From SABR member Don Drooker at Rotisserie Duck on May 27, 2016:
While baseball historians have done a splendid job of chronicling Jackie Robinson and his contributions to the game, it seems like fans born after the mid-60’s don’t always have an appreciation of Roberto Clemente’s greatness and legacy. The barriers in major league baseball for African-Americans in the early-to-mid 50’s were significant, but those same barriers applied to Latin American players and the culture of baseball took a long time to change.
Clemente started playing professional baseball in his native Puerto Rico at age 18 and a beautiful replica jersey of his hangs in my closet with the logo of the Cangrejeros de Santurce team that he played for in the Winter League of 1953-54. In 1954, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed him to a contract, but instead of adding him to the major league roster (which was filled with star players), they attempted to slightly circumvent the rules of the day and sent him to their AAA team in Montreal. Can you even imagine a 19 year-old kid trying to acclimate to an environment where they spoke two languages he didn’t understand? And, Tommy Lasorda was one of his teammates, so a third language was probably also in play. The Dodgers tried to keep him under wraps and he only hit .257 in 148 AB’s, but the lowly Pirates had him on their radar. The Pirates were bad enough to have the first pick in the off-season Rule 5 Draft and Clemente was their choice on 11/22/54.
Read the full article here: https://rotisserieduck.com/2016/05/27/roberto-not-bob/
Originally published: May 27, 2016. Last Updated: May 27, 2016.