MIAMI — Some of Roberto Clemente’s most impactful career and life moments are on display at the Miami Marlins’ loanDepot Park.
A traveling exhibit titled “3,000″ — a nod to the day on September 30, 1972, that the late Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder became the first Latin American-born MLB player to record 3,000 hits — stopped at the Caribbean Series held at the Marlins’ home ballpark.
The collection, curated by Dennis Rivera-Pichardo, who is director of photography at the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día, consists of 10 bright yellow modules depicting photos of Clemente’s life.
Several of those pictures are of the moments before and after Clemente recorded his 3,000th career hit in a game against the New York Mets at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. There’s one of him reading fan mail in the Pirates clubhouse before the game, and others of him embracing his wife, Vera, and his children afterward.
Many of the photos had been unpublished before the museum debuted in September 2022 in Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan, which is less than 15 miles from where Clemente was born in Carolina. The museum made its first U.S. stop last September at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, where Clemente spent all 18 years of his Major League career. Rivera-Pichardo estimated that more that 150,000 people showed up to view the collection in Puerto Rico, as well as another 200,000 in Pittsburgh.
“For Puerto Ricans, Clemente is the biggest ballplayer in our history,” Rivera-Pichardo said. “But being able to take it to his baseball hometown in Pittsburgh, people love him (there) as much as people in Puerto Rico, and as much as people in Nicaragua.”
More than 50 years after his death, Clemente remains one of the most revered figures in Puerto Rico and Latin America because of his grace and power on the field, and most notably, his humanitarian efforts.
He was passionate about his Puerto Rican roots and constantly called out the racism he experienced as a Black Latino during a career that paralleled the civil rights movement.
He was a future Baseball Hall of Famer, with exactly 3,000 hits, four National League batting titles, 12 Gold Gloves, an MVP award, two World Series championships and 15 All-Star appearances.
“We certainly want the world to remember Roberto Clemente as a human being that gave all he had to give in baseball,” Clemente’s middle son, Luis, told The Associated Press in an interview about his father’s legacy last year. “That was his vehicle to get his message across. I think that he’s more revered and remembered by his actions as a humanitarian.”
Clemente died at the age of 38 on Dec. 31, 1972, when his plane crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico while he was delivering relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Included in the collection of photos are some of the moments after that accident: Vera Clemente squinting into chunky black binoculars as she watched rescue efforts where the crash took place; emergency personnel diving into water on the search and rescue mission; as well as members of the U.S. coast guard removing the engine and propeller of the DC7 plane where Clemente died.
The Marlins invited 50 local children from their youth baseball program to attend the unveiling of the exhibit, a day before the Caribbean series began with Nicaragua facing Puerto Rico.
“It’s very emotional for us because we know the love that Clemente had for Nicaragua after he played several tournaments down there,” Rivera-Pichardo said.
Rivera-Pichardo added that the museum will be on display in Miami until May 2 and will travel to New York in June. After that, the plan is to donate the exhibit to the Nicaraguan people.
“He had a personal connection with the country,” he said, “and for us, it’s very special to keep his legacy alive. Fifty years later, having the opportunity to not only show it to the Puerto Rican people, but to show it to people outside of Puerto Rico, for us at El Nuevo Día, this is the best thing that we can give back to the people.”
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