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The Latino Model: Roberto Clemente Essay

1706 words - 7 pages

During the mid-1950’s, Major League Baseball was in the middle of an influential movement. Jackie Robinson had broken baseball’s “color barrier” in 1947, which helped lead the participation of other minorities, especially the Latinos. Just as the blacks were faced with adversity, the Latino players experienced the same hardships. The teams integrated slowly and sportswriters often scorned the players having difficulty developing English as a second language (Regalado 2008). Roberto Clemente joined this complicated era of baseball when race was a highly disputed topic. However, his reputation was backed with a stellar baseball career, which set the foundation for the involvement of many other future Latino players. With Clemente’s background it should not have came as a surprise that he was fully capable of handling the discrimination in the major leagues and excelled to the point of becoming one of baseball’s greatest hero and role model.
Roberto Clemente was born in Puerto Rico in 1934. Puerto Rico was typically a place where players came to play during the winter months, and because Puerto Rico didn’t have the same segregation laws as the United States, Clemente grew up playing baseball without race being a major issue (Regalado 2008). He left Puerto Rico in 1953 however to pursuit of playing in the major leagues. Being informed by the players who visited Puerto Rico, Clemente knew discrimination was an issue in the United States. He spent one year as a minor leaguer in Montreal and soon made his major league debut in 1955 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his eighteen years in a Pirates’ uniform, he won the Most Valuable Player award in 1966, four batting titles and appeared in 14 All-Star games. His twelve consecutive Gold Glove awards in the outfield are tied for the most ever by an outfielder. Not only did he have the individual statistics to back his career, but he also helped lead the Pirates to two World Series Championships, in 1960 and 1971; he won the MVP for the 1971 series as well. He thought about retirement after the 1971 season but felt there was more to be gained in representing the Latino population (Regalado 2008). Following the 1972 season, where he had just achieved the milestone of 3,000 career hits, he went to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua but died when his plane crashed. A few months after his death, in April 1973, the Baseball Writers of America voted to induct Clemente into the Baseball Hall of Fame, where he became the first Latino player to ever be inducted (Regalado 2008).
While it may seem he could not have been any better on the field, he was just as great off the field. Clemente knew that leadership and social responsibility in the Latino world was also a part of his career (Regalado 2008). Clemente’s presence on and off the field challenged the misconceptions about Latino players, especially those from Puerto Rico, by the typical American at the time. Driven by the need to succeed, he emerged...

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