MAUREEN LEARY: Hello, and welcome to our program today, Celebrating Clemente, with the National Postal Museum. Thank you to our audience for joining us today. This program is being recorded, and we plan to make it available on our website in the near future.
My name is Maureen Leary, and I am the youth and family programs manager at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. With us today are Joy, our live captioner, and Shannon, who is providing American Sign Language interpretation.
I would also like to introduce our two special guesses. I invite Willie Perdomo and Roberto Clemente to come on camera.
Willie Perdomo is the author of Smoking Lovely: The Remix, The Crazy Bunch, The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, and Where a Nickel Costs a Dime. Winner of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Cy Twombly Award for Poetry, the New York City Book Award and a Pen Open Book Award. Perdomo was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award. He is coeditor of the anthology LatiNext and his work has appeared in New York City Times Magazine, Washington Post, African Voices, and Best American Poetry 2019. He teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy and was recently appointed State Poet of New York 2021 to 2023. Perdomo has also written two books for young adults and children. The book on Roberto Clemente the he will share with us today won the 2011 America Award for children's and young adult literature.
Roberto Clemente, Jr. is a widely respected philanthropist, humanitarian, entrepreneur, producer, former broadcaster, and former professional baseball player. Roberto's father, Roberto Clemente Sr., used his platform, an immense athletic gift, to serve others and devote his short life to helping make the world a better place, something Roberto Jr. emulates and works to continue. Roberto Jr. leverages his platform to help others in a diverse array of areas.
Thank you so much to both of you for being with us today and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the program.
Before we begin we'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the suffering and hardship that so many are experiencing at this time due to the effects of Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico and the impending effects of Hurricane Ian on the southeastern United States. The Roberto Clemente Foundation is organizing disaster relief in Puerto Rico. And if you'd like to support their efforts we encourage you to visit the link in the chat.
Today, we will explore some museum objects, listen to a book about Roberto Clemente, and hear some conversation with our guests. The last part of our program today will feature an audience question and answer session. You may submit questions anytime through the Q&A feature and we'll get to as many of them as we can.
Our program today is of course all about Roberto Clemente, a famous baseball player whose career with the Pittsburgh Pirates spanned 18 years, from 1955 to 1972. September is an appropriate time to celebrate Clemente for a few reasons. In 2002, major league baseball established September 15th as Roberto Clemente Day, to honor Roberto Clemente's legacy as an exemplary player and as a humanitarian. September 30th, marks the anniversary of Clemente's final hit of his career, which was hit number 3000. Finally, September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. And Clemente was extremely proud of his Puerto Rican roots.
To start our program we're going to take a look at a few exhibit items that are currently on view at the National Postal Museum as part of our exhibit, "Baseball: America's Home Run", which runs through January 5th, 2025.
Roberto Clemente is truly a legendary baseball player. He is one of two players currently spotlighted in the National Postal Museum's exhibit, Baseball: America's Home Run. The items on exhibit include the baseball bat and Pittsburgh Pirates uniform that you see here. At the end of Clement's 18 years with the Pirates, he was the club's all time leader in games, at bats, hits and singles. According to Giant's pitcher Juan Marichal, Clemente was a dangerous man at bat, noting that he can hit any pitch, not only strikes, he can hit a ball off his ankles or off his ear. The bat shown here was swung by Clemente in 1960, the year he won his first World Series championship with the Pirates. It's inscribed with his childhood nickname 'Momen', found only on his earliest bats. And his player number, 21, is written on the knob. And Roberto, I think you had something you wanted to add about the bat, right?
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: (audio cut out) I'm excited about being here today. Looking at his bat, understand that my father was only 5'11" and weighed 175 pounds. This bat is considered to many like a half a tree, as we call it, because it's very, very large. Today even Aaron Judge grabbed one of those bats at the Clemente Museum here in Pittsburgh, could not believe that he himself, being such a big man, can not swing that bat in a game. So it goes to show small but very powerful. Absolutely.
MAUREEN LEARY: That's wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. Let's look at the uniform, too. The uniform and the helmet are from 1966, the year that Clemente achieved career highs in home runs and runs batted in, won the National League's Most Valuable Player award and captured his 6 of 12 Golden Glove awards. Clemente took pride in being a big baseball star who was Afro-Latino. He was the first player from the Caribbean and Latin America to win a World Series as a starting position player, to receive a National League MVP award and to receive a World Series MVP award. He used to say: When I put on my uniform, I feel I am the proudest man on earth.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: And, Maureen, to add to that quote, from the very first moment my father stepped on the field in 1955, he knew he was representing not only the Puerto Rican people and Latin American people but everyone in the minority state. And he really felt that he owed them for being there in the stands and he owed them all his might on the field because he knew that these people had hard earned pay for their work and they're there in the stands to watch a kid's game, man play baseball.
MAUREEN LEARY: That's amazing. They were supportive of him as he was always an advocate throughout his life, for equal treatment for all. That's wonderful. Thank you.
Roberto Clemente was determined to be the best baseball player he could be and he achieved amazing success. Clemente has been honored in so many ways, and he's one of only three baseball players, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, to be selected for a postage stamp image more than once. He's been featured on a stamp twice, in 1984 and 2000. The stamp from 1984 that you see here marks the first time the Puerto Rican flag was ever put on a United States postage stamp. This is very fitting because Clemente had great pride in his homeland and he maintained strong bonds with his family and his place of origin. Not only did he frequently travel back to Puerto Rico after he became famous, he also made sure his three sons were born there. Clemente's baseball talent and his work helping communities in his native Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries won him admiration at home and all over the world. He strove to be a good role model for his fellow Puerto Ricans. He once said: They said you'd really have to be something to be like Babe Ruth, but Babe Ruth was an American player. What we needed was a Puerto Rican player they could say that about. Someone to look up to and try to equal. And Roberto Clemente indeed became 'inolvidable' or unforgettable as we see on the promotional poster from the stamp's release in 1984.
This stamp from 2001 shows Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Clemente spent his entire baseball career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and some of his family members still live in Pittsburgh today. He led the Pirates to two World Series wins and the Pirates retired the number 21 after Clemente's final season. Major League Baseball also honored Clemente in 1973 by renaming its annual commissioner's award in his honor. Now known as the Roberto Clemente Award, it is given to the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual's contribution to his team. And Clemente was certainly dedicated to his team. Although Pittsburgh was very different from Puerto Rico, and Clemente struggled to be accepted when he first began playing, he always loved his team and his fans. As he once said: I think the fans in Pittsburgh are the best in baseball, they've always been on my side, even when I'm going bad. I've made plenty of friends and would not trade these people for anybody anywhere. And Roberto you and your family live in Pittsburgh now, right?
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: Absolutely. And, looking at this stamp, Forbes Field brings back memories. I remember going to Forbes Field as a very young boy before they moved. Pittsburgh is a special place for us because of the love story of my father and the fans in Pittsburgh, started right here at Forbes Field. And still, they have the home plate marked downtown in Oakland and the left field wall where Bill Mazeroski hit the historic home run against the New York Yankees in 1960 to win the World Series.
MAUREEN LEARY: I would love to visit Forbes Field someday to see the massive statue of your father that is there showing him getting his very last hit, hit number 3,000.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: Thank you. And that statue has moved actually which is fantastic, absolutely people that come to Pittsburgh have to go and take a look at the statue.
MAUREEN LEARY: The second time Roberto Clemente was featured on a stamp it was part of the Legends of Baseball series that come out in 2000. And he's definitely a legend. In addition to wining the league's MVP award in 1966 and winning 12 Golden Glove awards, Clemente played in 15 All Star games and spent four seasons as the National League batting leader. Clemente is one of only 33 players in the history of Major League Baseball to achieve 3000 hits in their career. In 1973 Clemente became the first Latin American player elected to baseball's Hall of Fame.
Sadly his career had been cut short by a plane crash. On December 31st, 1972, Clemente was on his way to Nicaragua to help victims of an earthquake when his plane crashed into the ocean. Clemente was not just an amazing baseball player, he was also a humanitarian. He dedicated his life to helping others in need. He truly did become a role model for others and he is remembered today for all different types of greatness. Now I'd like to turn it over to Willie Perdomo to share his book with us.
WILLIE PERDOMO: Hello my name is Willie Perdomo and it's a pleasure and honor to be here to celebrate Roberto Clemente.
Years ago, almost 10 years ago, I wrote a book with the illustrator Brian Collier called "Clemente." And I started writing the book in California after I saw some video of Clemente playing. I remember Kurt Gowdy saying that Clemente has been vicious against the opposing pitches. And it was during postseason he had safely (audio cut out) and it just came to me this little boy sort of the voice of this young boy from New York City just came to me. And I started writing the book.
My father is the president of the Greatest Fans of Roberto Clemente Club, Boogie-down Bronx chapter. Ask my father why he named me Clemente, ask him why he thinks that the number 21 should be retired forever, and he'll start acting like he's a great debater. He'll take out his baseball card collection and pull out his mint condition Clementes, and then he'll start calling Clemente. I mean really calling him, like he was trying to talk to the ghost of Roberto Clemente.
Clemente! Clemente! It's us, '¡tu gente!' Clemente! Clemente! Prince of the baseball 'diamante' Cannon-arm Clemente, Puerto Rican prince Clemente, Hall-of-Fame Clemente.
My Uncle Junior, another big Clemente fan, who wears his Pittsburgh Pirates cap with his Sunday-church suits, if he was here he would join my father and say, Clemente hit curve balls before they dropped. Hit fast balls that made a catcher's mitt pop! Had a glove like a spider's web dipped in gold. High-ball hitter. Sinker-ball hitter. Spit-ball hitter. Never-swing-at-the-first pitch kind of hitter. Who else got a hit in every game of the World Series?
Then he points at me and says, when your teacher takes attendance and she calls Clemente, you stand up and say, '¡Presente!'.
For Hero Day at school I'm going to pick Clemente because I know all the facts, I memorized all the stats, and I can tell you 'todo', everything from his rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers to his last at-bat.
Born Roberto Walker Clemente, August 18, 1934, in Barrio San Anton, Carolina, Puerto Rico. Roberto was the baby 'varón' of Louisa y Melchor's seven children (six boys, one girl), and by the time he learned to walk he was throwing something: a can, a tomato, a rag ball, hitting bottle caps against the wall. By the time he was eighteen, one scout said Clemente was the best athlete he had ever seen.
4 batting titles, .317 lifetime average, came to about 9,454 times, got 3,000 hits, 440 doubles, 166 triples, 240 home runs, 12 Golden Gloves,...
and a statue in the Hall of Fame. Roberto Clemente was born to play in the game.
And just when you think you know all about Clemente, Mami jumps in and reminds us that he was a good father and a good son because right in the middle of celebrating the World Series Clemente interrupted the broadcaster and said, And before I say anything in English, I'd like to say something to my mother and father in Puerto Rico.
(In Spanish: 'On the greatest day of my life, my blessing to the children and may my parents bless me.')
And we definitely can't forget Clemente's last sacrifice fly, New Year's Eve, 1972, Roberto Clemente gets on an airplane. He's going to Nicaragua to help people who lost their homes in an earthquake.
The plane never got across the ocean. It was too heavy. It had too many boxes of food and clothes, medicine and toys. The plane crashed into the water, and Roberto disappeared.
His wife, Vera, his three sons, Roberto Jr., Louis, and Enrique, waited at El Morro, watching the waves for days and days, hoping that Roberto would come home. The whole island cried and cried for our hero, 'nuestro tesoro'.
Remember, Mami says, there were days when Roberto wanted to quit, throw his glove away and go home, because some fans were sending him ugly letters, and calling him nasty names. But he never gave up, (in Spanish: 'never abandoned his dream'), and they named bridges and schools after him, parks and pools after him.
Because he knew that (in Spanish: 'with respect, with pride'), with faith, with hope with belief in yourself, 'con valor', with standing up for what's right, fighting against what's wrong, with love, with keep-on strength, that anything is possible in this world,...
...even being one of the greatest baseball players that ever lived. And that, my love, Mami says to me, hugging me until I'm dizzy, is why we named you Clemente.
Wow, so it's been a minute. I haven't, I haven't, I haven't, uh, I haven't read that in a very long time. So, it was, uh it was great to read that in front of you, Roberto. And, uh, thank you for...
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: Very, very powerful.
WILLIE PERDOMO: Thank you for allowing this uh, this moment to happen. I have two, you know, if I could go back in time, I have two two wishes, I would have had. Maybe I have a lot more than that, one is to see uh Billy Holiday sing, and the other one is to see your father play. I've only seen your father on video, and it was the most graceful thing I've ever seen in my life. It was uh, it was what it was like you know Puerto Rican elegance. It was uh it was ballet, it was uh, I have a couple of friends, one is a professor who would described one um play where he threw uh Willie Mays out from right field. And he was sitting in right field corner and he could see the ball going all the way without taking a hop. He shot it in one one line. And then another friend of mine, African-American poet Joe Diaz Porter, who uh we call, his name is DJ Renegade who is the ultimate Pittsburgh fan. And I've never seen him without a Pittsburgh hat by the way, he's a poet. And um he just remembered how nice uh Roberto was with the children. Whenever he went to see games as a kid he just remembered all the love that he felt uh from your father. So I'm sure you have more than enough memories to share. But, is there something that we we maybe didn't know uh about your father that maybe he's not you know like popular uh news or or in the books?
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: You know for for me and you're right I mean he treated kids, everyone, but mostly kids with the true respect and really motivated them in so many ways. But many people don't know that he was an artist. He was you know one, one of the things that he did he used his brain for everything, was a very smart individual and he was very well-rounded. And when I mean he was an artist uh, he actually took uh some classes to do ceramics. And from there he started making lamps. And he was doing, we had, I mean ovens and I mean all kinds of stuff, had molds all over the house, and he will be painting and spending a lot of time doing those.
But uh he, he was a musician, he played the organ, he played the harmonica. But the one thing that I, for me it was a very, uh, it was very cool to me, was actually people would knock on the door at different times at night because they knew that he was also a healer. He, he, he actually knew a lot about the body, about how to heal and, um, and he did that. He was actually a chiropractor and a healer at the same time. And, and the things that I saw, uh, people walking in with crutches and wheelchairs and walking on their own. It was, uh, it was, it was very impressive, uh that he had that gift, uh to help people. But to all around, I mean in every way possible, uh, from from listening to people, to visiting hospitals, to, I mean giving his time and, and his money, uh, he really made a quite an impact in the game of baseball and beyond.
WILLIE PERDOMO: Yeah, you know I grew up in that Barrio and there was always, there was pictures of Clemente everywhere, uh in that Barrio. One of the things that, that I wanted to ask you about, and it's something that we sort of talked about in the warm-up, but um, right. So I was talking about the grace of his play, and it always felt like everything was just one single movement. He caught the ball, the ball would come here, he would throw it, he would throw it underhand, uh batting the way he ran was like a gazelle, like it was all grace, and it was all like fluid. I felt, I felt like I was watching Bruce Lee play baseball basically. Like the idea that you were in water all the time.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: He was performing ballet. Yes, yes absolutely. Yeah his movements, okay, it was something that he knew how to be efficient. Okay he learned how to be efficient. And one of the things that people don't realize is actually one of the things that he did was about, he was very famous for the basket catch.
WILLIE PERDOMO: Yeah I was going to ask you about that.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: So the basket catch, um, as a kid he would lay in bed and the bat, the wall will be on top of his head, but he always had a ball to throw. So he would throw and bounce it over his head and catch it, as a basket. So if you stand you're doing the same thing. So he felt very comfortable doing it. But at the same time he realized that sometimes instead of going up here to go down and do this, he will be able to catch any one movement just efficiently take away this movement here and go here, and, and actually be, you know, quicker to release the ball. And obviously he had a cannon that still today no one has uh shown that type of arm. It was something that was very impressive to watch. And yes, he was a quite a performer, uh, in every sense of the word.
WILLIE PERDOMO: Yeah, he seemed to, that's what it seemed to me. It felt, it felt, uh it felt very musical. I know I seen a clip with him with Tito Rodriguez Jr. He was uh with Tito, he was a show he was a guest on the show.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: I was there. I remember, yeah.
WILLIE PERDOMO: Oh, you were there?
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: Yeah, yeah I was there, I actually, I remember, uh there was a, the way it started, uh there was a sound of a window breaking, and then a golf ball coming through a window into his living room. And I came into his living room looking for a golf ball. It made his entry to a show. So I remember that very well.
WILLIE PERDOMO: He seemed to be, for me, he seemed to be like really involved. I think once the Civil Rights like, started, you know happening. And I think he had paid attention to it as well. Was there any involvement that you could talk about? Because I know he knew that it was happening and he knew that there was a lot of stuff, there was a lot of stuff going on on that end.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: From the very beginning he got involved. I mean even for fixing a fence at school at sixth grade. I mean to that effect. But yes, he was involved here even here in Pittsburgh. He listened. He got involved in being able to listen to what was going on. Even the Black Panthers, he was able to befriend, and to be able to understand what was happening here. He did meet with Dr King. Dr King visited dad uh in Puerto Rico to his farm and spent some time with. Our beliefs cemented his believing that he was doing the right thing and in the right path, having that conversation with him. So he definitely was a man that saw, he had a vision and he was a man that really cared for people. And like I said, he left an unbelievable legacy for us, not only for the family but for everyone that knows the story.
I understand that we all can have an impact when we leave, and the people hear our name. We have an ability to to really have people remember how we made them feel. And it's very important to do so.
WILLIE PERDOMO: Yeah, it felt for me you know, I of course again, I've known him just from what I've read, and the videos I saw, and that every act that he, everything that he did from what he did on the field, off the field, was always dominated by love. Like that's what it felt like to me. Like there was immense pure love in his heart for human beings, basically, and the world.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: Absolutely, and I will, I will say this, and I always you know try to mix this in for young people to understand that you know we're all born the same, we're the same people right, and there's only one thing that separates us and that is right here. Okay, that right here. That fingerprint. No one can match your fingerprint, that makes you very, very unique. Whatever you touch, make sure you're touching a positive way because you're leaving your name, your family's name behind. So make sure just like father did, he left a great fingerprint on the game of baseball but most importantly on society. And make sure that you leave your, your, positive fingerprint.
WILLIE PERDOMO: Powerful, powerful. Yeah I remember seeing documentaries and then how most of his teammates when they talked about him, a lot of them got really emotional when they would talk about him because of the impact uh, that he had. Do you have any fond memories about of being around sort of Willie Stargell and some of those players?
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: Listen, I'll go further uh, Willie Stargell, my uncle, all those guys but I think that I can I share a story very quickly.
WILLIE PERDOMO: Yes.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: I know we're going to be running out of time but, you know, I remember going to spring training in 1993, and to the White Sox. And I started my foundation here to start the RBI program in Pittsburgh revivalists of baseball in the inner cities. And I went to Frank Thomas. I said Frank, I need a bad ball I want to do some auctions to raise some fun for the kids. He goes sure. And he goes, oh by the way have you met MJ yet? Meaning Michael Jordan. And I forgot he started playing baseball with the White Sox. I'm like, oh yes, Michael Jordan. So I look back and I see Michael Jordan floating across the um the locker room. You know Frank, you know took his time. I said, Frank I want to meet Michael, he was getting undressed. I said, do it before you know, he takes all his clothes off. We get to his locker. He goes, MJ, I want you to meet a good friend of mine, Roberto Clemente, Jr. And his reaction was, he stopped and he turned very, very, slowly, and he stretches his hand. He goes, sir, what an honor to meet you. When I was growing up, all I wanted to be was Roberto Clemente. And I'm thinking, wait a second you're, you're Michael Jordan, everyone wants to be like you. Right? But he wanted to be like Roberto Clemente. And he was inspired by my father. And that was very powerful.
But uh, a lot of people, a lot of major names, and, uh, from presidents, uh, I mean the list is very long of the people that he impacted. And I'm very proud that this kid from Carolina was able to do that by love, by loving people, and loving life, and making sure that he had an opportunity to help. That's what he did.
WILLIE PERDOMO: Indeed. Yeah. You know you mentioned Michael Jordan, I could see it now, I can just see again that lineage of grace and movement, you know, on the court. I could definitely see it. So, uh, I didn't know if uh we wanted to open it up for a chat there Maureen, or?
MAUREEN LEARY: Yeah, I mean.
WILLIE PERDOMO: This was a pleasure.
MAUREEN LEARY: Yeah, I could listen to you both all day. But we do have quite a few questions that have come in. I actually want to start with a couple of comments. We have someone who wanted to let you know Willie, Perry Barber says, there's definitely crying in baseball after that incredibly moving reading. Thank you.
Uh and then uh, let's see, I thought we had another comment. Oh, and someone, Tim Brown says, hello, we loved seeing, this is for Roberto, we love seeing you and your son throwing out the first pitch against the Yankees. That was a special moment for one of our our guests.
And, and following up on that the same guest, Tim Brown, says I was at Roberto's 3,000 hit game in 1972. So going back a few years there, his final regular season game. Any movement on the Forever 21 front with MLB? I'm not surprised this question came up I know this has been a hot topic. If you want to make any comment on that Roberto?
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: No, there's no, there's, there's no update, uh, on, on that movement. Um, you know, I don't think that's gonna happen anytime soon. But we are celebrating obviously, uh, September 30th which is actually uh, you know, Friday. Um, you know, 50 years of that unbelievable, uh, day when he connected the 3,000th hit. And it's amazing that's been half a century already of that feat. And we're talking about him like he was gone last year. Uh, and I think it's because that legacy continues to grow every, every, year really. I think that the times that we're living today, I think we need more people that can step up and impact people the way he did.
MAUREEN LEARY: Yeah, absolutely. It's amazing he that he's been gone 50 years and yet is still a household name. That certainly speaks to his greatness. Um, so the next question comes from Grace, five years old, who would like you Roberto to share a sweet moment you had when you were five years old with your dad.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: Oh, wow. Um, I'll tell you what I I can tell you, I, by far one of my favorite moments, uh I believe, was when my father came back from a trip. He had asked what I wanted for, you know, for when he came back. And, you know, I think I said a pony or something. But you know, he was not going to bring a pony, you know, to a house obviously. But the one thing he did was bring a monkey, to the house. But it's the way he surprised us with it. But it was actually the times that I spent with him. Uh, I missed him so much, and, when he was he would stay in Pittsburgh and we would go back to Puerto Rico. So, once he got back to Puerto Rico, I was always with him. And we used to go to the farm and, and go sit down under the mango tree, eating mangoes. And those times are, for me, priceless because I remember that like today, the smell the breeze under the tree and our farm. That's, uh, something that I will cherish forever.
MAUREEN LEARY: That kind of leads nicely into our next question which comes from Cusvee who says, how did your mom handle three boys now with, once your dad was gone, and this new responsibility of keeping his name and his legacy alive?
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: Um, being uh, a true angel uh, a true saint. I always say that I was born and raised by Mother Teresa. Uh my father picked the right woman to be his wife. With the perfect woman to be the mother of his children. And because of the, I mean, that abrupt, um, just all sudden, just void in, in the home, um her, her love, I mean her heart, um drove everything that she did, and still married to my father. Uh she was married to my father until the day she passed. So I truly believe that her love story never ended. She kept up that legacy alive. She drove what Sports City became in Puerto Rico. And she did that, you know, as another child. So we had another brother, they grew up with us, which was the entity that, uh, they actually incorporated. And I think that helped all of us, uh, really in many ways to continue moving forward, and helped her obviously focus on his dream and their dream together. And it was something that really helped a lot.
MAUREEN LEARY: Yeah, your mom sounds like just as much of an inspirational figure as your dad. And as a mom of three boys myself, I know that's not easy.
Um, so the next question is for Willie. And Sebastian, age 10, would like to know, what inspired you to write the book?
WILLIE PERDOMO: You know, it's a book that I had never seen I think uh, in the shelves. Uh you know, we want to write about our heroes, we you know, I think Brian is a phenomenal illustrator. We had, did, our first book together when I was writing children's books and decided I wanted to write a couple. And uh we did a book on Langston Hughes. Langston Hughes was a hero so naturally, right after that I followed up with um, uh "Clemente." And this was a way to, to celebrate what I had been hearing about. These are people who, again, who had never met, never seen in person, wish I could have seen uh, in person and, and the closest that I could get to that was by writing uh, uh children's books about them, but for children so that they could see their reflections and they could see you know, that there are poets out there and there are baseball players who are really changing the world one line at a time, and one at-bat at a time, and one humanitarian effort at a time. So, um that's you know, that was most of the inspiration for sure.
MAUREEN LEARY: Great. Thank you. Yeah it's uh, it's it's true that there aren't as as many children's books about Roberto Clemente as you might expect. There are quite a lot written about him and many books for both slightly older kids. But it was amazing to see this picture book. It's a really wonderful picture book that I've used in other programs. So thank you.
I want to read this comment from Allison Turner, he says I teach at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown, Maryland which is not too far from where the Smithsonian is. I am so honored to be here. Thank you for being here. I think this would be a great thing for my students and our school to see, to see and understand Roberto Clemente. So luckily we do plan to make this available after the program is over on our YouTube channel. So you can keep an eye out for that. So thank you, Allison.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: I have been there a couple of times to the school um and I love that school. I mean, saying, hello to everyone out there when when you guys are watching.
MAUREEN LEARY: Oh, that's wonderful you're familiar with the school.
Um, we have an interesting um question that I knew nothing about from Perry Barber saying, is Roberto Jr. as much of a wine connoisseur as his dad was? I was amazed to see the vast wine cellars and gorgeous bottles and labels when I visited the Clemente Museum for the first time last month. I had no idea about this aspect of his personality.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: You know my, like I say, my father was a uh, he was a renaissance man. He was not a big drinker. He did not drink much, a little wine here and there. But he loved to make things, and make wine, make uh at the time a Puerto Rican moonshine for the activities, and uh 'Navidades' and at Christmas time. And but uh yes, I mean at the Museum obviously there is a unbelievable man that started everything there, Duane Rieder and he has become a very, very good winemaker as well. As a photographer and a winemaker, he's one of the top top guys out there.
MAUREEN LEARY: Wonderful, thank you for sharing that. I would love to get them to the Clemente Museum someday and see all the things I can learn.
The next question comes from Peyton, who says, my sister had painted a picture of your father Roberto, for the MLB All-Star game last year. I thought it was amazing they were finally honoring the Negro League. But what else do you think can be done to honor those contributions?
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: Well you know I'm very happy that uh, right now, the Hall of Fame has opened its doors uh, to all these players that uh really deserve you know, being recognized. I believe that what they did on the field was absolutely fantastic, the level of play was par, or even probably above. So those numbers mean a lot in terms of you know, a baseball guy that would know what that means. And uh you know, I think that there's many ways that we can continue. I think being able to tell the stories, continue the stories, telling the stories because those stories, a lot of them have never been told. Uh so by continuing um really, getting those stories out there, and having the young people learn about these men that played many years ago. And that league called The Negro League, which was very special, I think, is very important. And to continue doing so.
MAUREEN LEARY: Yeah, and I have to take the opportunity to point out that there are postage stamps that feature the Negro League, beautiful postage stamps actually designed by someone who is also a children's book illustrator. And you can see them at the Postal Museum in our exhibit if you come visit.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: Yeah those men inspired a lot of players that you know went to the major leagues including my father. My father used to climb up a tree in right field in San Juan stadium, in Sixto Escobar Stadium, to look into the stadium, the ballpark where the Negro League were playing. And, ironically something very, an unbelievable story is that Monty Irving used to play in Puerto Rico right field. One day he saw my father waiting around at the gate and he called him over, he handed him his bag to walk into the stadium for free. And once he did, he handed my father his first glove, real glove, right, and to make a long story short, fast-forward, the (audio cut out), his career, the way he passed but because they waived a five-year period to enter Cooperstown, he was inducted the same day, he was in the same class, as his childhood hero Monty Irving in Cooperstown. So I think that was an unbelievable thing for them to go into the Hall of Fame at the same time.
MAUREEN LEARY: That's a wonderful story. So we do need to wrap up. We have time for one last question. I'm sorry that we weren't able to get to all of them but it is nice to see so much interest in this topic. And I do encourage everyone to, you know, share the program once it's available on video.
This last question comes from Andy Corella King, age seven, who would like to know, Roberto, what made your dad like baseball so much?
ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JR.: You know, he always said that God made him to play baseball. He just loved the game. I mean he would grab, you know guava tree branches, whatever it would be to swing around, and it had to be with baseball. He really enjoyed and loved the game. And you know the good thing is that you know, he became very good at it obviously. But uh, the best thing was that he used that as a platform to help others. But the love of the game was innate. It was something that he was born with. And thank God for that, because he did good with it.
MAUREEN LEARY: Oh well, thank you. This has just been amazing. You know I did a lot of research about Roberto Clemente before doing this program. But I've learned so much today. And it has really been such a delight to listen to both of you. And I thank you so much for being here with us today.
And we hope that everyone in the audience enjoyed the program Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Roberto Clemente. I would also I would like to thank our captioner and our ASL interpreter, and especially our audience for joining us. We do have one small favor to ask of you when the webinar ends you will see a very brief survey appear on the screen and we would greatly appreciate you taking a few moments to fill that out and give us your feedback.
So thank you again and we hope that you will join us for future programs.