Off the Field

In December 1972, a plane carrying earthquake relief supplies to Nicaragua crashed shortly after takeoff from Puerto Rico. All five men aboard were killed. One of these men was Roberto Clemente, famous baseball player and renowned humanitarian.

The world mourned Roberto. Only a few months after his death he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. A Major League Baseball award for sportsmanship and community service was renamed in his honor.

Roberto hadn’t always been such a revered public figure. For many years he was mocked and discriminated against because of his Latino heritage. Roberto was proud of his culture and stayed true to himself and his background. He fought for equality and transformed the landscape of baseball for Latino players.

Roberto Clemente grew up in Puerto Rico. He came to New York in 1954 to play for the minor league team of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The following year he joined the major leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Roberto played for the Pirates for eighteen years, winning twelve Golden Glove awards and hitting over 3,000 base hits.

Roberto was not only a star player and a champion of equality, he was also service minded. He gave his time and energy to help others and especially enjoyed helping young baseball players in Puerto Rico. He spent the winters in his hometown, visiting his family, playing winter baseball in the Puerto Rican League, and teaching young players baseball skills.

In the winter of 1972 there was a terrible earthquake in Nicaragua. Wanting to help as always, Roberto left home to offer his aid to the victims of the quake. When the plane crashed, Roberto died doing what he loved – helping others. He was a hero on and off the field.