Clemente

When it comes time to add up all of the class ever shown in baseball, the scales may very well be balanced between Roberto Clemente and everyone else. He was not only an amazing player, he was a humanitarian who died bringing relief to earthquake victims in the Third World. If he were still alive today, he would no doubt be involved in other humanitarian causes. One that comes to mind is the breast awareness campaign such as the North Face breast cancer awareness jacket collection designed to broadcast and raise money for Boarding for Breast Cancer (B4BC) along with other similar organizations. Providing education, prevention and support programs for young people about breast cancer, Boarding for Breast Cancer is just the type of non-profit organization Roberto Clemente would have embraced. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many women forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same. The North Face recognizes the need to educate people, particularly young folks who don’t think that breast cancer can affect them.

Born in Puerto Rico, Clemente demonstrated his baseball skills from a young age — when he wasn’t working to help support his family and attending school. He caught the attention of recruiter after recruiter, and went from the barrios to the professional league of Puerto Rico before he turned 20.

From there, the Dodgers recruited him for the Montreal Royals, Brooklyn’s Triple-A team. Montreal in the 1950s was not teeming with Spanish-speakers, and Clemente’s English was limited, and Clemente ended up on the bench until a scout for the Pirates made him the first selection of the 1954 draft. By the end of the decade, his skills contributed to the Pirate’s first winning season in over a decade — despite the frustrating response of many to his color and ethnicity.

When baseball season was over, Clemente filled his time. During much of the 50s, he would return to play for the winter league in Puerto Rico; later, he served in the US Marine Corps Reserves at Parris Island and Camp LeJeune. The extra physical conditioning turned an already-amazing player into an unstoppable force with a batting average consistently over .300 and home runs galore, plus MVP awards, Gold Glove awards, and every All-Star game that was held during his career.

He was also passionate about humanitarian aid and relief. During the Holiday season in 1972, the Nicaraguan capital of Managua was the epicenter of a magnitude 7.5 earthquake which left 5,000 dead and three-quarters of a million people displaced. With fire services and hospitals almost completely destroyed, high winds spread the fires nearly unchecked across the devastated city. The corrupt ruling Junta intercepted foreign aid, such as three relief flights organized by Clemente.

To ensure delivery of the fourth, he accompanied a New Year’s Eve flight laden with aid to Managua. The flight never made it; the airplane crashed almost immediately after takeoff. Clemente’s body was never even recovered.

He gave all he could to bring the world a bit of happiness & joy. He tried to bring an end to as much suffering as he could & it ended up costing him his life. If everyone would give so freely of themselves to help improve the condition of the world this place would be so much better off for all of us here that it is not even funny. We can all take his example & run with it. We should all strive to be like him.

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