Sunday, June 24, 2007

Roberto Clemente: National Treasure number should be retired

I'm stunned this is even an issue. Clemente was the man. He was not only a gifted baseball player, he was an incredible human.

What Jackie Robinson did was historic. However, Clemente's roll in the MLB was no less worthy of recognition. Retire #21.

This gem was found at: afro-netzien:

MLB icon Clemente deserves his props.

Should MLB retire Roberto Clemente's 21 like it did with Jackie Robinson's 42? Vote Now!
June 6, 2007 -- In A RECENT profile of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, one of his closest advisors commented on the in-fighting amongst Latino politicians and said, "We have a propensity, like other minorities, to screw one another."

I've erased the word "minorities" from my vocabulary a long time ago, but the comment made me think about Sharon Robinson (the daughter of the great African American baseball player Jackie Robinson) and her reluctance to endorse the retirement of Roberto Clemente's jersey, No. 21.

Ms. Robinson was quoted in a January 2006 Associated Press article as saying that her father's situation was "very unique and historical. (Roberto) Clemente did an awful lot of good things and was a terrific ballplayer, but I don't think it's the same type of situation as Jackie Robinson."

Ms. Robinson's type of thinking is endemic to the racial divisions that currently plague our major cities. For her to imply that "the situation" was different for the Puerto Rican ball player is to negate the struggle that Clemente endured as a dark-skinned, Spanish-speaking man in this country.

Did he not encounter the same Jim Crow injustices that were experienced by Robinson, Willie Mays and Don Newcombe? Did he not, unlike the aforementioned players, have the courage to speak up about these injustices? Must an argument really be made to retire the number of a baseball player who was called a prince?

A player who consistently got the good wood on a bad pitch and a consummate All-Star who made playing baseball look like modern ballet.

A ball player who hit a cool 3,000 hits, won 12 Gold Gloves in twelve consecutive seasons, four batting titles and virtually ensured the Pittsburgh Pirates a victory in the 1971 World Series by hitting safely in every post-season game for a .421 average.

Sure, Jackie Robinson was the first African-American man to wear a Major League Baseball uniform, but ask the million-plus Puerto Ricans who will be parading up Fifth Avenue on Sunday if Clemente's number should be retired. I guarantee that you will hear a resounding "Claro, que si" and "Hell, yeah!" followed by a "Wepa!" and then a symphonic clanging of cowbells to rally the issue.

If the problem, as W.E.B. Dubois reflected, within our Latino and African-American communities (and I include myself as a member of both) is that we fall prey to the "crabs in the barrel phenomenon" then Sharon Robinson is acting like a queen crab to a man, Roberto Walker Clemente, who died en route to a humanitarian mission to feed the poor in Nicaragua.

A man who, after having reached the top of the barrel, would undoubtedly grab a rope and throw it back down to help lift up some of his fellow crustaceans.


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