As Major League Baseball celebrated Roberto Clemente Day on Septmber 9, I was moved by the posts honoring this amazing man. Viewing photos, watching videos, sharing posts, memories flooded over me.
A friend shared a post by a baseball fan lamenting never seeing Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ great right fielder from 1955 until his untimely death in 1972 play. “If there’s one athlete, past or present, that I wish I could have seen play, it would be Roberto Clemente.”
I understand the sentiment. Because I saw Clemente play. And I am forever grateful.
At Forbes Field and at Three Rivers Stadium, I had the privilege to see Roberto Clemente play. On numerous occasions, I saw him play with the skill and grace and passion that few brought to the game. Slashing hits. Unmatched arm. He covered right field like a blanket. He ran the bases with abandon.
But as great a player as he was, Roberto Clemente was an even greater human being. He cared for children, offering clinics in Puerto Rico and Pittsburgh. He advocated for civil rights. He demanded that he be treated justly as he challenged the systemic racism that permeated baseball and society.
Interviewed after he led the Pirates to victory in the 1971 World Series, Roberto Clemente spoke first to his parents – in Spanish. There was not a dry eye in my house. I suspect there was not a dry eye in many places. Tears fell in puddles when Clemente died on a humanitarian mission to aid the people of Nicaragua.
Yes. I saw Roberto Clemente play. More importantly, I saw Roberto Clemente live. And I am better for it.
This originally appeared on Swords into Plowshares, the blog of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.
I passed through Ralph Bunche Park at 43rd Street and First Avenue on Sunday. And it wondered me why the story of Dr. Ralph J. Bunche‘s life is not told more often.
A political scientist, academic, writer, and diplomat, Bunche took part in planning for the creation of the United Nations. He was an adviser to the U.S. delegation for the “Charter Conference” of the United Nations held in 1945. He took part in drafting the UN Charter. Along with Eleanor Roosevelt, Bunche played a key role in the creation and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 1947, Bunche served as the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. He became the Principal Secretary of the UN Palestine Commission. He served as the Personal Representative of Secretary-General with Count Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations Mediator on Palestine. Following Bernadotte’s assassination in September 1948, Bunche became the Acting Mediator. He chaired the UN mediation efforts that led to the successful negotiation of the four armistice agreements that helped end the conflict.
For his work, Bunche became the first African-American and person of color to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He continued to served the UN for over twenty years. His work included helping to end colonialism.
Bunche was an active and vocal supporter of the U.S. civil rights movement. He participated in the 1963 March on Washington and in the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march, which contributed to the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 and federal enforcement of voting rights.
Dr. Ralph J. Bunche is one of so many people to honor – so many stories to remember – during Black History Month and always.
See you along the Trail.