The Latino Model: Roberto Clemente Essay

1559 words - 6 pages

During the mid-1950’s, Major League Baseball was in the midst of an influential movement. Jackie Robinson had broken baseball’s “color barrier” in 1947, which helped usher in the participation of other minorities, especially the Latinos. Just as the blacks were faced with adversity, the Latino players experienced the same. The teams integrated slowly and sportswriters often scorned the players having difficulty developing English as a second language (Regalado 678). Roberto Clemente joined this complicated era of baseball and his reputation was backed with a stellar baseball career, which set the foundation for the involvement of many other Latino players. With Clemente’s cultivated background, one can see how he became to be one of baseball’s greatest hero and role model.
Roberto Clemente, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1934, was born into a modest home life, unlike many Latinos. 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 an issue (Regalado 680). He left Puerto Rico in 1953 however to pursue his dream of playing in the major leagues. Being informed by the players who would visit 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. Sporting News wrote an article about Clemente in 1968 proclaiming, “There isn’t anything he can’t do. He can hit, hit with power at times, run, throw and there just isn’t a better fielder.” (Regalado 678). This assertion came after his astonishing career with the Pirates, where in his eighteen years won the Most Valuable Player award (1966), four batting titles, appeared in 14 All-Star games, and earned 12 consecutive Gold Glove awards in the outfield. Not only did he have the individual statistics, 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. Following the 1972, where he had achieved the milestone of 3,000 career hits, he went to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua but perished when his plane crashed in the ocean. 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.
While he may seem he couldn’t 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 679). In fact, he stated, “Lots of kids will try to imitate me, and maybe I will have the chance to do some good for people,” in an interview with the...

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