Sunday, June 28, 2009

TC: Clemente (1934 - 1972)



won’t forget
his nervous
habit of
rearing his
head back
on his neck
like a
proud horse

no olvidaré
su nerviosa
costumbre de
altar la
cabeza muy
como un
caballo de raza


Roberto Clemente
: photos from The Pennsylvania Department, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Thumbnail photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Spanish translation by Jose L. Varela-Ibarra


Benjamin Ackerman said...

75th birthday anniversary of the Great One.
His example is always there whenever I need a kick in the ass.

TC said...


Wonderful to hear from you, after all these years.

And the gods thank you for this timely commemoration of a man whose memory deserves keeping green.

Anonymous said...

we were kids
we could never figure out
why the pittsburgh press and bob
prince were so mad at roberto.
we knotholers only knew
the great one
who would talk to us
for hours
before the game.

TC said...


Thank you for remembering The Great One.

Doubtless there are some too young to recall that Clemente was a true hero in many respects, not only in his skills and dignity as a player but in his humanitarian activities as well.

In December, 1972, a devastating earthquake shook Nicaragua.

Seven thousand people died, thousands more were seriously injured, a quarter of a million left homeless.

Clemente had spent much of the previous November in Nicaragua with a Puerto Rican team in an Amateur Baseball World Series. He had made many friends.

Clemente volunteered to organize an impromptu earthquake relief committee. He knocked on many doors. His group raised $150,000 and had shipped twenty-six tons of food to Managua when it was learned that the Somoza dictatorship was intercepting the deliveries before the supplies reached the victims.

On New Years Eve, 1972, Clemente hired a DC-7 and loaded it up with food and medicine. With four friends he took off from San Juan for Managua. Perhaps Clemente had insisted on taking aboard more cargo than the small plane could safely hold. It would have been like him. Stubborn to the last.

His wife Vera later recalled discussing the risks of the trip with Clemente before take-off. "When your time comes, it comes," Clemente told her.

One of the DC-7 engines exploded soon after takeoff.

The plane went down in the Caribbean.

I'll never forget the news of the days after his plane was reported missing. Clemente's friend and Pittsburgh teammate, the Panamanian Manny Sanguillen, refusing to accept the inevitable, dove time after time into the deep waters of the Caribbean, searching for the lost compañero.