Clemente Walker, Roberto (1934–1972)

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Clemente Walker, Roberto (1934–1972)

Roberto Clemente Walker was born August 18, 1934, in Carolina, Puerto Rico, near San Juan. Clemente signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1954) out of high school, but played his entire major league career (1955–1972) with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his 2,433 Pirate games, he had 3,000 hits and a.317 batting average. He won four batting titles and twelve Gold Glove Awards, was named his league's Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1966 and World Series MVP in 1971, and appeared in twelve Major League All-Star Games. Until 1971 he repaid his native country by playing in the Puerto Rican winter league. To achieve all this and earn deserved praise in the United States he had to overcome racism and prejudice against blacks and Hispanics and persistent physical ailments that hampered him and brought cruel accusations that he was a hypochondriac and malingerer.

He died in a plane crash on December 31, 1972, while trying to deliver relief aid that he had collected for earthquake victims in Nicaragua. In 1973 a special election made him the first Latino to enter baseball's Hall of Fame. In life, as on the field, Clemente displayed a capacity for toughness and tenderness, aggressiveness and compassion. In Puerto Rico his widow Vera and others operate the youth sports center named in his honor. Major League Baseball's annual award to the player who best exemplifies community service is named for him, and his career and humanitarianism were again recognized at the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh's new PNC Park.

See alsoHispanics in the United States; Sports.


Bjarkman, Peter C. Baseball with a Latin Beat: A History of the Latin American Game. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1994.

Maraniss, David. Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Musick, Phil. Who Was Roberto? A Biography of Roberto Clemente. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974.

O'Brien, Jim. Remember Roberto: Clemente Recalled by Teammates, Family, Friends, and Fans. Pittsburgh: James P. O'Brien Publishing, 1994.

Wagenheim, Kal. Clemente! New York: Praeger, 1973.

                                   Joseph L. Arbena

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Clemente Walker, Roberto (1934–1972)

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