Roberto Clemente

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Roberto Clemente was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico on August 18th 1934. From his early childhood Roberto showed signs of great athletic ability. At school, he won regional competitions, once tossing the javelin 190 feet—the world record in 1953 was just over 263 feet. He was also very fast on the track competing in both sprinting and hurdling events.

But baseball was his passion.

At the age of 14, little more than a boy, Clemente played softball with men on the Sello Rojo team, sponsored by a large rice-processing company. He quickly moved up to a very competitive amateur baseball league, playing for a team known as Ferdinand Juncos.

Roberto's mother wanted him to seek a career in engineering and hoped he would pursue the profession. But in 1952, before he finished high school, Roberto was offered a professional baseball contract. Engineering would have to wait.

At age 18, Clemente made the huge leap from amateur status to the Puerto Rican professional league. He signed with the Santurce Cangrejeros in 1952 for $40 per week, with a signing bonus of $400. The Cangrejeros were good. Although Roberto played sparingly, they won the Puerto Rican championship in his rookie year. In his is second year (1953-54), Roberto was able to concentrate on his growing skills by playing every day. His game improved. He hit a respectable .288 for the season and attracted the attention of major league scouts.

In February of 1954, Clemente signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and reported for duty to their top minor league team, the Montreal Royals. The man who signed Clemente, scout Al Campanis, had pleaded with Dodger management to place him on the major league roster right away. Otherwise, Roberto might be lost to another major league team after only one season. The Dodgers would come to regret their decision.

After a disappointing season in Canada, Clemente returned to Santurce to play in the winter league of 1954-55. The Cangrejeros brought together a constellation of stars headed by Willie Mays. They leveled the competition in Puerto Rico and went on to win the Caribbean World Series. Dubbed "Murderers Row" and "Escuadrón del Pánico (The Panic Squad)," the ‘54-55 Cangrejeros are considered by many to be the best Caribbean baseball team of all time.

Playing in left field and batting second in the lineup, Roberto was one of only four Puerto Ricans on the team. He responded to the challenge by hitting a stellar .

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