THE BRONX—Celebrating the extraordinary life of Roberto Clemente, Latino Sports Ventures Inc. held its 12th annual ‘21 Days of Clemente’ at Applebees, located at the Gateway Mall in the shadow of the venerated Yankee Stadium.
“I want everyone to be inconvenienced during this time of the year,” remarked Julio Pabón, President of Latino Sports who spoke about the significance of this yearly event and taking a moment to reflect on the celebrated life of Puerto Rican ballplayer who passed away 40 years ago.
It’s a familiar line from this native of Guayama, Puerto Rico who is a life-long resident of the South Bronx. He grew up idolizing Mickey Mantle and yet became fascinated by a legendary Latino sensation who captured the hearts of his native country and adopted home of Pittsburgh. That ballplayer, Roberto Clemente who played 18 seasons in the Major Leagues, garnered every imaginable award, achieved superstardom and captured not one…but two Word Series titles in 1960 and 1972.
Clemente did it all on the baseball diamond but would also proclaim his unforgettable mantra: “Anytime you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, you are wasting your time on this Earth.”
During that 1972 Christmas season, Clemente wanted not only the people of his beloved island to be inconvenienced by taking a moment to volunteer, donate non-perishable food and most importantly give monetarily to the suffering of Nicaragua after a devastating earthquake but to realize its everyone’s duty to help the less-fortunate.
“He [Clemente] cared for others. That was his legacy, his real connection was the people,” said Jim Robinson, former Negro League player who was the featured speaker at the annual symposium.
Robinson who is now 82 and shared with the audience his cherished memories of a kindhearted father who accompanied his son to the Polo Grounds to watch the N.Y Giants and the celebrated Negro League teams that he would one day be a part of.
A Korean War veteran and graduate of North Carolina A & T State University, Robinson began his professional baseball career as an infielder with the Philadelphia Stars (1952) and the Indianapolis Clowns (1953). After a brief stint with the St. Louis Cardinals organization, Robinson joined the Kansas City Monarchs in 1956 and stayed through 1958.
“I saw Monte [Irvin] play and when I got to know him personally, he talked about how Clemente was going to be big,” said Robinson.
Robinson can vividly recall stories about Satchel Paige, (Willie) Mays, (Hank) Aaron but he also was thoroughly amazed with the talent coming directly from the Latin-American countries of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
“Since I was an infielder, I love watching Chico Carrasquel and Juan Marichal pitch with the high, leg kick. But, another guy was Orlando Cepeda,” recalled Robinson as a twinkle seemed to appear in his brown eyes as he relived an unbelievable era in baseball.
Robinson could sense that his audience held onto his every word and knowing this particular evening was about Clemente, he ended his talk with a fitting tribute.
“Clemente was more than a star. He was the franchise and made all kinds of marks in every aspect of the game. He truly was a humanitarian because he always maintained his connection with the people.”
A SPECIAL THANKS TO: Jim Robinson, (featured speaker), the musical group, THS, (Randall Leefoon, (vocal, rhythm guitar), José Gonzalez, (second rhythm guitar) Zachary Quiñones, (Lead guitar), Manuel Peña (bass) who provided their musical interlude throughout the symposium, the multi-talented Boricua poet, Mariposa who surprised those in attendance with her beautifully written ode to the ‘Great One’, Roberto Clemente, Julio Pabón and Andrew Rosario in providing the traditional Puerto Rican salute of coquito and most importantly everyone in attendance…¡Felicidades!…Merry Christmas…Happy Holidays from Latino Sports!
See you all December 2013