Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Clemente Coincidence

Two days ago I paid one dollar for a 133 page hardcover book titled "Pride of Puerto Rico: The Life of Roberto Clemente." Its one of those books that I as a fan of many sports found hard to put down. I stayed up late last night marvelling at not only the baseball player Roberto Clemente, but the person.

I've read many athlete biographies and autobiographies and the special ones all seem to have one underlying current that goes along with their competitive nature; Pride. Pride in who they were before they became world known as well as Pride in who they're to become. Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson and Jackie Robinson all came from humble beginnings and all managed to keep their self-respect and dignity while overcoming obstacles in their path.

Reading about Roberto Clemente the person will make any man proud to be who he is and where he's come from period. Roberto showed how pride in self can take a person further in life than anthing money or power can buy. Self-Pride is what Roberto Clemente fed off of to give him the strength to accomplish all he did in such a short life. He loved his family and the people of Puerto Rico. There's a part in the book that describes a 1970 pregame ceremony in honor of #21 Roberto Clemente at Pittsburgh's new Three Rivers Stadium. Family and friends of Roberto's were there to share in this moment. Roberto was presented with a scroll of 300,000 signatures from Puerto Rico. Out of a population of 3,000,000, one out of every ten Puerto Ricans had signed the scroll. That's the sign of a rich man who's well respected and loved.

Roberto Clemente not only represented Puerto Ricans but also, because of his darker complexion, was a pioneer for the Black man. At least that's how Roberto felt on his road to success. Roberto was out to prove that Puerto Ricans and Blacks had the potential to be great when given the opportunity. He believed in having a brotherly spirit toward your fellow human being and he died honoring that belief.

Today I finished the book about Roberto Clemente. I turned on the television to catch the MLB All-Star game which was in the 5th inning. A ceremony was being held and a motherly latin lady was standing with a few White male representatives of Major League Baseball. As I focused in on what was being said I heard the words "greatness" and "Pride" along with the name Clemente. When Vera Clemente, Roberto's widow, finally spoke I was floored at the coincidence of just reading about how she and Roberto met, courted then married in Puerto Rico. Vera spoke with that all familiar sharp Puerto Rican accent that all New Yorkers know. She said how she believed that Roberto was proudly looking down on this ceremony as a proud moment for all Puerto Ricans. Major League Baseball couldn't have chosen a more deserving person to honor today than Roberto Clemente.

Roberto's baseball accomplishments are too numerous and incredible to be listed in this blog. I urge any baseball fan to study not only the stats of Roberto Clemente, but some of the old newspaper articles and video about his playing days. Things like him being the first player ever to have ten hits in back to back games, batting 414 in a world series, eight straight 300+ season batting average, six consecutive gold glove awards or was it all-star game appearances? So many feats of Roberto's that I'd have to read the book again to document it all.

I've always been too proud to wear a jersey with another man's name on it. I was just given a Bonds jersey and I wore that to a Giants game more out of support for Bonds than a love for the guy. But I am seriously considering buying a Roberto Clemente button-down jersey in honor of a man who loved his race, his country, his fellow man and baseball. And on top of that may have been one of the best players that ever played the game.

When during an interview a reporter asked Roberto what he thought about his style of play being compared to the great player Willie Mays, Roberto thought for a second then calmly commented "I Play Like Roberto Clemente."

Yes Roberto, you played like Roberto Clemente. And we wouldn't have wanted you to play any other way. Thanks.

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