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Clemente: True Legacy of an Undying Hero
The family of baseball legend Roberto Clemente is telling the full story of the Puerto Rican superstar's extraordinary life in a new book.
"Clemente: The True Legacy of an Undying Hero" was written by the family of Clemente and hit store shelves last month. It includes rare photos of the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder who died in a plane crash while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua in 1972.
"There have been many books, but none of them have the whole story," Clemente's son, Luis, told NBC 6 South Florida Friday. "We thought it was time to share the true story."
Clemente, who spent 18 years with Pittsburgh, was a 15-time All-Star and four-time National League batting champion. He was also the first Hispanic to win a World Series as a starter, and the first to receive an MVP Award and a World Series MVP Award.
"He truly set the pace for what Hispanics are showing what they're able to do, he did it in such a way that was very different," Luis Clemente said. "At the beginning, it was harder because people didn't know how to read him, they thought he was a hot dog, a showoff. Nevertheless, he was giving all he had all the time, day in and day out, even the way he dressed to go to the ballpark, it was very business-like."
Clemente's window, Vera, said her husband left a lasting legacy on and off the field through his humanitarian work.
"He was always helping others, he doesn't care of his time, to spend time with people that he didn't know," Vera Clemente said. "Every day, if he saw someone that needed help and if it costs money or not, he just went ahead and helped these people."
Vera Clemente said her husband, who suffered through back pain during much of his career, learned techniques to help himself and others with their ailments.
"He had healing powers, he had something spiritual, something that God gave him, he did it from his heart," she said. "He cannot see something and just ignore it."
Luis, who was just 6 years old at the time of his father's death, said he's amazed at the interest in his father's career and legacy more than 40 years after the tragic death.
"It's awesome, every year, at times we thought you know, with time they were going to slow down. Nevertheless, every year we get more requests to name a new school or a league or a facility, fields after him and its truly very rewarding," he said.
And Clemente's legacy in the Hispanic community is as strong as ever, Luis said.
"He was only 38 at the time, imagine that, 40 years later still he's being recognized and seen as an icon," Luis Clemente said. "The most recent accolade was being named the most influential Hispanic athlete of all time and that's big, that's huge."
Several books have been written about the Hall of Famer, but his family wants fans to know the man, not just the athlete.
"We want new generations to really understand who was Roberto Clemente," Luis said.
Luis and Vera Clemente will be appearing at Books and Books in Coral Gables at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12.