“He gave the term “complete” a new meaning. He made the word “superstar” seem inadequate. He had about him the touch of royalty. ” This was a quote stated by former commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bowie Kuhn while speaking during Roberto Clemente’s eulogy. When baseball season came around in seventh grade, my coach of the Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School team, Fabrizo Morejon, explained that he wore the number 21 in honor of his childhood hero Roberto Clemente. He seemed such an advocate of this man that it gave me a strong motive to research and to find out who this man really was.
When I began to read all about him, I found that his career was not just filled with spectacular baseball achievements, but even more so was all about humanitarianism, and about Clemente’s drive to help others and be a source of pride for his native country. This is something that you don’t see to often today. In a day where baseball players today make tens of million dollars annually and are virtually superstars wherever they go many players cannot be bothered with the well being of others. This instantly became a favorite hero of mine.
This speech will take you through the early life and beginning struggles of his career, through his success in the major leagues, ending with his tragic death and legacy left on the world. So lets go way back, back to the 1930’s in Puerto Rico where Roberto was born. I. Early life, Getting drafted, Struggles in the majors A. From the beginning always close to his family 1. Formally Roberto Walker Clemente was born on August 18th, 1934 CLICK in a small town located in Carolina in the north east portion of Puerto Rico 2.
Roberto was the youngest of seven children born to Luisa Walker and Melchor Clemente 3. His family was very poor growing up so Roberto happily spent his childhood working part time jobs pitching into the family well being B. Growing up 1. Roberto was a natural athlete from the time he emerged on the scene in his high school years a. Was a four sport varsity athlete playing football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball and track and field in the spring b. Because Roberto was so good at track and field they let him just ome to the matches because practices interfered with his baseball schedule, which always came first 2. Coming directly from Roberto’s journal from high school “I loved the game (baseball that being) so much that even though our playing field was muddy and we had many trees on it, I used to play many hours every day”, this showed how much Roberto truly loved playing the game C. It wasn’t long before Roberto’s exceptional and “superstarish” play wasn’t noticed 1. In 1954 Roberto was signed by the Pittsburg Pirates for 4,000 dollars 2.
Moving to America was a major culture shock and change for Roberto a. Racial tensions existed between he and his teammates as well as between he and the local media and this really frustrated Roberto and made it tough to concentrate on baseball b. Clemente responded to the racism he faced by declaring this postgame response “I don’t believe in color…I always respect everyone and thanks to God, my mother and my father taught me never to hate, never to dislike someone because of their color”, this really shows his true care and respect for the nature of people in general c.
Teammate Joe Black was the most import to his assimilation into American society, being the only other player to speak Spanish D. His career had a really rough beginning 1. His first season was cut short because he got into a drunk driving accident hurting his back, hitting a measly . 225 even when healthy 2. After the shaky start to his career Roberto decided to go through marine camp and become a reserve in order to get into a stronger better condition as a player Going into the marines and committing himself to baseball once again took his career for a turn for the better II. Successes
A. Roberto Clemente made a strong comeback after his abysmal start to his career in his first season 1. CLICK By the start of his second season, Roberto was hitting leadoff for the Pirates playing the entire season, hitting . 314, a very respectable average 2. Helped the Pirates win a world series vs. the New York Yankees (I know it hurts to say) 3. He went to his first all star game that same season B. During the middle of his career, Roberto got married 1. On November 14th, 1964 Roberto Clemente got married to Vera Zabala back in his hometown of Carolina, of course in Puerto Rico 2.
He had three children with Vera Zabala named Roberto Jr. , Luis Roberto, and Enrique Roberto C. From the time that Roberto turned his around his career he was a very consistent and productive player 1. After 1961, which was his breakout season talked about earlier, Clemente went on to win a Gold Glove and was an all star team starter, every season for the next decade, VERY CONSISTANT 2. In 1966 he won the most prestigious award in the MLB, which is the Most Valuable Player award 3.
Ended his career with exactly 3000 career hits, being only the tenth player ever to do that at the time a. Many of you know this man CLICK who just got 3000 hits CLICK and was king of New York for a few days b. However, Clemente got to this feat playing in fewer games than Derek Jeter However, sometimes in life it seems that bad things just happen to the good people III. Death and Legacy A. Roberto’s life came to a tragic end, in a truly charitable way, just the way that I’m sure he would have wanted it to happen 1.
When the city of Managua in Nicaragua was hit with a massive earthquake, Roberto, not even a native of that country was the first to step up and help 2. Because there were numerous rumors that the relief effort materials were being diverted by government officials, Roberto wanted to fly there himself and make sure they got the materials themselves 3. New years eve, 1972, Roberto got in a plane in attempt to personally deliver the relief materials himself, CLICK however the plane crashed just after take off killing Roberto and everyone else on board
B. Today Roberto is still remembered in many different ways 1. In Pittsburgh, the major bridge leading near the stadium is named after him CLICK, along with the right field wall in the new stadium is 21 feet high CLICK and nobody is allowed to wear the number 21 in a pirates uniform in honor of Clemente 2. The MLB made an award in his name, which is an annual award given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team” CLICK
So even though Roberto has been gone for over 35 years the Major Leagues remember him every year for his qualities not just on the field but off as well, not something that can be said by to many players I hope that through this presentation, going from the beginnings of Roberto’s life through the ups and the downs of his career and finally ending with his heroic death and legacy, everyone got a real feel for who this man really is. I did not want to stand up here and you guys think that I was just talking about some baseball player who had really good stats and hit a lot of homeruns.
Because that’s not the case with this man, at all. The life of Roberto Clemente is one consisting of outrageous baseball statistics CLICK, a profound love of the game, and a desire to help others. With all of his charity work and accomplishments Roberto Clemente’s legend lives on and he continues to inspire not only Latinos, but people all over the world. To leave you all with one quote from Roberto that truly just exemplified his personality, “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. CLICK
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