, Roberto Clemente has been, is, and will always be remembered for his unparalleled love of the game of baseball, and his undying desire to assist his fellow man.