Roberto Clemente Museum Exhibit Honors Baseball Great

Roberto Clemente Museum Exhibit Honors Baseball Great


A humanitarian hero

Hernández says the exhibition, which drew around 300 people the first two nights of last year’s grand opening, will give visitors a deeper sense of Clemente’s influence around the world. Hernández remembered a visit to Nicaragua in 2001 and his surprise when he discovered the nation’s love and respect for Clemente.

Clemente and the Central American nation are inextricably linked. Clemente led a humanitarian mission on December 31, 1972, bringing supplies to survivors of an earthquake in Nicaragua, when his plane crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico shortly after takeoff. Everyone on board was killed.

Clemente had insisted on delivering the aid even after he was worried that profiteers in Nicaragua would turn off supplies.

“His name is in many places in Nicaragua,” Hernández said. “That’s where I really got the feel of the magnitude of his importance. He put Puerto Rico on the world map.”

Luis Clemente – who was only 6 when Roberto died – remembers his father as a big-hearted activist and humanitarian who struggled with insomnia and visited the sick in hospitals at night to avoid press attention. He remembers a father who played the harmonica, was an avid potter and always had a bat next to his favorite seat in the living room (so he could work on strengthening his wrists).

“The exhibition is well put together – people are going to learn about their father’s lives, probably things that are not mentioned in books,” he says. “They want to see him as a family man, as a player and the humanitarian that he was. Dad was very humble, but he would be proud to see everything he managed to do in one place. He lived so fast. Mom always said that he wanted to tell her he knew he was going to die young. “

A lasting legacy

A part of the exhibition that was not included in the original opening highlights the humanitarian and charitable initiatives of Roberto Clemente Foundation, founded in 1993 by Roberto Clemente Jr., and captures the story of Vera Clemente, a leader and humanitarian in herself. Vera Clemente, who died in 2019, served as chair of the foundation and also diligently supported Pirates and Major League Baseball in her role as a goodwill ambassador.

“It was time to honor both of their legacies,” said son Luis Clemente, president of the Roberto Clemente Legacy Program. “We have not dropped the ball; we continue to work on his legacy and everything he stood for.”

The family hopes visitors come away with an awareness that surpasses baseball and Clemente’s athletic performance, a goal that baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, 83, a Puerto Rican and longtime friend of Clemente’s, supports. “Roberto was an incredible ball player, but as a man, as a human being he was huge,” said Cepeda. “He died to help other people, and that’s a sign of greatness.”

The family wants Puerto Ricans to feel even more proud of their island, taking Clemente’s achievements, many of them achieved at formidable odds, as proof of what they are capable of as well.

The family also hopes visitors, both children and adults, will be touched by the importance of helping others and being inspired in their own lives. Whether it was holding free youth baseball clinics, digging into his own pocket to help the needy, or taking a stand against the racism he encountered on the American mainland, Clemente worked tirelessly to help the less fortunate and oppressed.

“For the first time, people will be able to see the full spectrum of Roberto Clemente’s legacy,” says Luis Clemente. “I want them to leave the museum and say, ‘Wow, I can do so much good in life and influence so many others through my actions.’ ‘We must turn on the humanitarian button; we are all born with it. “

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