Montreal is part of baseball history

Yesterday morning, I intended to analyze the performance of the Blue Jays who have been booming for a dozen games. But it was the Tampa Bay Rays players who changed my mind. Why ? Because of Roberto Clemente.

The city of Montreal has played an important role in the history of major league baseball. In 1946, the Montreal Royals fielded the first African-American player in professional baseball, Jackie Robinson.

Eight years later, in 1954, there was a young Latin player, a native of Puerto Rico, who wore the colors of the Royals, Roberto Clemente. His manager, Max Macon, had been instructed by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi to use him as little as possible because the Dodgers didn’t want to lose him in the winter draft.

Major error

Branch Rickey, who signed Jackie Robinson to the Royals, became the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He knew Roberto Clemente well when he was managing the Dodgers. In the 1954 baseball amateur draft, the first pick belonged to the Pirates. It was not complicated for Rickey, he chose Roberto Clemente.

I was young when I saw Clemente in action with the Royals. However, in 1969, during one of the Pirates’ first visits to Jarry Park, I told him that I was among the young kids who were going to see him at the De Lorimier stadium. He became a great friend of Expos organist Fernand Lapierre, who always played his favorite tunes when he came up to bat.

Career Highlights

Roberto Clemente spent his entire career in major league baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates, 18 seasons. He was part of two World Series winning teams, was named the National League Most Valuable Player in 1966, four batting championships, 12 consecutive defensive Golden Gloves and 13 All-Star Game appearances. Roberto was the first player from the Caribbean and Latin America to win a World Series as a player in 1960, receive the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 1966, and at the World Series in 1971. At his last career game in 1972, at the age of 37, he hit his last career hit, his 3000th.

sad day in my life

December 31, 1972, I remember like it was yesterday. I was sitting with my father in the family living room in Anjou when news broke that Roberto had disappeared in a plane crash at sea at the age of 38 while on his way to Nicaragua to bring assistance to earthquake victims. The plane and his body were never found. One of my childhood idols, Clemente, like Jean Béliveau, encouraged me to get involved in community work.

A few months after his death, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Today, Major League Baseball awards the Roberto Clemente Award to the player who « best exemplifies the sport of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and individual contribution to his team. »

For the second year in a row, Bo Bichette is the Blue Jays’ candidate for this prestigious award. The shortstop works hard to help a homeless shelter in St. Petersburg, Florida. He also sponsors baseball camps by taking on the bill for equipment costs.

Historic Thursday

The late and renowned journalist of the Montreal Journal Guy Émond often used the expression “unknowingly”. On Thursday afternoon against the Jays, Rays manager Kevin Cash performed a major league feat, as he so aptly described it, « without knowing it. »

It was the first time that nine Latin hitters had been inserted into a starting lineup and for the occasion, they all wore Roberto’s number 21, as it was Roberto Clemente day in major league baseball.

However, without knowing it, the manager of the Rays allowed the city of Montreal to once again be part of baseball history, because we must not forget that forever, when we mention this historic day, there will be a reference to Clemente who played at the De Lorimier stadium.


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