Clemente’s greatness expanded beyond baseball. Let’s talk about how special he was.
Roberto Clemente was many things. An NL MVP who carried the Pittsburgh Pirates to great heights. A humanitarian who dedicated offseasons to helping others. A U.S. Marine. The first Latin American to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
And now, he’s a Google Doodle, too.
The tech giant honored Clemente Friday as part of its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Clemente, a native of Carolina, Puerto Rico, was one of baseball’s biggest stars over the course of an 18-year career. He was a 15-time all-star, a 12-time Gold Glove winner, a four-time batting champion, the 1966 NL MVP, and a major part of two Pirates World Series champion teams in 1960 and 1971.
But as impressive as he was on the field, he was even greater off it. Clemente dedicated his life to helping others, using his winters to return to Puerto Rico and countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America to distribute food, supplies, and baseball equipment. He took fellow Latinx players under his wing in the majors. He embraced his status as a role model in the neighborhood where he grew up.
“I go out to different towns, different neighborhoods,” he said in Smithsonian. ”I get kids together and talk about the importance of sports, the importance of being a good citizen, the importance of respecting their mother and father.”
That dedication would ultimately lead to his death. When an earthquake devastated Nicaragua in the winter of 1972, Clemente organized relief missions to ply the region with food and medical supplies. When his first three planeloads were deferred by the nation’s Somocisto dictatorship, he decided to travel to Managua himself along with 74 tons of freight to ensure the supplies got into the proper hands. His overloaded plane never made it to Nicaragua — it crashed into the ocean shortly after takeoff, killing Clemente at age 38.
While his life came to an end, his legacy never will. Artist Roxie Vizcarra’s work proves his vision and ability to unite people is ever-present. She partnered with Clemente’s surviving family — particularly Roberto Clemente Jr. and Luis Clemente — to craft a loving tribute. Those sons, and the rest of the Clemente family, released a statement honoring the man whose love stretched beyond the diamond:
47 years ago today, the Pittsburgh Pirates won game 3 of the 1971 World Series in which our Dad went 1 for 4 with an RBI in the Pirates 5-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles. He was named the MVP for that series, becoming the first Latino to ever do so.
At the conclusion of the Series, he asked to say something in Spanish to his parents and children in Puerto Rico. With this act, asking for his parents’ blessings in Spanish on live global broadcast, he galvanized the hearts of all Hispanics across the nation. Today, we are proud that our Dad’s legacy is stronger than ever with numerous namesakes like baseball leagues, parks, schools, awards, and statues around the world celebrating everything he represented and stood for, including standing up against injustice and the importance of humanitarianism. Our Dad was an incredible athlete, but more importantly, he continuously used his platform to better humanity.
To maintain and preserve our Dad’s legacy worldwide, our family started The Roberto Clemente Foundation years ago, a nonprofit organization incorporated in Puerto Rico. Specifically, our mission to develop tomorrow’s leaders through education, sports and service leadership to continue his vision as we build nations of good.
It is amazing to see a kid from Carolina, Puerto Rico be remembered with this Google Doodle in this age of technology and new platforms to communicate with people around the world. The best part however, is the human story of our Dad behind it, which we hope motivates us all to do something to help our brothers and sisters.
We feel very honored to be Roberto’s sons and extremely fortunate to be Vera’s sons as well. It is an honor to carry the name Clemente!
Clemente was an undeniable icon who cultural borders could not contain. Friday’s Google Doodle just gives us all another chance to remember the man whose greatness as a human shined whether he was roaming the grass at Forbes Field (and later the unforgiving turf of Three Rivers Stadium) or dedicating his time to helping others.