2022 is the ‘Year of Roberto Clemente’ – New York Amsterdam News


This has been a momentous year for those who evoke the name of the Afro-Puerto Rican baseball great Roberto Clemente, a 12-time Gold Glove winner, five-time National League batting champion, two-time World Series champion (1960 and 1971) and 1971 World Series most valuable player in his 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955-1972.

Clemente achieved his historic 3,000th hit on Sept. 30, 1972, at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium versus the New York Mets, the first Latino to reach that milestone. Tragically, three months later, on Dec. 31, Clemente and four other people died when their DC-7 plane crashed as they tried to bring food and medical supplies to the people of earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. Clemente posthumously became the first Latino player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The government of Puerto Rico officially named 2022 as the “Year of Roberto Clemente” and with this past July’s passage of law 61-2022, the island’s legislature approved the placing of Clemente’s name on its list of national heroes. He is remembered as one of the greatest baseball players the game has ever seen, a compassionate humanitarian, and an ardent advocate for racial and social justice. 

As an activist who encouraged sports activities among youth, Clemente admired Martin Luther King Jr. and once had King spend an afternoon with him at his farm in Puerto Rico. Major League Baseball was scheduled to open its season four days after King was assassinated in 1968. “When Martin Luther King died,” Clemente later commented, “they come and ask the [Black] players if we should play. I say if you have to ask [Black] players, then we do not have a great country.” 

“What to me remains powerful,” said Adrian Burgos Jr., professor of history at the University of Illinois and author of “Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line,” “is like how Clemente inspired other players.

“The one that really comes to mind is Carlos Delgado, who was outspoken about Vieques and the [U.S.] Navy and the bombing they were doing in Vieques, and his not standing for the national anthem. He pointed out himself,” Burgos expanded, “that Clemente was his inspiration because these are the kinds of things that Clemente wanted to give voice to; to those who didn’t have a platform. Yeah, he literally said this is what we’re supposed to do.”

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