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News-Antique.com - Sep 19,2011 - Pittsburgh Pirate legend Roberto Clemente opened the door of professional baseball in the United States for Latino players. Growing up poor in Puerto Rico, Roberto started playing ball on muddy fields with a glove made out of a coffee sack and a bat fashioned out of wood from a guava plant.
He loved the game and grew up to be pure grace on the baseball field.
During his 18 year career as a right fielder with the Pirates he won four batting titles, was awarded 12 Gold Glove Awards, played in 14 All-Star games, named the most valuable player, and helped lead the Pirates to championships in 1960 and 1971. He ended his career with 3,000 hits.
“Clemente can catch a ball in New York and throw out a runner in Pennsylvania,” said one TV broadcaster. And he was dead on accurate doing it.
The Pirates signed Clemente at the end of the 1954 season. The team had finished dead last for three years in a row and hadn’t won a World Championship in more than 30 years. They needed juice.
Jumping up against walls, diving for catches, missile-like throws, scalding line drives, Clemente was exhilarating to watch. Once he even scored an inside-the-park grand slam.
Beyond being a world-class ballplayer Roberto was a humanitarian. On a rainy New Year’s Eve in 1972 he sat in a San Juan airport waiting for mechanics to fix an old plane that would take him to Nicaragua. The plane was full of food, medicine and supplies for earthquake survivors.
The plane’s engines failed shortly after takeoff and crashed into the ocean. No survivors.
On May 11, Grey Flannel Auctions in Westhampton, N.Y., featured a selection of Roberto Clemente items in its Summer Games auction.
A Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirate, game-used Flannel Vest; player number 21 on back; across the front “Pirates” sold for $55,152.
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