|Intro||Puerto Rican professional baseball player, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer|
|A.K.A.||Roberto Clemente Walker, Roberto EnriqueClemente Walker|
|Was||Athlete Baseball player|
|Birth||18 August 1934, Carolina, Puerto Rico, USA|
|Death||31 December 1972, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA (aged 38 years)|
Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker ([roˈβeɾto enˈrike kleˈmente (g)walˈkeɾ]; August 18, 1934 – December 31, 1972) was a Puerto Rican professional baseball right fielder who played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming both the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be enshrined. His untimely death established the precedent that, as an alternative to the five-year retirement period, a player who has been deceased for at least six months is eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame.
Clemente was an All-Star for 13 seasons, playing in 15 All-Star Games. He was the National League (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1966, the NL batting leader in 1961, 1964, 1965, and 1967, and a Gold Glove Award winner for 12 consecutive seasons from 1961 through 1972. His batting average was over .300 for 13 seasons and he had 3,000 hits during his major league career. He also was a two-time World Series champion. Clemente is the first Latin American and Caribbean player to win a World Series as a starting position player (1960), to receive an NL MVP Award (1966), and to receive a World Series MVP Award (1971).
Clemente was involved in charity work in Latin American and Caribbean countries during the off-seasons, often delivering baseball equipment and food to those in need. On December 31, 1972, he died in a plane crash at the age of 38 while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The following season, the Pirates retired his uniform number 21, and MLB renamed its annual Commissioner's Award in his honor; now known as the Roberto Clemente Award, it is given to the player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."
Clemente was born in Barrio San Antón, Carolina, Puerto Rico, to Melchor Clemente and Luisa Walker. He was the youngest of seven kids. During his childhood, his father worked as foreman of sugar crops located in the municipality. Because the family's resources were limited, Clemente worked alongside his father in the fields, loading and unloading trucks. Clemente was a track and field star and Olympic hopeful before deciding to turn his full attention to baseball. Clemente showed interest in baseball early in life and often played against neighboring barrios. He attended Julio Vizcarrondo Coronado High School in Carolina. During his first year in high school, he was recruited by Roberto Marín to play softball with the Sello Rojo team after Marín saw Clemente playing baseball in barrio San Antón. He was with the team two years as a shortstop. Clemente joined Puerto Rico's amateur league when he was 16 years old, playing for the Ferdinand Juncos team, which represented the municipality of Juncos.
Puerto Rican baseball (1952–1954)
Clemente's professional baseball career began when Pedrín Zorilla offered Clemente, 18, a contract which he signed on October 9, 1952, with the Cangrejeros de Santurce ("Crabbers"), a winter league team and franchise of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League (LBBPR). He was a bench player during his first season but was promoted to the Cangrejeros starting lineup the following season. During this season he hit .288 as the team's leadoff hitter.
While Clemente was playing in the LBBPR, the Brooklyn Dodgers offered him a contract with one of the team's Triple-A affiliates.
Minor league baseball (1954)
After signing with the Dodgers on February 19, 1954, Clemente moved to Montreal to play with the Royals. Affected early on by both climate and language differences, Clemente received assistance from bilingual teammates such as infielder Chico Fernandez and pitchers Tommy Lasorda and Joe Black.
In fact, it was Black who was the original target of the Pittsburgh Pirates' June 1, 1954 scouting trip to Richmond. Conducted by pitching coach Clyde Sukeforth, the mission's focus quickly shifted when he witnessed Clemente's throwing and batting prowess in pre-game drills. Nonetheless, Clemente barely played during Sukeforth's three-day visit. With his suspicions further aroused by manager Max Macon's dismissive remarks ("You mean you want him?!") and the fact that Clemente took batting practice with the pitchers rather than his fellow position players, Sukeforth made inquiries and soon ascertained Clemente's status as an unprotected bonus baby. The manager had been instructed to use Clemente "sparingly," acknowledged Macon almost 12 years later. "We tried to sneak him through the draft, but it didn't work." As Sukeforth told Pirates beat writer Les Biederman, "I knew then he'd be our first draft choice." Before leaving Richmond, he recalled, "I told Montreal manager Max Macon to take good care of 'our boy' and see that he didn't get hurt."
Evidently, Macon took Sukeforth at his word; scarcely had the Pirate scout departed when, on June 4, Clemente started his first game in over a month. In the course of two days and three games (two of which he started), Clemente amassed ten at-bats, two more than in the previous thirty games combined. Yet just as abruptly, the moment was over and he was back to riding the bench, this time for almost two months.
Clemente's extra inning, walk-off home run of July 25, 1954, the first home run of his North American baseball career, was hit in his first at-bat after entering the game as a defensive replacement. Perhaps prompted by Sukeforth's followup visit ("I don't care if you never play him; we're going to finish last, and we're going to draft him number one"), Clemente's appearance ended a nearly two-month-long drought starting on June 6 (17 appearances, 6 starts, and 24 at-bats in 60 games). From this point forward, Clemente's playing time increased significantly; he started every subsequent game against a left-handed starting pitcher, finishing the season with a batting average of .257 in 87 games. Clemente would complement his July 25 walk-off homer with another on September 5, as well as a walk-off outfield assist (cutting down the potential tying run at the plate) on August 18, his 20th birthday. As promised, the Pirates made Clemente the first selection of the rookie draft that took place on November 22, 1954.
Major League Baseball (1955–1972)
For all but the first six weeks of his major league career (during which time his jersey bore the number 13, while the number now indelibly linked to his name was taken by then-teammate Earl Smith), Clemente wore number 21, later retired by the Pirates.
During the off-seasons (except the 1958–59, 1962–63, 1965–66, 1968–69, 1971–72, and 1972–73 seasons), Clemente played professionally for the Santurce Crabbers, Criollos de Caguas, and San Juan Senadores in the Puerto Rican baseball winter league, where he was considered a star, and he sometimes managed the San Juan team.
In September 1958, Clemente joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He went on to serve his six-month active duty commitment at Parris Island, South Carolina, Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. At Parris Island, Clemente received his recruit training with Platoon 346 of the 3rd Recruit Battalion. The rigorous Marine Corps training programs helped Clemente physically; he added strength by gaining ten pounds and said his back troubles (caused by being in a 1954 auto accident, see below) had disappeared. He was a private first class in the Marine Corps Reserve until September 1964.
Pittsburgh Pirates, 1950s
The Pirates experienced several difficult seasons through the 1950s, although they did manage a winning season in 1958, their first since 1948.
Clemente debuted with the Pirates on April 17, 1955, wearing uniform number 13, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Brooklyn Dodgers. At the beginning of his time with the Pirates, he experienced frustration because of racial tension with the local media and some teammates. Clemente responded to this by stating, "I don't believe in color." He noted that, during his upbringing, he was taught to never discriminate against someone based on ethnicity.
Clemente was at a double disadvantage, as he was a Latin American and Caribbean player who knew very little English, and was Black, being of African descent. The year before, the Pirates had become the fifth team in the NL and ninth in the major leagues to break the baseball color line when they hired Curt Roberts who debuted with the team. This was seven years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color line with the Dodgers. Upon arriving in Pittsburgh, Roberts befriended Clemente and helped him adjust to life in the major league, as well as to get used to life in the Pittsburgh area.
Clemente had to sit out several games during his rookie season, due to a back injury suffered the previous winter in Puerto Rico, when a drunk driver rammed into his car at an intersection. He finished his rookie season with a .255 batting average, despite trouble hitting certain types of pitches. His defensive skills were highlighted during this season.
The following season, on July 25, 1956 in Forbes Field, Clemente hit the only documented walk-off, inside-the-park grand slam in modern MLB play. Clemente was still fulfilling his Marine Corps Reserve duty during spring of 1959 and set to be released from Camp Lejeune until April 4. A Pennsylvania State Senator, John M. Walker, wrote to US Senator Hugh Scott requesting an early release on March 4 so Clemente could join the team for spring training.
Pittsburgh Pirates, 1960s
Early in the 1960 season, Clemente led the league with a .353 batting average, and the 14 extra-base hits and 25 RBIs recorded in May alone resulted in Clemente's selection as the National League's Player of the Month. His batting average would remain above the .300 mark throughout the course of the campaign. On August 5 at Forbes Field, Clemente crashed into the right field wall while making a pivotal play, depriving San Francisco's Willie Mays of a leadoff, extra-base hit in a game eventually won by Pittsburgh, 1–0. The resulting injury necessitated five stitches to the chin and a five-game layoff for Clemente, while the catch itself was described by Giants beat writer Bob Stevens as "rank[ing] with the greatest of all time, as well as one of the most frightening to watch and painful to make." The Pirates compiled a 95–59 record during the regular season, winning the NL pennant, and defeated the New York Yankees in a seven-game World Series. Clemente batted .310 in the series, hitting safely at least once in every game. His .314 batting average, 16 home runs, and defensive playing during the course of the season had earned him his first spot on the NL All-Star roster as a reserve player, and he replaced Hank Aaron in right field during the 7th and 8th innings in the second All-Star game held that season (two All-Star games were held each season from 1959 through 1962).
During spring training in 1961, following advice from Pirates' batting coach George Sisler, Clemente tried to modify his batting technique by using a heavier bat to slow the speed of his swing. During the 1961 season, Clemente was named the starting NL right fielder for the first of two All-Star games and went 2 for 4; he hit a triple on his first at-bat and scored the team's first run, then drove in the second with a sacrifice fly. With the AL ahead 4–3 in the 10th inning, he teamed with fellow future HOFers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson to engineer a come-from-behind 5–4 NL victory, culminating in Clemente's walk-off single off knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm. Clemente started again in right field for the second All-Star game held that season and was 0 for 2, flying and grounding out in the 2nd and 4th innings. That season he received his first Gold Glove Award.
Following the 1961 season, he traveled to Puerto Rico along with Orlando Cepeda, who was a native of Ponce. When both players arrived, they were received by 18,000 people. During this time, he was also involved in managing the Senadores de San Juan of the Puerto Rican League, as well as playing with the team during the major league off-season. During the course of the winter league, Clemente injured his thigh while doing some work at home but wanted to participate in the league's all-star game. He pinch-hit in the game and got a single, but experienced a complication of his injury as a result, and had to undergo surgery shortly after being carried off the playing field. This condition limited his role with the Pirates in the first half of the 1965 season, during which he batted .257. Although he was inactive for many games, when he returned to the regular starting lineup, he got hits in 33 out of 34 games and his batting average climbed up to .340. He participated as a pinch hitter and replaced Willie Stargell playing left field during the All-Star Game on July 15.
Clemente was an All-Star every season he played in the 1960s other than 1968—the only year in his career after 1959 in which he failed to hit above .300—and a Gold Glove winner for each of his final 12 seasons, beginning in 1961. He won the NL batting title four times: 1961, 1964, 1965, and 1967, and won the league's MVP Award in 1966, hitting .317 with 29 home runs and 119 RBIs. In 1967, Clemente registered a career high .357 batting average, hit 23 home runs, and batted in 110 runs. Following that season, in an informal poll conducted by Sport Magazine at baseball's Winter Meetings, a plurality of major league GMs declared Clemente "the best player in baseball today," edging out AL Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski by a margin of 8 to 6, with one vote each going to Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Bill Freehan and Ron Santo.
Pittsburgh Pirates, 1970s
The 1970 season was the last one that the Pirates played at Forbes Field before moving to Three Rivers Stadium; for Clemente, abandoning this stadium was an emotional situation. The Pirates' final game at Forbes Field occurred on June 28, 1970. That day, Clemente noted that it was hard to play in a different field, saying, "I spent half my life there." The night of July 24, 1970, was declared "Roberto Clemente Night"; on this day, several Puerto Rican fans traveled to Three Rivers Stadium and cheered Clemente while wearing traditional Puerto Rican attire. A ceremony to honor Clemente took place, during which he received a scroll with 300,000 signatures compiled in Puerto Rico, and several thousands of dollars were donated to charity work following Clemente's request.
During the 1970 season, Clemente compiled a .352 batting average; the Pirates won the NL East pennant but were subsequently eliminated by the Cincinnati Reds. During the offseason, Roberto Clemente experienced some tense situations while he was working as manager of the Senadores and when his father, Melchor Clemente, experienced medical problems and underwent surgery.
In the 1971 season, the Pirates won the NL East, defeated the San Francisco Giants in four games to win the NL pennant, and faced the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Baltimore had won 101 games (third season in row with 100+ wins) and swept the American League Championship Series, both for the third consecutive year, and were the defending World Series champions. The Orioles won the first two games in the series, but Pittsburgh won the championship in seven games. This marked the second occasion that Clemente helped win a World Series for the Pirates. Over the course of the series, Clemente had a .414 batting average (12 hits in 29 at-bats), performed well defensively, and hit a solo home run in the deciding 2–1 seventh game victory. Following the conclusion of the season, he received the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.
|Roberto Clemente's number 21 was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1973.|
Although he was frustrated and struggling with injuries, Clemente played in 102 games and hit .312 during the 1972 season. He also made the annual NL All-Star roster for the twelfth time (he played in 14/15 All-Star games) and won his twelfth consecutive Gold Glove. On September 30, he hit a double in the fourth inning off Jon Matlack of the New York Mets at Three Rivers Stadium for his 3,000th hit. It was his last regular season at-bat of his career. By playing in right field in one more regular season game, on October 3, Clemente passed Honus Wagner's record for games played as a Pittsburgh Pirate, with 2,433 games played. In the NL playoffs that season, he batted .235 as he went 4 for 17. His last game was October 11, 1972 at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium in the fifth and final game of the 1972 NLCS. He and Bill Mazeroski were the last Pirate players remaining from the 1960 World Series championship team.
Clemente was married on November 14, 1964, to Vera Zabala at San Fernando Church in Carolina. The couple had three children: Roberto Jr., born in 1965, Luis Roberto, born in 1966, and Roberto Enrique, born in 1969. Vera Clemente died on November 16, 2019, aged 78.
In the 1958–59 off-season, Clemente enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, and served during off-seasons through 1964. He was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, and into the Puerto Rican Veterans Hall of Fame 15 years later.
Charity work and death
Clemente spent much of his time during the off-season involved in charity work. When Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, was affected by a massive earthquake on December 23, 1972, Clemente (who visited Managua three weeks before the quake) immediately set to work arranging emergency relief flights. He soon learned, however, that the aid packages on the first three flights had been diverted by corrupt officials of the Somoza government, never reaching victims of the quake. He decided to accompany the fourth relief flight, hoping that his presence would ensure that the aid would be delivered to the survivors. The airplane he chartered for a New Year's Eve flight, a Douglas DC-7 cargo plane, had a history of mechanical problems and an insufficient number of flight personnel (missing both a flight engineer and copilot), and was overloaded by 4,200 pounds (1,900 kg). It crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico immediately after takeoff on December 31, 1972 due to engine failure.
A few days after the crash, the body of the pilot and part of the fuselage of the plane were found. An empty flight case apparently belonging to Clemente was the only personal item recovered from the plane. Clemente's teammate and close friend Manny Sanguillén was the only member of the Pirates not to attend Roberto's memorial service. The Pirates catcher chose instead to dive into the waters where Clemente's plane had crashed in an effort to find his teammate. The bodies of Clemente and three others who were also on the four-engine plane were never recovered.
Montreal Expos pitcher Tom Walker, then playing winter league ball in Puerto Rico (in a league later named after Clemente), helped him load the plane. Because Clemente wanted Walker, who was single, to go enjoy New Year's, Clemente told him not to join him on the flight. Walker's son is professional baseball player Neil Walker.
In an interview for the ESPN documentary series SportsCentury in 2002, Clemente's widow Vera mentioned that Clemente had told her several times that he thought he was going to die young. Indeed, while being asked by broadcaster and future fellow Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn in July 1971 during the All-Star Game activities about when he would get his 3,000th career hit, Clemente's response was "Well, uh, you never know. I, I, uh, if I'm alive, like I said before, you never know because God tells you how long you're going to be here. So you never know what can happen tomorrow." Clemente's older stepbrother, Luis, died on December 31, 1954 and his stepsister a few years later.
At the time of his death, Clemente had established several records with the Pirates, including most triples in a game (three) and hits in two consecutive games (ten). He won 12 Gold Glove Awards and shares the record of most won among outfielders with Willie Mays. On July 25, 1956, in a 9–8 Pittsburgh win against the Chicago Cubs, Clemente hit the only walk-off inside-the-park grand slam in professional baseball history.
Hall of Fame
On March 20, 1973, the Baseball Writers' Association of America held a special election for the Baseball Hall of Fame. They voted to waive the waiting period for Clemente, due to the circumstances of his death, and posthumously elected him for induction into the Hall of Fame, giving him 393 out of 420 available votes, for 92.7% of the vote.
Clemente's Hall of Fame plaque originally had his name as "Roberto Walker Clemente" instead of the proper Spanish format "Roberto Clemente Walker"; the plaque was recast in 2000 to correct the error.
MLB awards and achievements
- NL MVP Award (1966)
- NL Player of the Month Award (May 1960, May 1967, July 1969)
- World Series MVP Award (1971)
- NL Gold Glove Award (1961–1972)
- Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award (2006)
- NL All-Star (1960–1967, 1969–1972)
- NL leader in batting average (1961, 1964, 1965, 1967)
- NL leader in hits (1964, 1967)
- NL leader in triples (1969)
- NL leader in putouts as right fielder (1958, 1961, 1966)
- NL leader in fielding average as right fielder and outfielder (1972)
Roberto Clemente Award
Since 1971, MLB has presented the Roberto Clemente Award (named the Commissioner's Award in 1971 and 1972) every year to a player with outstanding baseball playing skills who is personally involved in community work. A trophy and a donation check for a charity of the player's choice is presented annually at the World Series. A panel of three makes the final determination of the award recipient from an annual list of selected players.
Clemente was posthumously presented three civilian awards of the United States government from the President of the United States including the first Presidential Citizens Medal:
- President Richard Nixon, May 14, 1973: Roberto Clemente Walker Congressional Gold Medal
- President Richard Nixon, May 14, 1973: Presidential Citizens Medal
- President George W. Bush, July 23, 2003: Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Roberto Clemente Walker Congressional Gold Medal Presidential Medal of Freedom Presidential Citizens Medal
Citizens Medal Citation
"All who saw Roberto Clemente in action, whether on the diamond or on the front lines of charitable endeavor, are richer for the experience. He stands with the handful of men whose brilliance has transformed the game of baseball into a showcase of skill and spirit, giving universal delight and inspiration. More than that, his selfless dedication to helping those with two strikes against them in life has blessed thousands and set an example for millions. As long as athletes and humanitarians are honored, Roberto Clemente's memory will live; as long as Citizens Medals are presented, each will mean a little more because the first one went to him."
Other honors and awards
- Havey Boyle Award (1961) from the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
- Sportsman of the Year Award (1961, 1966 and 1971) from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Dapper Dan Club.
- Man of the Year Award (1966) from the Pittsburgh chapter of the United States Junior Chamber, also known as the Jaycees.
- David L. Lawrence Memorial Award (1966) from the Pittsburgh chapter of the Jaycees.
- Tris Speaker Memorial Award (1970) from the Houston chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
- Babe Ruth Award (1971) from the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWWA).
- Al Abrams Memorial Award (1986) from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Dapper Dan Club.
- Eduardo Green Award (1989) from the government of Nicaragua.
- Clemente's uniform number 21 was retired by the Pirates on April 6, 1973.
- The United States Postal Service issued a Roberto Clemente postal stamp on August 17, 1984. The stamp was designed by Juan Lopez-Bonilla and shows Clemente wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap with a Puerto Rican flag in the background.
- A US Post Office in Clemente's hometown, Carolina, Puerto Rico, was named after him by congress on October 10, 2003.
- PNC Park, the home ballpark of the Pirates which opened in 2001, includes a right field wall 21 feet (6.4 m) high, in reference to Clemente's uniform number and his normal fielding position during his years with the Pirates. The Pirates originally erected a statue in memory of Clemente at Three Rivers Stadium, an honor previously awarded to Honus Wagner. The statue was moved to PNC Park when it opened, and stands at the corner near the Roberto Clemente Bridge. An identical smaller statue was unveiled in Newark, New Jersey's Branch Brook Park in 2012. The team considered naming PNC Park after Clemente, but despite popular sentiment the team chose instead to sell the naming rights to locally based PNC Financial Services, with the bridge being renamed after him considered a compromise.
- The coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico was named the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in 1973; two baseball parks are in Carolina, the professional one, Roberto Clemente Stadium, and the Double-A. There is also the Escuela de los Deportes (School of Sports) that has the Double-A baseball park. Today, this sports complex is called Ciudad Deportiva Roberto Clemente. The Pirates are one of the most popular baseball teams in Puerto Rico due to Clemente.
- In Pittsburgh, the 6th Street Bridge was renamed in his memory. The City of Pittsburgh maintains Roberto Clemente Memorial Park along North Shore Drive in the city's North Side which includes a bronze relief by sculptor Eleanor Milleville. In 2007, the Roberto Clemente Museum opened in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh. Near the old Forbes Field where he began his pro career, the city of Pittsburgh renamed a street in his honor.
- Champion thoroughbred horse Roberto, bred in 1968 and owned by then-Pirates owner John W. Galbreath, was named for Clemente. The horse would go on to become a champion in Britain and Ireland, and in June 1973, following Clemente's death, won the Group I Coronation Stakes at Epsom.
- The U.S. state of New York renamed Harlem River State Park in The Bronx to Roberto Clemente State Park in 1973. A statue of the Hall of Fame icon, sculpted by Cuban-American Maritza Hernandez, was installed at the park in June 2013. It depicts Clemente doffing his cap after notching his 3,000th hit on September 30, 1972.
- The Brentwood, Suffolk County, New York, Timberline town park and pool was renamed Roberto Clemente Park in 2011.
- There is a Roberto Clemente Stadium in Masaya, Nicaragua.
- The Roberto Clemente Little League in Branch Brook Park in Newark, New Jersey is named for him.
- During the 2003 and 2004 MLB seasons, the Montreal Expos (who at the time were owned by MLB due to an aborted contraction attempt) played 22 home games each season at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although the Pirates played their annual road series against the Expos in Montreal for 2003, the two teams did meet in San Juan for a four-game series in 2004, the last series the Expos hosted in San Juan before moving to Washington, D.C. and becoming the Washington Nationals the following season. During one of those games, in a tribute to Clemente, both teams wore throwback uniforms from the 1969 season, the Expos first season and, at the time, Clemente's 15th with the Pirates. The Pirates throwbacks, replicas of what Clemente wore from 1957–early 1970, were similar to their then-current uniforms, except that the road jerseys they wore for the game read "Pirates" instead of "Pittsburgh", and last names were absent from the backs of the jerseys. The Expos won the four-game series three games to one.
- Clemente's #21 remains active in MLB and is worn by multiple players. Sammy Sosa wore #21 throughout his career as a tribute to his childhood hero. The number is unofficially retired in the Puerto Rico Baseball League. While the topic of retiring #21 throughout Major League Baseball like Jackie Robinson's #42 has been broached and supported by groups such as Hispanics Across America, Jackie Robinson's daughter disagrees, believing that MLB should honor him another way.
- At Pirate City, the Pirates spring training home in Bradenton, Florida, a section of 27th Street East is named Roberto Clemente Memorial Highway.
- On April 27, 2018, the portion of Route 21 between mileposts 3.90 and 5.83 in Newark, New Jersey was dedicated the "Roberto Clemente Memorial Highway" in his honor.
- In July 2018, the asteroid 109330 Clemente was named in his memory.
- Roberto Clemente Park Vibrant neighborhood park located near downtown Miami Florida with a ball field, community center, playground & basketball courts. 101 NW 34th St, Miami, FL 33127
- The Pittsburgh Pirates take #21 out of retirement for a game against the Chicago White Sox at PNC Park on September 9, 2020. The MLB has celebrated the date as "Roberto Clemente Day" since 2002, and all members of the Pittsburgh team will wear #21 on their backs.
Halls of fame
- Baseball Hall of Fame; March 20, 1973.
- World Sports Humanitarian Hall; 1995.
- United States Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame; 2003.
- Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame; 2010.
- Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame; 2015.
- Puerto Rican Veterans Hall of Fame; 2018.
- Willie Mays, while fielding questions from reporters following the announcement of his election to the Hall of Fame on January 23, 1979, called Clemente the best player he ever saw, other than himself. Mays reiterated his assessment of Clemente on January 26, 1979, stating that, "He could do anything with a bat and in the field." Mays has repeatedly through the years stood by his statements regarding Clemente.
- Named a member of MLB's Latino Legends Team in 2005.
- Selected for the All Time Rawlings Gold Glove Team in August 2007 for the 50th anniversary of the award.
- In 1999, Clemente ranked number 20 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, the highest-ranking Latin American and Caribbean player on the list. Later that year, Clemente was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
- Roberto Clemente Community Academy in Chicago
- Roberto Clemente Charter School in Allentown, Pennsylvania
- Roberto Clemente Academy in Detroit
- Roberto Clemente Elementary School in Paterson, New Jersey
- Roberto Clemente Middle School in Paterson, New Jersey
- Roberto W. Clemente Middle School in Germantown, Maryland
- Roberto Clemente Independent School of the Arts (IS 195) in New York City
- Clemente Leadership Academy in The Hill neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut.
- Roberto Clemente School No. 8 is an elementary school in Rochester, New York
Biographies and documentaries
Clemente's life has been the subject of numerous books, articles and documentaries:
1973: A Touch Of Royalty, documentary narrated in English and Spanish versions by Puerto Rican Academy Award winner actor José Ferrer.
1973: Olu Clemente — The Philosopher of Baseball, a bilingual play featuring poetry, music and dancing, by Miguel Algarin and Jesús Abraham Laviera, performed on August 30, 1973 at the Delacorte Theatre, Central Park, and published in 1979 in Nuevos pasos: Chicano and Puerto Rican drama by Nicolás Kanellos and Jorge A. Huerta.
1993: Roberto Clemente: A Video Tribute to One of Baseball's Greatest Players and a True Humanitarian, documentary directed by Rich Domich and Michael Kostel, narrated by Puerto Rican actors Raul Julia (in Spanish) and Héctor Elizondo (in English).
2006: Clemente: The Passion and grace of Baseball's Last Hero by David Maraniss.
2008: "Roberto Clemente": One-hour biography as part of the Public Broadcasting Service history series, American Experience which premiered on April 21, 2008. The film is directed by Bernardo Ruiz, narrated by Jimmy Smits and features interviews with Vera Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and George F. Will. The production received an ALMA Award.
2010: Chasing 3000 a movie based on a true story of two kids who travel from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh hoping to see Clemente's 3,000th hit.
2011: 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente was released, a graphic novel by Wilfred Santiago (published by Fantagraphics) detailing Clemente's life in a comic-book format. In their USA Today Magazine article titled "Saluting Pittsburgh's Finest" Richard E. Vatz and Lee S. Weinberg said Clemente was "arguably the best in the history of the game" and stated that "understanding the magnitude of Roberto Clemente requires an appreciation of the gestalt of his presence, which was greater than the sum of his statistics".
2011: DC-7: The Roberto Clemente Story, a bilingual musical about Clemente's life, had its world premiere in November 2011 with a full house at the Teatro SEA in Manhattan before moving to New York's Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre for a successful seven-week run. The show ran from December 6 through December 16, 2012 at Puerto Rico's Teatro Francisco Arrivi.
2013: Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories, the first feature dramatic film on Clemente's life was finished by California filmmaker and Pittsburgh native Richard Rossi. Rossi returned to Pittsburgh to premiere his film on Roberto Clemente's birthday, August 18, 2013 before exhibiting the film in New York, other cities, and DVD.
Influence on players today
Roberto Clemente's influence on Puerto Rican baseball players was very similar to that of Jackie Robinson for African American baseball players. He wasn't the first Puerto Rican to play in the MLB, however, he was arguably the most notable at the time. Roberto faced discrimination and disrespect while playing in MLB. Roberto persevered and continued to let his play shine and prove why he and many Latino players like him deserved to play among the best of the MLB. Recognized as "The Great One" , he often made his frustrations known about being overlooked by the media during his career. In Puerto Rico, Roberto was nothing less than a monumental superstar. He was considered a national hero and was idolized by all of the young players watching him. As rich and famous Roberto got, he never stopped helping others. He always helped the underprivileged as much as he could. Many stars have emerged from the ball fields of Puerto Rico since baseball arrived on the island in the late 1800s. There were Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Pudge Rodriguez, and Roberto Alomar, and stars like Javy Lopez, Juan Gonzalez, Juan Pizarro, Ruben Gomez, Bernie Williams, and José Valentin. Carlos Correa has emerged as one of Puerto Rico's best talents in baseball. On what he admired most about Clemente as a player: "The passion, the way he played, the way he went about his business every single day. Every time he put on his uniform he felt like the luckiest man in the world, so that for me is what I admire most." Clemente's effect was not only felt in the hearts of the Puerto Rican people, his impact is still being felt in MLB today. Roberto showcased some of the best talent that Puerto Rico could offer and paved the way for thousands of players to follow his lead. He broke through the cultural barrier in the MLB and made Puerto Rican baseball players respected.
The feature film Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories (2013) was filmed by Richard Rossi. One of the scenes in the movie features a conversation Clemente has with a nun.
The scene spurred Rossi, a former evangelical minister who was once charged with attempted murder of his wife (hung jury) and who left his ministry after being accused of fraud, to submit a request to the Vatican for them to consider Clemente's canonization as a saint. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, responsible for these issues, responded by confirming receipt of the letter and directing Rossi to work through the Archbishop of San Juan – the jurisdiction in which Clemente died; despite this, Rossi issued a press release showing a picture of the response and claimed that it showed that the Pope was personally supporting Rossi's effort.
Rossi did receive positive comments from the executive director of the Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh, while Carmen Nanko-Fernandez, from the Chicago Theological Union, was not confident that Clemente would be canonized, pointing out that Hispanic Catholics can continue to revere Clemente as an unofficial saint. Neil Walker, a devout Roman Catholic whose father was a teammate of Clemente, stated that "he's somebody who lived his life serving others, really. So if it would happen, I wouldn't be terribly surprised by it."
In July 2017, Rossi claimed that the canonization requirement of a miracle was met that month when Jamie Nieto, who played Clemente in Rossi's film and was paralyzed from the neck down in a backflip accident three years after the Clemente film was released, walked 130 steps at his own wedding to fellow Olympian Shevon Stoddart, though Nieto himself stated that the success was due to his hard work, while the Vatican stated that they were not in continued contact with Rossi.