Clemente stayed loyal to one team; the Pittsburgh Pirates for his career and became World Series champion twice. For the latest MLB betting lines on the Pirates, check them out on FanDuel. To learn more about why Roberto Clemente means so much to so many, read on about his legacy.
Roberto Clemente’s Death
Five decades have gone since Roberto Clemente tragically passed away. His death largely defined his legacy in the MLB. On New Year’s Eve 1972, the plane he had chartered to handle recovery supplies to the victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua crashed. Clemente became more than an MLB player, he became a selfless humanitarian when he met his death off the coast of Puerto Rico.
Roberto Clemente’s Playing Career
In 1966, he was named National League MVP and followed that up by being named World Series MVP five years later. He was a 15-time All-Star, a four-time National League batting champion, and a 12-time Gold Glover. Then there are his numbers; he remains one of only 33 players to have over 3,000 hits in their MLB career, which is quite the legacy for others to follow.
He was a hero to many, but a legend to Latinos. In fact, he was the very first Latino to win the MVP award, as well as a World Series, and the World Series MVP award. When he was enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, guess what, he was the first Latino to achieve that too. Whether the Pittsburgh Pirates can claim another World Series title is up for debate but you can check the World Series odds on FanDuel.
Roberto Clemente’s Philanthropy
Away from the MLB diamond, Clemente was well-known for his philanthropic work. He was a kind soul who spent a lot of his off-season helping others, especially with Nicaragua. Clemente would arrive during the holidays to work 14-hour days on the island, even on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Those days would be spent conducting educational baseball clinics and hosting local relief drives.
In some ways, his philanthropic nature was what his legacy became most remembered for. Sure, he was a great player with the bat or glove in hand yet he collected clothing, toiletries, and food from Puerto Rico. He even raised more than $150,000, a staggering sum of money. When the earthquake hit, he felt obliged to help yet the plane crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico just after takeoff resulted in his tragic death.
Roberto Clemente’s Legacy
When people talk about Roberto Clemente, they can hold his playing career and philanthropy in the same high esteem. He inspired those with his performances yet also with how he gave back to his community. Clemente’s method of playing also helped other Latinos find their way. He had fun but he was aggressive, he demanded greatness yet he’d help others off the field too, and became an example to follow.
Aside from his stats and great philanthropic work, Clemente also strived to combat racism and bigotry throughout his career. Clemente made his mark shortly after arriving in the Major Leagues back in 1955, a full eight years after Jackie Robinson. It would take another nine years for the Civil Rights Act to be passed into law.
Both Clemente and Robinson would fight for racial equality in the coming years and were inspiring to future generations. It is perhaps fitting that Clemente’s debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates came against Robinson with his Brooklyn Dodgers.
The MLB’s Honoring Of Roberto Clemente
Every September 15th since 2002 has been ‘Roberto Clemente Day’, as defined by the MLB. The day is a true legacy to Clemente’s legacy as both a philanthropist and a great baseball player. The day also falls at the start of Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, where Clemente’s athletic prowess and philanthropic nature are both remembered.
Even the use of his number ‘21’ has been expanded by the MLB to those players of Puerto Rican descent. In 2022, the MLB presented former winners of the Roberto Clemente Award with a ‘21’ patch on the rear of their hats, simply to recognize the community work they had performed in their careers in honor of Clemente.
The service that Clemente honorably provided in the community led to the MLB renaming the ‘Commissioner’s Award’ to become the ‘Roberto Clemente Award’ back in 1973. This was an immediate response to Clemente’s death, and a worthy one too. Those players that fulfill Clemente’s legacy by performing on the field and giving back to their communities are nominated by each MLB team. Only one player can claim the ‘Roberto Clemente Award’ from the MLB but it is one to cherish.
Roberto Clemente’s tragic death meant that no one would hear his speech at his inevitable Hall of Fame inauguration. His exceptional career ended prematurely, as was his stunning community work which helped so many people that truly needed it. Thankfully, his legacy lives on with the ‘21’ patch and the ‘Roberto Clemente Award’. Few players have their own day, that the MLB has made September 15th ‘Roberto Clemente Day’ speaks volumes for how his legacy will continue.