The Legacy of Roberto Clemente Remembered

Rich Mancuso-100x100Understanding the legacy of Roberto Clemente is the Number


By Rich Mancuso


Roberto Clemente the first Hispanic ballplayer enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame has many roots in the Bronx. There are schools, community centers and baseball fields named in honor of  Clemente; the first Latino to reach the 3,000 hit plateau and the humanitarian with a legacy of reaching out to those in need.


Last Thursday on the anniversary of the tragic airplane crash that took Clemente’s life, the legacy and mission of the player was remembered in the Bronx at the offices of the Bronx Board of Realtors on Williamsbridge Road in the Morris Park area of the borough.


Robert Clemente 21The legacy is more than a mission to also retire the number “21” that has been petitioned to the offices of Major League Baseball.  There is always the mission to remember a man who had a goal to help humanity and lost his life in doing so.


“He had an unfilled promise,” Eliezer Rodriguez said. The Bronx based attorney and lifelong baseball fan created Project Club Clemente Inc in 2000, with the mission to promote, celebrate and educate that Clemente legacy.


Those who knew Clemente or learned about his nature, either through reading or viewing video, know the mission was not complete. Clemente tragically lost his life when a private plane crashed on December 31, 1972 on his mission to deliver aid for victims of earthquake victims in Nicaragua.


Rodriguez, in memory of the great player has never bypassed what that mission meant for humanity. He looks at numbers, “21” and the historic 3,000th hit and how they coincide with his goals to retain the memories of Roberto Clemente and the mission. The project that he created 16 years ago through loans and fund raising, fulfilled Clemente’s 33-year old commitment to the people of Nicaragua by delivering 16,324 pounds of food and medicine to earthquake victims on December 31, 2005.


And the mission has not concluded. Rodriguez does not do this for personal exposure, nor does he profit by exhibiting much of the Clemente memorabilia that is in his possession and speaking to various youth groups. It is all about spreading the words about a humanitarian and retaining that legacy of Roberto Clemente.


“The first time he got a hit it was his first at bat,” Rodriguez said to a group of business people and those who helped him with a cause to remember the legacy. “His last at bat was his 3,000th hit.” He wrote a poem about the hits and how many of Clemente’s accomplishments coincided with what he calls, “Stepping into the shoes of Number 21.”


So in the Bronx last week it was a celebration,more importantly the continued movement to remember a baseball legend who cared for people and youngsters around the world who trot on a baseball field.

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