The Life of Roberto Clemente
Pride of Pittsburgh Pirates
Early Signs for a Love of the Game
He was known to play with his friends in and around the neighboring barrios of Carolina, even joining the local team at his high school, where he was later recruited by Roberto Marin to play softball after he was seen playing in the San Anton barrio of Carolina with his friends.
Puerto Rican Amateur League Leads to the Minors (1952-1954)
Roberto played softball for two years with the Sello Rojo team as a shortstop. At the age of 16, Clemente joined Puerto Rico's amateur league, playing for the Ferdinand Juncos team, which represented the municipality of Juncos, where he played for another two years.
At the age of 18 Clemente began what would become the beginning of his professional career when Pedrín Zorilla offered Clemente, a contract which he signed on October 9, 1952, to a winter league team and franchise of the LBPPR, Liga de Beisbol Professional de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League).
He was a bench player during his first year but was promoted to the starting lineup the following season. It was during this time, the Brooklyn Dodgers offered him a contract with the team's Triple-A subsidiary, the Montreal Royals.
From Minor to Majors
On November 22, 1954, Roberto Clemente was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates as the first selection of the rookie draft and on April 17, 1955, he made his major league debut ironically in a double-header against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Pride of Pittsburgh (1955-1972)
During his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clemente achieved the following honors:
- National League All-Star (1960-1967, 1969- 1972)
- National League MVP Award - (1966)
- World Series MVP Award - (1971)
- National League Gold Glove Award (1961- 1972)
- National League Leader in Batting Average - (1961, 1964, 1965, 1967)
- National League Leader in Hits - (1964, 1967)
- National League Leader in Triples - (1969)
- National League Leader in Putouts as a Right Fielder - (1958, 1961, 1966)
- National League Leader in Fielding Average as Right Fielder & Outfielder - (1972)
During the off season he would return to Puerto Rico to work with the LBPPR and in 1964, on November 14th, he married Vera Zabala at the San Fernando Church in Carolina. They had three children. Roberto, Jr. (1965); Luis Roberto (1966); and Enrique Roberto (1970).
The Players End
Roberto Clemente's memorial was held in Pittsburgh with thousands in attendance and his teammates in tears.
After he death, he was awarded:
- The Congressional Gold Medal by President Richard Nixon on May 14, 1973
- Presidential Citizen's Medal by President Richard Nixon on May 14, 1973
- Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush on July 23, 2003
The Pittsburgh Pirates retired his number 21 in 1973.