On a rainy, windy, New Year's Eve, December 31, 1972, an old, wounded DC-7 carrying baseball great, Roberto Clemente, rolled down the tarmac at San Juan Intl. Airport. At thousand feet over the water, one of the engines caught fire. Then the other three exploded sending the plane nose down into the cold Atlantic. There were no survivors.
His wife Vera and their three children went down to that beach every day for months to see if anything of Roberto would wash up. His body was never found.
Long before Bruce Springsteen or Willy Nelson or George Clooney would use their fame to raise money for large scale humanitarian disaster, Roberto Clemente took it upon himself to help victims of the devastating 1972 earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua. It had claimed more than 3000 lives. He personally went from house to house in San Juan, Puerto Rico asking for donations. He called upon his friends to help. He gathered food, medicines and clothing and chartered a plane to personally take the supplies to the victims. When he was told not to go because it was "too dangerous", he replied that if he didn't go, the supplies wouldn't reach the people. He had found out that the Somoza military had been confiscating all his previous shipments. He knew that if ROBERTO CLEMENTE accompanied the delivery there was no way he would be refused. He was, after all, the greatest Latino baseball star.
Roberto Clemente was the first Latin ball player to be unanimously and posthumously voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in only three months after his untimely and tragic death. His is the legacy of a remarkable life that continues to give honor to the game of baseball, to humanity and to his country. Roberto Clemente gave to baseball the real meaning of the word "hero"!