Forty years ago, on December 31, 1972, Pittsburgh Pirates rightfielder Roberto Clemente perished in an airplane crash, on a fateful mission to deliver relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. Why was Clemente on the plane? Author David Maraniss wrote that Clemente wanted to ensure the supplies were not stolen by the Somoza dictatorship.
Roberto Clemente had been my hero long before this final humanitarian effort of his. It wasn’t his clutch hitting or rifle arm that inspired me — though like thousands of other boys, I always had Roberto in mind when I threw the ball in from the outfield. Rather it was Clemente’s heart, pride and sense of purpose I admired most. He set an example not how to achieve greatness but how to be great. ”Any time you have an opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on this Earth,” Clemente said.
December 31 should be known as Roberto Clemente Day, a day we remember to challenge ourselves to do something great, like Roberto, for those in great need.