Beyond Baseball: The Life of Roberto Clemente < back   next >
Growing Pains


His Story

Growing Pains

As if a strange language and a new culture were not challenges enough, Clemente also met racism and discrimination in their crudest forms. He quickly became an active defender of his rights and the rights of others. In one of his first games as a professional, he protested angrily when fans yelled racial insults at one of his teammates.

He became a union leader in the incipient Major League Baseball Players Association and defended players’ rights to demand better working conditions and benefits.

Clemente’s relationship with the press was marked by racial tension. Some members of the press were rude or scornful simply because he was black and Latino. Some made fun of his heavy Latin accent, quoting him with phonetic spelling rather than merely reporting what Clemente said.

"The farther away you writers stay, the better I like it. You know why? Because you’re trying to create a bad image of me… you do it because I’m black and Puerto Rican, but I’m proud to be Puerto Rican."
—Roberto Clemente, 1969

"He was just learning to handle the language, and writers who couldn’t speak three words of Spanish tried to make him look silly."
—Bill Mazeroski
Pirates teammate (1956-72) and Hall of Fame second baseman


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