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Clemente Still Shines, But Does It Trickle Down To Grassroots in Puerto Rico?

10/09/2012 10:20 am ET | Updated Dec 09, 2012

Last week I was on WKJB radio sports talk show here in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico with my friend Josie Alvarado hosted by José "Bebo" Avellanet. Josie is a great baseball sports historian and expert on baseball statistics related to Puerto Ricans who have played the game. He has published two books on statistics of all Puerto Rican players who have played professional baseball (available on line at our store). I have been on several other shows with Josie and it has always been a pleasure listening to him.

Our talk was about Roberto Clemente and the fact that last Sunday, September 30th was the 40th anniversary of Clemente's famous 3000th hit. To the islands newspapers credit they all had published articles on Clemente. We spoke about the fact that Clemente is the player who still receives more publicity after being deceased for so long worldwide than any other player, and for that matter any other athlete.

Josie detailed how of the 28 players that have reached 3000 hits only eight have had 4 seasons of also hitting 200 hits of which Clemente is one of them. However, he also emphasized how Clemente is the only one that also has four bating titles. We all commented how difficult it was to accomplish that especially in the decade of the 1960's when great pitchers dominated baseball. For example, during that period there are now 16 Hall Of Fame pitchers of which not one played with Pittsburgh, yet Clemente batted .328 during that decade. I also mentioned how Clemente did it the "old fashion way" with none of the science and technology that many of the present players have at their disposal.

I commented as a Puerto Rican living in the states how I felt that there was much more attention given to Clemente outside of Puerto Rico. Perhaps it has to do with our colonial mentality, or the lack of education as was indicated in a poll done in 2010 by the newspaper, Primera Hora that found that the majority of the Puerto Rican youth did not really know Roberto Clemente.

I mentioned my experience in the states where I usually receive comments from folks, both Anglo and African-Americans every time I wear my Roberto Clemente jersey, or my "21" hat. I gave the example of this last Sunday when I travelled from New York to Puerto Rico. Since it was the 40th anniversary of Clemente's last hit, I thought it proper to wear his jersey as a tribute to Clemente while travelling to Puerto Rico.

In the states I received two comments, one on my hat (I was not wearing the jersey), the Friday before while in Anaheim California and the other on the jersey on Sunday morning in the New York's Kennedy airport. However, once I landed in Puerto Rico though I had the hat and jersey on for most of the day and late afternoon while I traveled from Aguadilla airport to Mayagüez and eventually to Cabo Rojo stopping off in a few stores I did not hear one comment from anyone. The fact that is was Clemente's 40th anniversary I thought that perhaps I would get some attention, but not one comment.

It was a pleasure to be on Puerto Rico radio talking about Roberto Clemente and why we all believe that his # 21 should be retired from all of baseball.

What do you think?

If you want to receive a Clemente prize visit www.Latinosports.com and comment on this article.

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