“I am convinced that God wanted me to be a baseball player. I was born to play baseball “- Robert Clemente.
Born on August 18, 1934, Roberto Clemente was a Puerto Rican baseball player. He was a professional baseball right fielder from Puerto Rico who spent 18 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Moreover, Clemente appeared in 15 All-Star Games throughout his thirteen-year career as an All-Star. He won the NL MVP in 1966, and the NL batting leader in 1961, 1964, 1965, and 1967.
Likewise, he won a Gold Glove Award for twelve straight seasons from 1961 to 1972.
Roberto Clemente worked for Latin American and Caribbean charities during the off-season. In addition, he frequently helped folks in need by delivering baseball equipment and meals.
Heaven must have intended to call a beautiful angel on December 31, 1972, when Clemente died in an aircraft crash while relieving earthquake victims at 38.
|Full name||Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker|
|Birthdate||August 18, 1934|
|Birthplace||Barrio San Anton, Carolina, Puerto Rico|
|Died on||December 31, 1972 (Aged 38)|
|Father’s name||Don Melchor Clemente|
|Mother’s name||Luisa Walker|
|Siblings||Rosa Oquendo, Andres, Osvaldo, Justino and Anairis|
|High School||Julio Vizcarrondo Coronado High School|
|Wife’s Name||Vera Clemente|
|Children||Three ( Roberto Clemente Jr., Roberto Enrique, and Luis Roberto)|
|Height||1.8 meters (5 feet 9 inches)|
|Profession||Professional Baseball Player|
|MBL Debut||April 17, 1955, for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Last MLB Appearance||October 3, 1972 (with the Pittsburgh Pirates)|
|Runs batted in||1.305|
|Net Worth||$300 thousand|
|Baseball Hall of Fame Induction||1973|
|Vote||92.7% (first ballot)|
|Merch||The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero (Paperback)|
|Last Update||December, 2023|
Early Life and Childhood
Roberto was born to Melchor Clemente and Luisa Walker in Barrio San Antón, Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Similarly, he was the seventh kid in a family of seven. Clemente’s father worked as a foreman for sugar cane fields in the municipality, located in the northeastern section of the island, throughout his boyhood.
Likewise, Clemente and his siblings helped his father load and unload stuff from trucks in the fields as the resources were low.
As a kid, Clemente was a track and field standout and Olympic prospect before focusing on baseball.
Similarly, he had been interested in baseball since he was a child, and he used to play against the barrios in his neighborhood. In Carolina, he attended Julio Vizcarrondo Coronado High School.
Clemente began playing in the amateur league of Puerto Rico when he was sixteen for the Ferdinand Juncos club, which represented the Juncos town.
Clemente’s Journey of the Baseball Legacy
The Puerto Rican began his professional baseball career at the age of 18 when he signed a contract with Cangrejeros de Santurce (“Crabbers”), a winter league team and franchise of (LBBPR).
Finally, on October 9, 1952, Clemente officially joined the team. Clemente spent his first season on the bench; however, he was elevated to the Cangrejeros’ starting lineup the following season.
As the team’s leadoff hitter, he batted.288 throughout the season. The Brooklyn Dodgers offered Clemente a contract with one of their Triple-A affiliates while still playing in the LBBPR.
Robert Clemente signed a minor league contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He spent a season with their minor league side, the Montreal Royals.
Later, he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates the next year and made his main – debut in 1955.
Clemente hit .311 in 1956, but he suffered early due to injuries and a language barrier.
In 1960, he struck his stride, hitting .314 with 16 home runs and 94 RBIs, earning him his first All-Star appearance and helping the Pirates win the World Series.
Similarly, he led the National League with a.351 average, hit 23 home runs, and earned his first of 12 straight Gold Glove Awards for fielding brilliance the coming year.
As the decade continued, Clemente developed himself as one of baseball’s best all-around players.
In addition, he went on to win three more batting titles and lead the league in hits twice.
The Puerto Rican also possessed terrifying arms in baseball, frequently launching devastating throws from his right-field post.
He had one of his best seasons in 1966, batting.317 with a career-high 29 homers and 119 RBIs to earn the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
In the 1971 World Series, Clemente hit.414 with two home runs to help the Pittsburgh Pirates overcome the Baltimore Orioles, much favored.
The 3000 Hits
Despite being disappointed and dealing with ailments, Clemente participated in 102 games and hit.312 in 1972.
He was also named to his twelfth straight NL All-Star team (he appeared in 14/15 All-Star games) and won his twelfth consecutive Gold Glove.
On September 30, he reached 3,000 hits with a double in the fourth inning against Jon Matlack of the New York Mets at Three Rivers Stadium. It was his final at-bat of the regular season.
Clemente equaled Honus Wagner’s record of 2,433 games played as a Pittsburgh Pirate by playing in right field in one more regular-season game on October 3
Similarly, he batted.235 and went 4 for 17 in the NL playoffs that season.
On October 11, 1972, he played in the fifth and final game of the 1972 National League Championship Series at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium.
In addition, he and Bill Mazeroski were the final two players from the 1960 World Series-winning Pirates.
Who is Robert’s Wife?
Clemente married Vera Zabala on November 14, 1964, at San Fernando Church in Carolina.
Vera Zabala was born on March 7, 1941, in Puerto Rico. She earned a business administration degree from the University of Puerto Rico.
Similarly, she also worked as a teller at the government bank in Carolina, just outside of San Juan.
How did they meet?
According to David Maraniss’ biography “Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero,” she left the bank to walk to the pharmacy across the street one day in 1964, and Clemente, who was driving by, noticed her.
He presented himself to her inside the pharmacy, but Ms. Zabala didn’t seem interested. On the other hand, her father was harsh and kept her on a tight leash.
Clemente, who had been in the Hall of Fame for several years, tracked her out by calling her friends and neighbors. She continued to refuse him but soon got at ease.
Duane Rieder, founder and executive director of the Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh, informed her that he was rushing to have a family since he would die soon.
On November 14, 1964, they married in Carolina, just east of San Juan, where Roberto Clemente was born, in front of hundreds of people, including the governor and some of Clemente’s fellow baseball players.
The Latin American player was assassinated only eight years later, and his wife took on the humanitarian role.
After the death of her husband?
Following her husband’s death, Ms. Clemente, who was 30 at the time, dedicated the remainder of her life to honoring her husband’s memory and carrying on his humanitarian legacy.
In addition, Roberto Clemente had planned to open a sports facility for youngsters in Puerto Rico, and Vera had intended to teach there when he died.
She quickly developed the Ciudad Deportiva Roberto Clemente (Roberto Clemente Sports City), which he had envisioned as a location where young people could learn new skills and prepare for international competitions.
After being hospitalized in San Juan, she died on Saturday at 78.
On November 1, the Pirates stated that she was in critical condition and admitted her. Pirates and Major League Baseball announced her death as she was serving as a goodwill ambassador there.
Robert Clemente: Charity Works and Death
During the off-season, Clemente devoted his time to charitable activities.
When a massive earthquake struck Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city, on December 23, 1972, Clemente quickly went to help organize emergency aid planes.
However, he quickly discovered that unscrupulous Somoza government officials had diverted the assistance shipments on the first three planes. The officials were not that trustworthy to reach earthquake victims.
Thus, he chose to accompany the fourth relief aircraft in the hopes that his presence would ensure help and assistance to the survivors.
The Douglas DC-7 freight jet he rented for a New Year’s Eve flight had a history of technical issues, was short on the flying crew (without a flight engineer and copilot), and was overweight by 4,200 pounds (1,900 kg).
It fell into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff on December 31, 1972, off Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, owing to engine failure.
Similarly, the pilot’s corpse and a portion of the plane’s fuselage were discovered days after the disaster.
The only personal item discovered from the plane was an empty travel case belonging to Clemente.
Manny Sanguillén, Clemente’s teammate and close friend, was the only Pirates player who did not attend Roberto’s memorial ceremony.
Clemente’s widow, Vera, said in an interview for the ESPN documentary series SportsCentury in 2002 that Clemente had told her multiple times that he felt he was going to die early.
Clemente had set multiple records with the Pirates, including the most triples in a game (three) and hits in two consecutive games (ten).
Similarly, he received 12 Gold Glove Awards, which he shares with Willie Mays for the most among outfielders.
Hall of Fame
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America held an election for the Baseball Hall of Fame on March 20, 1973.
Due to the circumstances of his death, they agreed to waive the waiting period for Clemente and posthumously elect him to the Hall of Fame, granting him 393 out of 420 votes, or 92.7 percent of the vote.
Robert Clemente Award
In order to honor his work and game, a special award has been established as Robert Clement Award after his name in 1973. Originally, it was popular as the Commissioner’s Award.
The MLB committee gives out this award to the player who can portray the game in the best way, both on and off the ground.
The Puerto Rican professional baseball player, Robert Clemente, had a net worth of $300 thousand in 1972 before his death.
When rounded around, the worth of $300 thousand is the same as $1.9 million in the present time.
Similarly, Roberto received roughly $760,000 in pay throughout his tragically brief career.
In his final season of baseball, he was paid $150,000. That equates to about $933,000 in today’s dollars.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who was the first Hispanic person elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?
Robert became the first player from Latin America to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July 1973.
How much is a Roberto Clemente card worth?
According to Oldsportscards.com, the only recognized Roberto Clemente rookie card is his 1955 Topps #164.
The high demand has driven up prices, making it easily one of the most valuable baseball cards in the hobby.
The estimated price of PSA 8 Value of card is $42,500.