The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Miami Marlins are now scheduled to play a two game series in Puerto Rico on a day that is very dear to my heart, Roberto Clemente Day.
I grew up hearing about the legend that was Clemente, my mother having grown up a baseball fan in Pittsburgh in the 1950-60’s. Needless to say he was her favorite player. I’ve got some funny stories about a little girl at the ballpark about that but those can be told another time. She remembers school shutting down for game seven of the 1960 World Series when Bill Mazeroski hit his historic walk-off home run to win the Pirates the World Championship.
Anyway, I digress. The games will be played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on May 30th and May 31st. May 31st is recognized as Roberto Clemente Day across all of baseball.
Clemente was a great humanitarian and always tried to help the less fortunate especially in South American countries, like his home country of Puerto Rico. He passed away on New Year’s Eve in 1972 at the age of 38. Ironically his last big league hit at the end of the 1972 season was his 3,000th hit and he likely would have kept playing had he survived the plane crash.
Clemente was on his way from his home in Puerto Rico to provide supplies and assistance to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The plane was overloaded and never had a chance. They crashed not far off the coast and there were no survivors. Clemente was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame the following year.
It’s nice that the Pirates and Marlins will play in Puerto Rico in his honor but it’s my opinion that he shouldn’t have just a day of remembrance throughout baseball but he should have his number universally retired. Like Jackie Robinson‘s number 42, every kid that grows up loving the game should know Clemente’s number 21. However that is an argument for another day …
Each year an award is given to the one (or in last year’s case two – the two first co-winners of the award: Paul Konerko and Jimmy Rollins) player who most exemplifies Clemente’s qualities both on and off the field. This year’s winner was fittingly from the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen (I was rooting for Stephen Vogt of the Oakland A’s however I do feel they picked a great recipient.).
Anyway, anytime there is mention of Clemente I write a blog post. The man should NEVER be forgotten!