The new year started yesterday and I have been wondering how and what this column should be. A year end recap for a history site seemed a little redundant and I wouldn't know which year to recap. Predictions for the future also seemed inappropriate as well, because, well this is a mainly a history site. (How ever I will make 1 prediction and it's the prediction I make every year around this time, this is the season the Rangers go 162-0). I spent several days thinking this over before I realized I should do an article about something I want to do in the future that deals with looking at baseball's past and for me that would be to visit The Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh, PA.
Roberto Clemente was a Pittsburgh Pirate from 1955 to 1972 and in his Hall of Fame career he was the 1966 National League MVP, a 15 time All Star, 2 time World Series champion, and in his last regular season at bat hit his 3,000th hit (he hit 4 more in the NLCS against Cincinnati that year as well). That 3,000th hit was the last time he would bat in a regular season game as he passed away in an aviation accident on December 31, 1972 while delivering humanitarian supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. There were reports that the corrupt local government was taking the supplies needed by the victims and Clemente boarded the plane, knowing it was already overloaded, because he knew that his presence would ensure that the aid would be distributed to those that needed it. As a result of his talent and his humanitarian nature, Major League Baseball created the Roberto Clemente Award which is annually given to the MLB player that "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team" and there has been a growing movement to have his number 21 retired across the league.
While Clemente, who would be 79 if he were still alive, may be gone, Pittsburgh and baseball fans are lucky to have The Clemente Museum located in Engine House 25 in the Lawrenceville section of the city. I have been aware of the museum for several years now and outside of the Baseball & Negro League Hall of Fames, it is the museum or historic site I would most like to visit. The museum includes golden glove and silver slugger awards, his World Series rings, and numerous other photos, artifacts, & memorabilia from Clemente and Pittsburgh baseball history. Going by the pictures and reviews, the Clemente Museum appears at first to be more of an art gallery than a typically museum. The museum is by appointment only and just from a combination of online research and scouring various reference books & magazine articles it appears to be the top museum dedicated to just one player.
For more information and to check out the pictures of the gallery and collection go here: www.clementemuseum.com
For a history detective story involving Clemente, a family friend, and the truth on the bat used for his 3,000 hit read A Drive Into the Gap by Kevin Guilfoile. This book is more of a generational bonding / historical detective work and would be of interest to even non-baseball readers. www.adriveintothegap.com