Roberto Clemente’s destiny was shaped as a youngster in Puerto Rico
While Roberto Clemente’s Hall of Fame playing career brought him the glory of world championships in 1960 and 1971, a cache of four National League batting titles and a 1966 MVP Award, his early life growing up in Puerto Rico was not so glamorous. Nor was it easy.
Born in the San Anton barrio of Carolina, a small town on the island, Clemente grew up in a family that was relatively poor, at least based on the economic standards of today. The large-but-crowded wooden house included Clemente, who was one of eight children.
After his junior year in high school, Roberto decided the time was right to pursue a career in baseball. Continuing to improve as a hitter for Juncos, he would soon meet a man named Pedro Zorrilla, the owner of a team in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Introduced to Zorrilla by Roberto Marin, Clemente joined the Santurce Cangrejeros, a franchise that Zorrilla had operated since 1939.
Signing his first Santurce contract (which can be seen in the Hall of Fame’s ¡Viva Baseball! exhibit), Clemente had officially launched his professional career. In so doing, Clemente set the stage for what would soon be a liaison with a major league franchise located in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Bruce Markusen is the manager of digital and outreach learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and wrote “Roberto Clemente: The Great One”, a biography which was published in 2013