Roberto Clemente Walker was born on August 18, 1934, in Barrio San Anton, Carolina, Puerto Rico. He was the youngest of seven children. His father was a foreman who oversaw sugarcane cutters and helped deliver sand and gravel for a construction company. His mother did laundry, ran a grocery store, and did other jobs on the sugarcane plantation. Roberto did odd jobs so he could help the family and buy himself a bicycle. Growing up, Roberto played baseball and participated in track and field. He won medals for the javelin throw and short distance races. Throwing the javelin strengthened his arm for throwing a baseball.
At age 18, Roberto joined a Puerto Rican professional baseball team, the Cangrejeros de Santurce, where he played with Willie Mays in 1954. That year, Santurce won the Caribbean World Series. Roberto was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. He played on a minor league team for a season before being chosen in the draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Roberto quickly made a major impact in both the Pirates and Major League Baseball. He played outfield with the Pirates from 1955 to 1972. He was selected for the National League All-Star team 15 times, won 12 Gold Glove Awards, and won four National League batting titles. He was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1966 and the World Series Most Valuable Player in 1971. His career batting average was .317 with 3,000 hits, 240 home runs, and 1,305 RBIs.
Roberto Clemente Rookie Card
Roberto was known for his humanitarian efforts. He helped people in need across the United States and Central America and held free baseball clinics for children in Puerto Rico. In 1972, an earthquake struck Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Roberto had managed a Puerto Rican all-star team in Managua, and he had friends there. He became the honorary chairman of an earthquake relief committee that raised $150,000 and gathered nearly 26 tons of relief supplies. Tragically, on New Year's Eve, he died when the plane he was on to deliver the supplies crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
Major League Baseball Makes a Noble Exception
Normally, a player cannot be inducted into the Baseball Hall-of-Fame until at least five years after he stopped playing. An exception was made for Roberto, and he was inducted in 1973. He was the first Hispanic player to be inducted to the Hall-of-Fame. After his death, Major League Baseball established the Roberto Clemente Award recognizing the player who combines outstanding skills on the field with devoted work in the community. Broadcaster Tim McCarver called Roberto, "the greatest right fielder of all time, because of his precise and powerful throwing arm. Roberto once said, "If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you, and you don't do that, you are wasting your time on this earth." Roberto also said, "I want to be remembered as a ballplayer who gave all he had to give."
Roberto Clemente Activities