Baseball: Roberto Clemente continued the legacy of Jackie Robinson

For almost 50 years, Roberto Clemente’s legacy has revolved around the last act of his life. When the plane he chartered to bring supplies to the victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua fell into the sea near the coast of his homeland, Puerto Rico, on New Year’s Eve in 1972, leaving no survivors, Clemente’s reputation as a great figure humanitarian became legend.

“Obviously, everyone knows what he did on the ground, but off the ground, the work he did to help people – not only in Puerto Rico, but in other Latin American countries – he was an incredible man,” said the receiver. Cardinals Puerto Rican Yadier Molina about Clemente. “You can learn from that.”

Clemente, the first Latin American player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, is also remembered as an incredibly talented player. During his 18-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the “Carolina Comet” won two World Series and 12 Gold Gloves in right field and was called up to 15 All-Star Games. The 1966 National League MVP was also the first Latin American player to have 3,000 hits in the Major Leagues. However, the numbers don’t capture the thrill of seeing Clemente sprinting the bases or his stunning shots from right field.

On Roberto Clemente Day, which coincides with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, we remember Clemente’s altruism and baseball exploits. But there is another part of the Puerto Rican legacy that deserves recognition today: The way he dealt with intolerance and racism during his career, so that others would not have to.

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Clemente came to the Major Leagues in 1955, eight years after Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player in the history of the American and National Leagues, and nine years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the United States. It seems appropriate that Clemente made his debut against Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers, as the Puerto Rican would continue the battle for racial equality within the sport.

As an Afro-Latino, Clemente was subject to Jim Crow laws, especially in Fort Myers in Florida, where the Pirates held their spring training. Like the other black players of his time, Clemente could not stay in the same hotels or dine with his white companions in restaurants. Segregation was something strange to Clemente, who had grown up in a much more integrated society in Puerto Rico.

“My mother and father never taught me to hate anyone, or to look down on anyone because of their race or color,” Clemente said on a television program in October 1972, in what is believed to be his last interview with the media. Americans. “We never talked about it.”

Weather in Guadalajara, Jalisco, today September 15, 2021


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