”Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” These are the words that Roberto Clemente lived by. Whenever he had an opportunity to help the community, Clemente, or Sweetness as he was nicknamed, jumped at the chance. Flying home to Puerto Rico on regular occasions to give back to his home, Sweetness also shined as a hero in Pittsburgh.
Mr. Clemente joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955 and played until 1972. With statistics such as 15x All star, 12x Gold glove, 1966 NL MVP, 1971 World Series MVP, and 2x World Series Champion, Clemente not only broke barriers for Latin American players, but he showed the world his heart through humanitarian causes.
On the last day of the 1972 regular season, Roberto and the Pirates were waiting eagerly to enter the playoffs to achieve another World Series, but destiny called that day. Facing Jon Matlack with a 2.32 ERA, Roberto stepped to the plate in the fourth inning with one goal on his mind. Seconds later, he lifted a fastball into left to enter one of the most prestigious clubs in baseball, the 3,000th hit club. That was his last regular season at-bat.
On December 23, 1972, Managua, Nicaragua was affected by a massive earthquake which devastated the area. Clemente paid for three planes to deliver goods and medical equipment to the area to help, but it was stolen by corrupt officials. When finding this out, Roberto accompanied the fourth flight filled with emergency relief. The plane crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico and Roberto Clemente’s body was never found.
On the first day of baseball in 1973, the Pirates retired Clemente’s #21 and MLB waived the customary 5 year period for induction and voted Roberto in the hall of fame. The Commissioner’s award, given to those who show remarkable sportsmanship on and off the field, was quickly changed to the Roberto Clemente award. From Willie Mays to Clayton Kershaw, these players continue to mold after Sweetness by helping those all over while representing America’s pastime.
Roberto Clemente is remembered by every baseball fan as the martyr of baseball.