Roberto Clemente’s Family Recalls His Legacy & Charity Work

Roberto Clemente was one of the world’s greats in several ways. He’s a baseball Hall of Famer who mesmerized audiences with his strong throwing arm and hitting abilities. However, he’s remembered for his humanitarianism almost as much.

In a lengthy statement given to Google – which published a Google Doodle in Clemente’s honor on October 12, 2018 – Clemente’s sons recalled how he stood “against injustice,” and “galvanized the hearts of all Hispanics across the nation.” The Clemente family highlighted Roberto Clemente’s efforts to use “his platform to better humanity.”

Google honored Roberto Clemente as part of Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States.

“He didn’t see himself as merely a representative of Latin America to the world through baseball. He saw his career in baseball as a way to help Latin Americans — especially underprivileged Puerto Ricans — make their lives better,” RobertoClemente.si.edu reports.

According to that site, Clemente once said: “Always, they said Babe Ruth was the best there was. They said you’d really have to be something to be like Babe Ruth. But Babe Ruth was an American player. What we needed was a Puerto Rican player they could say that about, someone to look up to and try to equal.”

Here’s what you need to know:


Clemente’s Sons Say They Are Carrying His Legacy Forward

Google released a statement from Clemente’s family members along with its Google Doodle. Clemente was married to wife Vera Cristina Zabala. His son, Roberto Clemente Jr., told NBC News of his dad: “He actually knew that he had gotten to a place that his voice was going to be heard; he was an activist. He was someone that cared for his fellow men, and being able to be heard was very important to him.”

Vera and Roberto Clemente had three sons together. They are named Roberto Clemente Jr., Roberto Enrique and Luis.

The family’s statement to Google reads:

47 years ago today, the Pittsburgh Pirates won game 3 of the 1971 World Series in which our Dad went 1 for 4 with an RBI in the Pirates 5-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles. He was named the MVP for that series, becoming the first Latino to ever do so.

At the conclusion of the Series, he asked to say something in Spanish to his parents and children in Puerto Rico. With this act, asking for his parents blessings in Spanish on live global broadcast, he galvanized the hearts of all Hispanics across the nation. Today, we are proud that our Dad’s legacy is stronger than ever with numerous namesakes like baseball leagues, parks, schools, awards, and statues around the world celebrating everything he represented and stood for, including standing up against injustice and the importance of humanitarianism. Our Dad was an incredible athlete, but more importantly, he continuously used his platform to better humanity.

To maintain and preserve our Dad’s legacy worldwide, our family started The Roberto Clemente Foundation years ago, a nonprofit organization incorporated in Puerto Rico. Specifically, our mission to develop tomorrow’s leaders through education, sports and service leadership to continue his vision as we build nations of good.

It is amazing to see a kid from Carolina, Puerto Rico be remembered with this Google Doodle in this age of technology and new platforms to communicate with people around the world. The best part however, is the human story of our Dad behind it, which we hope motivates us all to do something to help our brothers and sisters.

We feel very honored to be Roberto’s sons and extremely fortunate to be Vera’s sons as well. It is an honor to carry the name Clemente!

You can see the Roberto Clemente Foundation’s website here. “For the people of Puerto Rico he is one of the ultimate symbols of national pride, not just for the records he set but for the lives he touched with his activism and with the simple power of watching someone from your community achieve excellence without compromising their character,” the site says.

According to the Foundation, he and his wife Vera shared Puerto Rican roots. They “grew up in the same area at the same time, but they didn’t meet until three years after his first World Series win. The first time their paths crossed, her brother was giving her a ride and they passed Roberto in his white cadillac,” the Foundation says.

They wed in 1964. “Roberto Jr. would come into their lives in 1965, followed by Luis in 1966 and Enrique in 1969,” according to the Foundation.

Roberto Jr., according to IMBD, “is a baseball broadcaster and former professional baseball player from San Juan, Puerto Rico.” He didn’t make the Major Leagues because of injuries, the site reports.

Roberto has spent decades trying to recover from his father’s untimely death. He told CBS Pittsburgh: “I was actually diagnosed with PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder]. I had no idea that I’ve been suffering from that, but it was something that now makes sense.”

Roberto Jr. is also involved in charitable efforts. “Roberto Jr. returned to Puerto Rico to help his mother in her quest to open the Roberto Clemente Sports City, and he created the RBI Baseball program, aimed at bringing children to his sport. He also helped found the Roberto Clemente Foundation and is active in a number of charities,” reads a RC21X bio for him.

Luis Clemente was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates but his baseball career was short-lived, and he, too, has focused on charitable efforts. Known as Enrique, the third son, only 4 when his father died, didn’t realize he was dead at first and still waited for his dad to come home for months.

The family’s foundation credits Vera with keeping her husband’s legacy alive. “She recognized the importance of Roberto’s vision and committed herself and her family to it,” says the Foundation biography. “It’s at least partially thanks to her that Roberto is remembered as much today for his humanitarian work as for his talent on the diamond.”

Concludes the Foundation, “She is the mastermind of the Ciudad Deportiva (Sports City) complex, presenting the Clemente Award each year, and illuminating the direction for Roberto Clemente Foundation.”

The Google Doodle, which was created by guest artist Roxie Vizcarra, calls Roberto Clemente a “Latinx trailblazer, and passionate humanitarian.” The Google Doodle ran on October 12, 2018, which was the anniversary of a Pittsburgh Pirates victory led by Clemente.


Born in Puerto Rico, Clemente Excelled on the Field, Fought Discrimination & Helped Others

Roberto Clemente was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, on August 18, 1934. His full name was Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker. His parents were Melchor Clemente and Luisa Walker de Clemente. His father oversaw sugar cane cutters and his mother was a laundress, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

roberto clemente google doodle

Roberto Clemente Google Doodle

Clemente quickly became an “idol” in his native Puerto Rico after he began playing baseball in his teens. Meanwhile, he did face some discrimination in the United States when his baseball career took off. According to Brittanica, the media would try to call him by the anglicized “Bob,” but he would insist on being called Roberto, never giving up his pride in his heritage. He was once quoted as saying, “I don’t believe in color,” according to NBC News.

roberto clemente

Fans look over Roberto Clemente memorabilia during opening day of Fan Fest for the Major League Baseball 2006 All-Star game at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center July 7, 2006 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

On the baseball field, Clemente was heralded for his strong throwing arm, according to Brittanica. He was also a great hitter. According to the Society for American Baseball Research, he played with “reckless but controlled abandon” that electrified fans.

Roberto Clemente spent his career with The Pittsburgh Pirates. The records and awards he won during his career include the following, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame: “…four National League batting titles, the 1966 NL Most Valuable Player Award and …12 straight Gold Glove Award seasons in right field.” He was a World Series Most Valuable Player and “recorded his 3,000th career hit late in the 1972 season, becoming just the 11th player to reach the milestone.”

Google calls him “one of the most humanitarian athletes to play the game.” Among things he was known for were “delivering food and supplies to those in need, holding baseball clinics for kids, or making generous donations,” and he showed a special interest in youth.

Tragically, Clemente was only 38-years-old when he died in a plane crash in 1972, while trying to help people affected by an earthquake in Nicaragua. According to the Foundation, one of his sons had a premonition about his death. “The boys were sleeping at the Zabalas’ house. Robertito, 7 years old at the time, was always nervous when his father flew and often attempted to hide his plane tickets. As Abuela Zabala was tucking him in, he eerily told her that he thought the plane was going to crash. She told him everything would be fine, as any grandmother would,” reports the Foundation bio.

Source: Heavy Sports