Today we celebrate Puerto Rican, Hall of Fame baseball star Roberto Clemente, whose record-breaking on-the-field performance matched his groundbreaking off-the-field humanitarian efforts. ??⚾️ #HispanicHeritageMonth #Boricua #GoogleDoodle → https://t.co/biMxcb7w08 pic.twitter.com/Mj30ERMhoe— Google Doodles (@GoogleDoodles) October 12, 2018
Peruvian-American artist Roxie Vizcarra’s illustration features Clemente, in his signature Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, in front of the Puerto Rican flag and an outline of the commonwealth. The Doodle highlights Clemente’s connection to Puerto Rico, where he was born in 1934.
According to Google’s accompanying blog post, Clemente established his athletic excellence during his childhood in the coastal city of Carolina. He left for the mainland after a short stint with the Puerto Rico Baseball League’s Santurce de Cangrejeros. After one season with a Montreal-based affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Clemente signed with the Pirates in 1954.
Clemente’s tenure as a Pirate marks the most prolific stretch of his career. Today’s Doodle specifically commemorates the 47th anniversary of game three of the 1971 World Series, which the Pirates won with four victorious games to the Baltimore Orioles’ three. Clemente earned the series’ most valuable player award—the first time a Latinx player won the honor.
The Smithsonian Institution notes that Clemente’s skills did not protect him from sports journalists’ racist ridicule. Some reports made fun of his accent by writing out his statements phonetically, pushing Clemente to keep the press at a distance.
“The farther away you writers stay, the better I like it,” he said in 1969, as quoted by the Smithsonian Institution. “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.”
Clemente’s public embrace of his heritage endeared him to Latinx fans. He repaid the affection with charitable work in Latin America, including relief missions to Nicaragua. Clemente died during one such trip in 1972, when the plane he chartered crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Several months later, he became the first Latinx player inaugurated into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Clemente’s family, including sons Luis and Roberto Clemente Jr., collaborated with Google on the Doodle. The blog features a statement on the illustration’s significance and the family’s humanitarian work. Here’s an excerpt:
Fourty-seven years ago today, the Pittsburgh Pirates won game three of the 1971 World Series, in which our Dad went one for four with an RBI in the Pirates 5-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles. He was named the MVP for that series, becoming the first Latino to ever do so.
At the conclusion of the Series, he asked to say something in Spanish to his parents and children in Puerto Rico. With this act, asking for his parents’ blessings in Spanish on live global broadcast, he galvanized the hearts of all Hispanics across the nation. Today, we are proud that our dad’s legacy is stronger than ever, with numerous namesakes like baseball leagues, parks, schools, awards and statues around the world celebrating everything he represented and stood for, including standing up against injustice and the importance of humanitarianism. Our dad was an incredible athlete, but more importantly, he continuously used his platform to better humanity.
To maintain and preserve our dad’s legacy worldwide, our family started The Roberto Clemente Foundation years ago, a nonprofit organization incorporated in Puerto Rico. Specifically, our mission to develop tomorrow’s leaders through education, sports and service leadership to continue his vision as we build nations of good.