Roberto Clemente's life represents the ultimate rags-to-riches story. Growing up in poverty in Puerto Rico, the young Clemente never imagined that through baseball, he would have the ability to make a difference in the lives of his family and thousands of others. Within a few years, Clemente went from playing baseball in the barrio in Puerto Rico with a tree branch for a bat and a ball of string for a ball to playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s.Though the journey to America was filled with obstacles, such as racism and discrimination, Clemente succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the Pittsburgh fans, as well as Americans everywhere, with his tremendous playing ability and his humanitarian spirit. After he died in a tragic plane crash in 1972, Clemente would be remembered as a hero with a powerful throwing arm and a heart of gold. For his contributions to baseball, Clemente was later inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame, becoming the first Latin American player to receive the honor.
Susan Muaddi Darraj is associate professor of English at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland. She is also the author of The Inheritance of Exile, published by University of Notre Dame Press. Rob Maaddi is the Philadelphia sports editor/writer for The Associated Press. He is also the host of The Rob Maaddi Show on ESPN 920 radio in Philadelphia.