Author Topic: Roberto Clemente remebered  (Read 278 times)

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Offline welch

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Roberto Clemente remebered
« Topic Start: June 21, 2015, 02:38:18 PM »

By Michael Bechschloss

Today there is an abundance of Latinos in Major League Baseball, but not when Roberto Clemente took right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates 60 years ago this spring.

Clemente’s ordeal as a Puerto Rican breaking into what was then a very white preserve — and the aplomb with which he transcended his difficulties — reminds us of how far Latinos have come in American life.

Had he lived, Clemente, at the age of 81 this August, would have witnessed the formidable surge of Latinos into the national pastime — a phenomenon he had helped launch.

Born to what he called “the most wonderful mother and father who ever lived” (the latter a foreman in the sugar cane fields), the proud, intense, sometimes melancholy Clemente was discovered at age 18 by the Brooklyn Dodgers scout Al Campanis, who later called him “the best free-agent athlete I’ve ever seen.” After signing with the Dodger organization, he was drafted at 20 by the Pirates.

As Rob Ruck wrote in “Raceball” (2011), every player with Latino heritage who was in the majors before Jackie Robinson broke the color bar in 1947 “was either Caucasian or able to pass as such.” (An example of the latter was Ted Williams, who diverted public attention from the fact that his mother was born to Mexican parents.)