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Hispanic Heritage Month:
Roberto Clemente

September 20, 2013

Staff —

Name: Roberto Clemente

Occupation: Baseball player

Birth, death: Aug. 18, 1934-Dec. 31, 1972

Birthplace: Barrio San Anton, Puerto Rico

Roberto Clemente Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente was the first Latin-American player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Born into a hardworking yet poor family in Barrio San Anton, Puerto Rico, he was the youngest of seven children, and worked multiple odd jobs to earn extra money for the family. When he wasn't working he was playing sandlot baseball.

After a stint playing Winter League ball in Puerto Rico, Clemente got picked up by the Brooklyn Dodgers for a Triple-A gig with the Montreal Royals. The following year he went to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, making his major league debut in 1955, according to He went on to play 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955-1972.

Clemente died on Dec. 31, 1972, while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Clemente was elected posthumously to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming the first Latin American to be given the honor.

He also was the first Hispanic player to win a World Series as a starter (1960), to receive an MVP Award (1966), and to receive a World Series MVP Award (1971).

Clemente also was posthumously presented three civilian awards of the U.S. government, including the very first Presidential Citizen's Medal from President Richard Nixon — making him the first Hispanic to also receive the honor.

The citation to the medal, according to The American Presidency Project:

“All who saw Roberto Clemente in action, whether on the diamond or on the front lines of charitable endeavor, are richer for the experience. He stands with that handful of men whose brilliance has transformed the game of baseball into a showcase of skill and spirit, giving universal delight and inspiration. More than that, his selfless dedication to helping those with two strikes against them in life blessed thousands and set an example for millions. As long as athletes and humanitarians are honored, Roberto Clemente's memory will live; as long as Citizens Medals are presented, each will mean a little more because this first one went to him.”

Added Nixon: “Let me say our only regret is that he isn't here — but he’s really here — I think he is here in this room. Don’t you think so? I think he would be proud to be the first American to get this medal, too, the first one.”

Clemente also was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by Nixon, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush on July 23, 2003.

“I want to be remembered as a ballplayer who gave all he had to give,” Clemente once said.

Source: (c) 2013. All rights reserved.

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