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Commemorative Coin Honoring Roberto Clemente

Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) has introduced a bill calling for a commemorative coin honoring Roberto Clemente, the legendary Puerto Rican baseball player and philanthropist. Jenniffer González-Colón, resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, is supporting the bill — but she has no vote in Congress. Espaillat is expecting support from the Pennsylvania representatives, since Clemente played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but will need a 2/3 majority in the House to be sure of passage of his bill.

Roberto Clemente

Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, in 1934, Roberto Clemente played for the Santurce Cangrejeros in the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League at just 17. Soon, his exceptional skills caught the eye of the Brooklyn Dodgers. They signed him in 1954.

Facing prejudice and language barriers, Clemente nonetheless debuted in the major leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955. His athleticism was undeniable. He possessed a rocket arm, unmatched speed, and a graceful swing that produced four National League batting titles and a career average of .317. He became a twelve-time All-Star, winning the 1971 World Series MVP and two Gold Gloves.

But Clemente’s impact transcended baseball. He shattered racial barriers, becoming the first Latino player to earn an NL MVP award and the first to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He used his platform to advocate for racial and social justice, speaking out against discrimination and fighting for equal opportunities.

Off the field, Clemente was a humanitarian hero. Witnessing a devastating earthquake in Nicaragua in 1972, he organized relief efforts, determined to deliver supplies himself. Tragically, the plane carrying him crashed en route, claiming his life at the peak of his career. Beyond the impressive baseball statistics, he stands as a symbol of resilience, courage, and unwavering commitment to his community. His life, though tragically cut short, remains an inspiration to athletes, activists, and humanitarians alike.

Commemorative coins

Congress authorizes commemorative coins to honor important Americans, and the U.S. Mint produces these coins. Unlike the coins with images of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, commemorative coins have limited distribution and are made in small quantities for a short time.

The coins can be used to purchase goods, but they come with surcharges that raise money for good causes. Since the program began in 1982, the U.S. mint has raised $506,301,189 in these surcharges for the support of museums and other public programs.

Individuals commemorated on coins in recent years include Harriet Tubman, Maria Tallchief, and Barbara Bush. Roberto Clemente would be the first person from Puerto Rico to be honored in this way.

Image courtesy of under Creative Commons licensure

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