Google’s Doodle today celebrates a hero from Puerto Rico. On Newsy’s documentary about Puerto Rico, Resilience, one speaker laments that Americans in general “don’t know our people or our land. They know our athletes.”
Roberto Clemente was an excellent ambassador for Puerto Rico. Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, in 1934, Clemente joined an amateur baseball league at 16. He became a member of the Santurce Crabbers at 18 and went on to play in the U.S. minor leagues in 1954. He hit the major leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates the following season.
Clemente spent 18 seasons with the Pirates, racking up awards:
- 12 consecutive Gold Glove Awards
- 4 National League batting titles
- 3,000 career hits
- the 1966 National League MVP Award
- 2 World Series rings
- the 1971 World Series MVP Award
Clemente was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, and was both the first Hispanic Hall of Famer and the first Caribbean Hall of Famer.
In addition to his baseball prowess, Clemente was known for his humanitarian commitments. He was particularly known for his philanthropy and his efforts to ensure that Latin American baseball players received the recognition they deserved. But he was also known for his many hands-on kindnesses to individuals. He presented free baseball clinics for children in Puerto Rico, and worked in local charities in Pittsburgh.
He received awards for his work helping others:
- Presidential Medal of Freedom
- the Roberto Clemente Walker Congressional Gold Medal
- the Presidential Citizens Medal
Clemente has even been proposed for sainthood. One of his best known statements is, “Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.”
Clemente died in a plane crash as he was heading to Nicaragua with disaster recovery supplies for victims of a 1972 earthquake.