i realize that today is the first day of the 2007 nfl season and i should be writing about football, but something important happened in major league baseball yesterday that i didn't want to let pass by without mentioning.
yesterday was roberto clemente day.
now what that means for major league baseball is that each team awarded one of their players with a nomination for the roberto clemente award. by the world series, one of those nominees will receive the award. "it is an award given annually to a player who demonstrates the values clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others." that is what roberto clemente day means to major league baseball. but to fans of the man around the world, it means much more.
i had the opportunity to read this biography this summer. and it was really good. i wish i had the time to tell you the story of his life here, and i wish even more that i had the words to adequately describe the grace and enigma that clemente was, but i do not have either. it will need to suffice to say that he is one of the top ball players of all time, and that he accomplished that under pretty difficult circumstances. being a latin ballplayer, especially a dark-skinned one, during the late 50s and into the 60s was difficult. and while roberto was incredibly able on the field, he was not always quite so gifted in the locker room with the media. he was known to be quite difficult to interview or deal with at all from a media perspective. but almost to a person, his fans had a different perspective. he was a man of the people. he embraced children especially. he was extremely generous. he is a hero in his native land of peurto rico. when i was in peurto rico a few years ago, the san juan museo de arte just happened to be holding an exhibit on roberto clemente. he was an athelete but he inspired many works of profound art because he was more than just an athelete to so many people.
i had the opportunity to meet a peurto rican man here in new jersey who was a child in one of roberto clemente's baseball camps for children in san juan during the late 60's. he actually got to talk to roberto and learn some baseball fundamentals from him. and he had nothing but good things to say about the man.
of course, roberto clemente left much too early, dying in a plane crash in 1972 delivering supplies to an earthquake torn nicaragua. he was almost immediately voted into the baseball hall of fame, as the media bypassed the normal waiting period.
quite simply, i just wanted to make sure that everyone knew who he was; that there was a simple guy who played baseball several decades ago who understood that it was about more than just making money and being the best. a guy who understood that you use whatever station you have in life to make a difference for others. one of my favorite quotes from him that i read in the book was this: if you are not using your position to help other people than you are wasting your time.
thank you, roberto.