Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Brittany. Brittany Wonders, “What influence did Roberto Clemente have on baseball?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Brittany!

Some people called him “Arriba.” Others nicknamed him “The Great One.” He was a talented baseball player and the pride of Puerto Rico. That’s right, we’re talking about Roberto Clemente!

Who was Roberto Clemente? Only one of the greatest baseball players of all time! Clemente was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, on August 18, 1934. He showed a flair for sports from an early age. By age 17, he was playing in the Puerto Rican Baseball League for the Santurce Crabbers.

Soon, Clemente moved to the continental United States. There, he played one season in the minor leagues. In 1955, he joined Major League Baseball (MLB) as a right-fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Just five years later, Clemente led the Pirates to win the 1960 World Series.

Many baseball fans say that Clemente was one of the best right fielders in history. And they certainly have evidence to back it up! He won 12 straight Golden Gloves—an award given each year to the best defensive players in baseball. He also won four batting titles as well as the 1966 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award.

One of Clemente’s greatest baseball moments came in 1971. That year, the Baltimore Orioles were favored to beat the Pirates in the World Series. Instead, the Pirates pulled off one of the most surprising wins in baseball history. 

During the game, Clemente batted a .414 and hit two home runs. This performance earned him the 1971 World Series MVP award. The next year, he reached a milestone—3,000 career hits. He was only the 11th person to do so in the MLB.

People remember Clemente for much more than his talent in baseball. He had a passion for helping children, especially those in his home of Puerto Rico and across Latin America. He held baseball clinics to help kids experiencing poverty learn to play the sport. Clemente also dreamed of starting a “Sports City” in Puerto Rico. It would offer coaching and encouragement to kids in a variety of sports. 

Sadly, this dream never came true. On December 31, 1972, Clemente was on a humanitarian trip to Nicaragua after a major earthquake rocked the nation. His plane crashed near the coast of Puerto Rico. Clemente and everyone else on board died. Clemente left behind his wife, Vera, and three children.

Roberto Clemente was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 1973. The MLB also celebrates Roberto Clemente Day on September 9. Today, the Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh helps visitors learn about his accomplishments both on and off the field. Puerto Rico’s main professional baseball league also carries his name. It’s called the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente (LBPRC).

Many fans remember Clemente as a well-rounded athlete. Others admire his humanitarian work even more. What do you think was Roberto Clemente’s greatest accomplishment?

Standards: CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6 CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10 CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.5, CCRA.SL.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.L.2

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