If you are a enthusiast of the Pittsburgh Pirates and ended up viewing them enjoy in the 1960s and 1970s then you may possibly not notice that this month marks the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of Buccos’ superstar and Baseball Hall of Fame member Roberto Clemente.
When I believe about 50 decades due to the fact that fateful day I’m in disbelief it’s been that extensive. It also will make me sense substantially more mature than my 63 several years of everyday living. For these that keep in mind that New Year’s Eve 1972, you in all probability bear in mind the specific second you learned that Clemente missing his everyday living in a plane crash. I recall precisely where by I was and who explained to me the unhappy information.
I was just waking up for the working day and a family member said to me, “did you hear about Roberto Clemente?” I stated no. Then the horrible text arrived out. “He was killed in a plane crash last night time.” My heart sank. My boyhood hero was absent. The entire metropolis of Pittsburgh went into mourning. You see, of all the athletes that played for a group in the Metal City, it was Roberto Clemente that has been the most beloved of all. Maybe only Willie Stargell could rival #21 but to this day, he is even now idolized in the ‘Burgh.
The silver lining in the darkish cloud of this event is that Clemente was nearing the close of his illustrious vocation and had realized a lot. He achieved the exceptional 3,000-hit club, hitting that mark ideal on the quantity and in no way going in excess of it. But an even greater accomplishment is almost certainly the reality that Roberto Clemente is regarded as by most experts to be the greatest defensive suitable fielder in the history of baseball and perhaps the very best with the glove and throwing arm of any outfielder.
One particular marvels over the throws produced by Roberto from right area, most of the time hitting household plate on the fly or one particular easy bounce. It was claimed he made use of to go to previous Forbes Industry on off days and practice throwing to the plate with his back again turned and using a deflection off the outfield wall but producing the throw devoid of looking so that in a serious sport he would be far better at throwing players out attempting to score and there would be no hesitation.
Yet another trick Clemente pulled with his robust arm what throwing guiding runners at initial foundation when they turned the corner on a single typically catching them off the bag and throwing them out. His arm was very powerful. But there was also the mystique driving the man, usually misjudged since of his silent nature and unwillingness to speak to the push overtly. His Puerto Rican accent also created him awkward but many thanks in component to the legendary Pittsburgh announcer Bob Prince who became a close friend of Roberto’s, Prince served Clemente in turning out to be more comfy. Prince was a different legend who I reserve to talk about in another posting.
If you know who Neil Walker is, then perhaps you never know the back again story about his father Tom. Tom Walker performed Major League Baseball and in 1972 was taking part in wintertime ball in Clemente’s hometown of Puerto Rico. When Roberto Clemente decided to constitution a plane to Nicaragua to assistance victims of an earthquake, Tom Walker advised Roberto he preferred to sign up for him on the journey. But with the plane entirely loaded and Clemente not wanting Walker to be with his family members on New Year’s Eve, he convinced Neil’s father to keep behind. The relaxation is historical past.
Experienced Tom Walker gotten on that aircraft, there would be no Neil Walker who would finish up playing component of his profession in Pittsburgh and turning into a very well-known participant. Both equally father and son are alive and nicely currently, Tom Walker is now 74. Neil Retired very last yr just after a vocation with six teams (Pirates, Mets, Brewers, Yankees, Marlins, Phillies).
Had Roberto Clemente not boarded that participate in on December 31, 1972, he in all probability would have performed a number of a lot more seasons with the Pirates and unquestionably even now manufactured the Corridor of Fame dependent on his profession and not just his job and passing. But with 18 many years on his history, Clemente finished with individuals 3,000 hits, a batting normal of an extraordinary .317, 240 property operates when he was not acknowledged as a lengthy ball hitter, 166 triples, 440 doubles, 1,416 runs scored, 1,305 RBIs, 83 stolen bases, and a Most Worthwhile Participant Award in 1966.
Clemente led the league in hits 2 times, triples at the time, and won the batting title 4 situations. He did not get injured normally and averaged 135 game titles a time for a profession total of 2,433 video games played. In the outfield, there was none other than Clemente. Sleek as silk, a cannon for an arm, precise further than belief, the man received the Gold Glove Award 12 periods in 18 seasons individuals 12 awards all coming in succession starting in 1961 to the working day he performed his final game.
On a personal stage, Roberto Clemente married Vera Zabala in 1964, and had he survived right until she died in 2019, they would have been married for 55 years. Vera was virtually as loved in Pittsburgh as was her spouse and she has been honored at Pirates online games the place I’m certain there weren’t lots of dry eyes at A few Rivers Stadium or PNC Park that day.
The couple had a few boys, Roberto Clemente Jr., Roberto Enrique, and Luis Roberto. In 2003, Vera Clemente accepted the President Medal of Freedom in Roberto’s identify, honored of class posthumously. Roberto Jr. Tried to abide by in his father’s footsteps into MLB but injuries ended that desire and he would finish up with a broadcasting occupation among other ventures. Now 57 yrs of age he and his wife celebrated the start of their first little one in 2018, a boy and to no surprise, named Roberto Clemente III.
Roberto’s youngest son, Roberto Enrique also attaches his mother’s maiden title to his so his full title is Roberto Enrique Clemente Zabala. Born on May perhaps 20, 1969, he way too played baseball but only to the age of 13. Even shyer than his father, Enrique wanted a tranquil private lifestyle as a result he didn’t experience baseball would provide that to him so he stopped participating in. Instead, he concentrated on becoming the finest male, husband, and father he could be. His career has been performing for production and labor companies and he remains dedicated to remaining out of the spotlight.
The boy in the center of Roberto Clemente’s a few sons is Luis Roberto who is now 56 many years outdated. He proven the “Clemente Legacy Program” which makes an attempt to teach students to turn into goodwill ambassadors in their respective communities. It is built up of amenities honored with the name of Roberto Clemente, colleges, and other programs.
Luis Clemente is also a motivational speaker. Luis and his spouse have ongoing the Clemente legacy with three sons of his own, Luis Jr., Robby, and Bobby. The live in Puerto Rico. As for Roberto’s speedy family members, his mothers and fathers ended up Melchor Clemente and Luisa Walker who signifies Roberto’s middle name. Roberto experienced 6 other brothers and sisters.
Roberto Clemente obtained his baseball start in Puerto Rico enjoying in leagues there ahead of signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1954. But he was a cost-free agent unprotected with his agreement and as the rest is history he signed with the Pirates never to play for yet another group. Pittsburgh is grateful for that.
So when December 31 rolls about this yr, Pirates supporters all over the place will be saddened on that day to know it marks 50 yrs due to the fact baseball lost a superstar and a Pittsburgh icon. In Main League Baseball an exertion stays intact to have Clemente’s jersey variety of 21 retired from all of baseball but in Pittsburgh, no other Pirate will ever wear that quantity once more.