Image courtesy of the Penguin Group


Fourty years after the tragic death of Roberto Clemente in December 1972, his family opened up to tell their story in Clemente.

The Clemente family opens up to talk about the life and enduring legacy of the baseball great, family man, and humanitarian. It could not have come at a better time as Clemente’s team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, are playing in their first postseason in 21 years. That cannot be a coincidence.

His widow, Vera, and their three sons have opened up to talk about the husband and father that they lost. His son, Ricky, is interviewed fir the first time. The first hand accounts, including quotes from his teammates and archived Clemente interviews, tell an inspiring story from those people that knew him the best. This memoir is not just about a baseball great but a great human being that was taken away from us way too soon.

The book also features a huge array of photos, some of which are rare and never-before-seen pictures on the field and off.

Clemente started his baseball career in the 1950s and dealt with racism despite the fact that the color barrier was already broken by Jackie Robinson. He had to fight for respect while dealing with such prejudice. He was one of the first athletes that used his celebrity in baseball to transform the lives of others. When he died tragically, he was on a humanitarian mission to Nicaragua to bring aid to earthquake victims.

Clemente was rather upset that he finished in 8th place in NL MVP voting in 1960 and only received one first place vote. That season, Clemente hit .314 with 16 home runs, 94 RBI, 179 hits, and 89 runs. He wasn’t even voted as the best Pirate that year. No, that honor went to Dick Groat. Two other Pirates finished ahead of Clemente in the voting: Don Hoak (2nd) and Vern Law (tied for 6th). He would get his only MVP in 1966.

Clemente would win 12 NL Gold Gloves, play in 15 All-Star games (12 seasons), and win 4 NL Batting titles in his 18 season career. In the last year of his life, he hit his 3,000th career major league hit–the standard of which many potential Hall of Fame careers are based on.
MLB honors Clemente annually with an award that is given to a player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contributions to his team.”

Clemente became the first Latino player to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also the first Latino to win a World Series title as a starter as well as a World Series MVP award (1971).

Posthumously, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the first Presidential Citizens Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Unbeknownst to me, the baseball great had been signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers only to be benched half the time in the minors so that other teams could not find out how talented he really was and draft him during what is today’s Rule 5 Draft. Can you imagine Clemente playing on the same team as Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Roy Campanella? Can you imagine how many times in the World Series that they could have beaten the New York Yankees? But alas, it was not meant to be. The Pirates selected Clemente during the 1954 Rule 5 Draft.

Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates

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