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Press Release — September 19, 2000

Roberto Clemente Plaque is Recast to Correct Cultural Inaccuracy; New One Travels to Puerto Rico (November, 2000)

"I have difficulty expressing myself the way I really feel. It's not just for me and my children. It's a goal for all Latin American children, too."
     — Vera Clemente speaking on behalf of her late husband at his Induction Ceremony in 1973

So very great was he as a player. So very great was he as a leader. So very great was he as a humanitarian. So very great was he as an inspiration to the young, and so very great was his devotion to young people and particularly to the young people of his native island of Puerto Rico. Having said all of those words, they are very inadequate to describe the real greatness of Roberto Clemente.
     — Commissioner Bowie Kuhn on Clemente at the 1973 Induction Ceremony

Roberto Clemente's Hall of Fame plaque

Roberto Clemente's Hall of Fame Plaque
Spanish-text version

(COOPERSTOWN, NY) — A rarity has occurred in Cooperstown, as the Hall of Fame has made a change to one of its plaques, the one featuring the late, great Roberto Clemente. In Latino heritage, a person's mother's maiden name traditionally follows their surname. Though Clemente was born Roberto Clemente Walker, he was known throughout his baseball career as Roberto Clemente. When Clemente was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, the Hall of Fame plaque had his mother's maiden name and father's last name reversed, reading "Roberto Walker Clemente." The Hall of Fame has rectified the inaccuracy and the new plaque reads "Roberto Clemente Walker."

To celebrate the culturally correct plaque, National Baseball Hall of Fame representatives and the plaque will travel to Clemente's native Puerto Rico, November 14-16. The plaque will be part of three days of festivities, with some Latino Hall of Famers and current-day major league superstars invited to participate. The new Clemente plaque will debut on November 14 at a Grand Gala at Wyndham El San Juan Hotel, where plans for the Master Plan 2000 will be unveiled. On November 15, the plaque will make stops at Plaza Las Americas, the non-profit Roberto Clemente Sports City, and the new Roberto Clemente Municipal Stadium. The plaque will be on hand at the stadium dedication on November 15, home to the Gigantes de Carolina Baseball Club (formerly San Juan Senadores) of the Puerto Rican Winter League. The plaque tour concludes on November 16 with a visit to Roberto Clemente Elementary School. After the three-day tour, the plaque will be permanently installed in Cooperstown. "By rectifying and recasting my father's plaque to reflect Roberto Clemente Walker, the Hall of Fame has shown the respect and honor of our rich heritage and culture that my father was so proud of," said Luis Clemente, president of Sports City and son of the late Roberto Clemente. "The Clemente family and all Latin descendants are extremely grateful to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and newly appointed President Dale Petroskey, for this recognition."

"We could not be happier with the administration of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown," said Clemente's widow Vera, from her home in San Juan. "The Hall of Fame's desire to rectify this cultural inaccuracy means a great deal to my family, the entire Puerto Rican nation, and Hispanics everywhere. We are so very grateful that Roberto's plaque in the Hall of Fame Gallery will be accurate for the hundreds of thousands of visitors that travel to Cooperstown annually."

The new plaque was created by Matthews International in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the foundry utilized by the Hall of Fame to cast all of its plaques since the early 1980s. The new Clemente plaque was at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center in Pittsburgh as part of an exhibit on the history of the 150-year-old foundry, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

"As Baseball's institution of record, correcting Roberto Clemente's plaque was important — in fact, necessary," said Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey. "We are honored to bring the new plaque to San Juan, where those who know so much about the career of the Hall of Fame right fielder will have the opportunity to have their photo taken with the plaque before it is permanently installed in Cooperstown. Traveling the plaque to San Juan, a first for the Hall of Fame, helps us to fulfill our mission, which speaks to honoring excellence and connecting generations."

Clemente died tragically on December 31, 1972, when he and four others boarded a small DC-7 to deliver food, clothing and medicine to Nicaragua, to aid victims of a devastating earthquake. Clemente, who headed the Puerto Rican relief effort, and the four others died when the four-engine plane, with a questionable past and an overload of cargo, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

The first Latino Hall of Famer, Clemente became the second (and last) major leaguer to have the five-year waiting period waived by the Hall of Fame's Board of Directors. Like the first, Lou Gehrig, he was elected to Cooperstown on the first ballot. The special ballot results were announced on March 20, 1973, with Clemente earning votes on 393 of 424 ballots cast, an overwhelming 93%, with 75% needed for election. At the time, only Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Bob Feller, Ted Williams and Stan Musial had earned a higher percentage of votes. Vera Clemente spoke at the August 6 Induction Ceremony on behalf of her late husband and the 1973 Pirates played in the Hall of Fame Game that day, with Clemente's teammates attending the Induction.

Clemente's career ended with a .317 batting average, 440 doubles, 166 triples, 240 home runs, and 1,305 RBI in a Pirates-record 2,433 games. He recorded 3,000 hits and the bat from that magical milestone, along with many other artifacts from his illustrious career, are on display at the Hall of Fame. He won four batting titles, hit .300 or better 13 times, and utilizing a cannon-like arm, led the National League in outfield assists on four occasions. The 1966 National League Most Valuable Player starred in the 1971 World Series, hitting an eye-popping .414.

Learn more about Roberto Clemente

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