Derek Jeter Reminds Us How Great Roberto Clemente Was
Derek Jeter is on the disabled list. If you follow baseball, you already know that. You also know that he is only a few at-bats away from getting his 3000th hit. If you are a fan of baseball, I think it is safe to say that you probably know a great deal about Derek Jeter. But how much do you know about the man who he is about to pass on the all-time hit list, a man who got his 3000th base hit in the last game of his life?
Roberto Clemente was an under-appreciated player on an underrated team, and people remember him more for the heroic circumstances of his death than for his brilliance on the field. Even as he dedicated himself to crucial humanitarian causes in Pittsburgh and his native Puerto Rico, in a time before this was de rigueur PR for athletes, his fans complained that he was a whiner and an ingrate. They did not even call him by his proper name, choosing the Anglicized "Bobby" over "Roberto." (Witness that in the clip at the end of this post.)
When Clemente got his 3000th hit, there were only 13,117 hometown fans in the stands. Jeter will get his hit in front of considerably more.
As a child, I loved the Pirates and hated the Yankees. For my eighth-grade book report, I read my dad's copy of Who Was Roberto? a now out-of-print biography that came out just a year after his death.
Today, there are a dozen or more books about Roberto Clemente on amazon.com, and I would like to read every one of them.
Baseball, like life, is a zero-sum game, but I can accept the fact that Jeter will soon get off of the disabled list and pass my hero in the hits column. If there is such a thing as a favorite Yankee (and I'm not convinced that there is), Derek Jeter would qualify. In fact, Jeter won the Roberto Clemente Award in 2009 for the charitable work of his Turn 2 Foundation. I admire the same qualities in both players--their longevity, consistency, talent, and grace. I just like Clemente better.