Si es Clemente

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Story by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer Photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer and QPHOTONYC

Almost 40 years after his death on December 31, 1972, New York State celebrated the unveiling of its first known statue of baseball hero and humanitarian Roberto Clemente on Thurs., Jun. 27th.

The baseball star now stands tall in his namesake park, the Bronx’s Roberto Clemente State Park, at 301 West Tremont Avenue.

The occasion represented years of efforts by park administrators, elected officials, and none other than Goya Foods, the international food brand whose slogan “Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno,” has long echoed in kitchens.

The statue, commissioned and donated by Goya Foods to Roberto Clemente State Park, will be installed at the front entrance of the 25-acre public park.

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The statute of Roberto Clemente was unveiled in the Bronx.

According to organizers, it also represents the first statue of a Puerto Rican figure to be constructed in New York.

Many that gathered on Thursday to witness the occasion wore Pittsburgh Pirates hats, representing the team on which Clemente played for 18 seasons.

One was Duane Reider, who founded the Roberto Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh. Reider is the self-proclaimed biggest Roberto Clemente fan in the world.

“This is really awesome,” he said.

Reider loved Clemente as a kid, and grew to appreciate him more when learning about his humanitarian efforts.

“He died the way he lived, and he was constantly helping people.” Clemente died in an airplane crash in San Juan as he was trying to bring supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.

The statue now joins others bearing Clemente’s likeness that have been erected in the United States.

The Roberto Clemente statue in Pittsburgh stands outside PNC Park, and a statue in New Jersey was unveiled last year.

But it is the first one, say organizers, in New York State. “We are absolutely honored to have this statue here,” said Frances Rodríguez, the park’s director.

Also celebrating its 40th anniversary, Roberto Clemente State Park is a 25-acre waterfront park located along the Harlem River in the Bronx. It opened in 1973 as the Harlem River Park and was renamed after Clemente, the first Latino American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The bronze, seven-foot tall, 3,000-pound statue was sculpted by artist Maritza Hernández, and stands on a four foot granite pedestal.

Hernandez discussed some moments she shared with the statue as a work in progress. “When I was working on this late at night, I looked up at him and said, ‘Help me Roberto,’ and he did,” she said, as she tearfully blew a kiss heavenward.

And while much is known about his baseball skills and his humanitarian deeds, less is readily known about Clemente’s work as an artist.

“He had a really bad case of insomnia,” recalled Clemente’s son, Luis Clemente, who attended the unveiling with his brother, Roberto Clemente Jr.

“In the evening, instead of going to bed, he would go to the basement and work on lamps. He was really into it.”

A favorite component of these lamps was driftwood that the famous baseball player would find on beaches, said the younger Clemente.

He would also create figurines from hand-made molds.

Figurines of bullfighters were his favorites. Clemente was also worked with ceramics, and played the harmonica and an organ.

“He was a total artist,” said Luis.

So much so, recounted his son, that he would bring a kiln and a pottery wheel with him wherever his baseball travels took him.

The piece shows him in one of his most iconic moments, as he tips his hat to fans after making his 3,000th hit at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

“I was there when it happened,” noted Víctor González, who has been a caretaker at Roberto Clemente State Park since its opening.

And as a result of their father’s enduring legacy, the Clemente brothers have been traveling quite a bit.

“We have been visiting a lot of places named after dad,” said Roberto. They explained that they were proud to carry their father’s name and to encourage others to act as he would have.

“We want to inspire the youth to give back,” said Roberto.

Among the places that bear their father’s name are a bridge in Pittsburgh, a stadium in Managua, and several schools and parks.

“He represents what it is to be a role model and he represents what it is to be Puerto Rican,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who also attended the unveiling.

“The life of Roberto Clemente is an inspiration to us all and particularly to those of us at Roberto Clemente State Park where we celebrate and honor the legend’s accomplishments by striving every day to offer the community a safe and inviting open space for play, recreation and respite,” said Rose Harvey, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Commissioner, in a statement. “New York State Parks is proud to have within its system a park named after a truly great American. Thank you to Goya Foods for this generous and deeply meaningful contribution to our park; we will house this remarkable statue with great pride and stewardship.”

"Roberto Clemente will always be remembered in our hearts," said Bob Unanue, President of Goya Foods.

“Roberto Clemente will always be remembered in our hearts,” said Bob Unanue, President of Goya Foods.

Goya’s participation was critical in ensuring that the statue would come to the park. “This year, we thought it would be fitting to unveil this statue,” said Bob Unanue, President of Goya Foods, referring to the 40th anniversary of Roberto Clemente’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“The story we share is as much about achieving the American dream as it is about helping to cultivate and preserve the richness of the Latin culture and people in the United States,” he added. “Roberto Clemente will always be remembered in our hearts and we hope that his spirit of giving will encourage and inspire others to do the same.”

“He’s probably looking down on us and saying, ‘Guys, it’s about time,’” smiled Peter Unanue, the Vice President of Goya Foods. After the unveiling, park regulars were happily surprised to see a new—but familiar—face in their midst. “This really makes the park stand out,” said Francina Frías, a park regular and fan of Roberto Clemente.

“He is a legend.”

For more on Roberto Clemente State Park, please visit http://nysparks.com/parks/140.

Historia por Robin Elisabeth Kilmer Fotos por Robin Elisabeth Kilmer y QPHOTONYC

Casi 40 años después de su muerte el 31 de diciembre de 1972, el estado de Nueva York celebró la inauguración de la primera estatua conocida del héroe del béisbol y humanitario, Roberto Clemente. La inauguración ocurrió el jueves 27 de junio.

Sculptor Maritza Hernández cited her muse.

La alta estatua fue esculpida por la artista Maritza Hernández.

La estrella del béisbol ahora se yergue en el parque estatal homónimo del Bronx, ubicado en el número 301 de la Avenida West Tremont.

La ocasión representó años de esfuerzos de los administradores del parque, funcionarios electos y nada menos que Goya Foods, la marca internacional de alimentos cuyo eslogan “Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno”, se ha repetido mucho en las cocinas.

Muchos de los que se reunieron para presenciar la ocasión llevaban gorras de los piratas de Pittsburgh, representando al equipo en el que Clemente jugó durante 18 temporadas. Uno era Duane Reider, quien fundó el Museo de Roberto Clemente en Pittsburgh.

Reider es el autoproclamado mayor admirador de Roberto Clemente en el mundo. “Esto es realmente increíble”, dijo.

Reider amaba a Clemente cuando era niño y creció para apreciarlo más cuando conoció sus esfuerzos humanitarios.

“Murió como vivió, ayudando constantemente a las personas”.

Clemente murió en un accidente aéreo en San Juan cuando trataba de llevar suministros a víctimas del terremoto de Nicaragua.

La estatua ahora se une a otras similares de Clemente que han sido erectas en los Estados Unidos.

La estatua de Roberto Clemente en Pittsburg fue erecta frente a PNC Stadium décadas atrás y una estatua en Nueva Jersey se develó uno el año pasado.

Pero es la primera, dicen los organizadores, en el estado de Nueva York.

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“Estamos muy honrados de tener esta estatua aqui “, dijo Frances Rodriquez, directora del parque. .

“Estamos muy honrados de tener esta es

tatua aquí”, dijo Frances Rodríguez, directora del parque.

La alta estatua de bronce de siete pies de altura y 3,000 libras fue esculpida por la artista Maritza Hernández.

La obra lo muestra en uno de sus momentos más emblemáticos, inclinando su sombrero hacia los aficionados después de golpear su sencillo número 3,000 en el Three Rivers Stadium de Pittsburgh.

“Yo estaba allí cuando ocurrió”, dijo Víctor González, quien ha sido vigilante en el Parque Estatal Roberto Clemente desde su apertura.

Hernández analiza algunos momentos que compartió con la estatua mientras la obra estaba en curso.

“Alguna vez trabajando tarde la noche, me levanté y le dije, ‘Ayúdame Roberto’, y lo hizo”, dijo, mientras entre lágrimas lanzaba un beso al cielo.

Y si bien se sabe mucho acerca de sus habilidades de béisbol y sus obras humanitarias, poco se sabe sobre su trabajo como artista. “Tenía un muy mal caso de insomnio”, dijo el hijo de Clemente, Luis Clemente, quien asistió a la inauguración junto a su hermano, Roberto Clemente Jr.

“Por la noche en vez de ir a la cama, se iba al sótano y trabajaba en lámparas. Realmente le gustaba”.

Un componente favorito de estas lámparas era la madera flotante, que el famoso jugador de béisbol se encontraba en las playas, dijo el joven Clemente.

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Rafael Toro, director de relaciones publicas de Goya, sonríe.
Photo: R. Kilmer

También creaba figuras de moldes hechos a mano.

Las estatuillas de toreros eran sus favoritas. Clemente también trabajó con cerámica y tocaba la armónica y un órgano.

“Era un artista completo”, dijo Luis Clemente.

Tanto era así, relató su hijo, que iba a llevar un horno y un torno de alfarero con él a donde sus viajes de béisbol lo llevaran.

Como resultado del legado de su padre, los hermanos Clemente han estado viajando un poco.

“Hemos estado visitando muchos lugares que llevan el nombre de papá”, dijo Roberto Clemente, Jr.

Explicaron que estaban orgullosos de llevar el nombre de su padre y de animar a otros a actuar como él lo habría hecho.

“Queremos inspirar a los jóvenes a dar a cambio, a devolver”, dijo Roberto Clemente, Jr. Entre los lugares que llevan el nombre de su padre hay un puente en Pittsburgh, un estadio en Managua y varias escuelas y parques.

“Él representa un modelo a seguir y lo que es ser puertorriqueño”, dijo el presidente del condado del Bronx, Rubén Díaz, Jr., quien también asistió a la inauguración.

Luis Clemente firmó autógrafos. Foto: QPHOTONYC

Luis Clemente firmó autógrafos.
Foto: QPHOTONYC

 

La estatua de Roberto Clemente fue encargada y donada al parque estatal Roberto Clemente por Goya Foods, la mayor compañía de alimentos propiedad de hispanos en Estados Unidos.

“Pensamos que este año sería adecuado para la develación de la estatua”, dijo Bob Unanue, presidente de Goya Foods. Este año también marca el 40 aniversario de la introducción de Roberto Clemente en el salón de la fama del béisbol.

Clemente fue el primer pelotero latinoamericano en ser incluido y su estatua será la primera conocida de un puertorriqueño en el estado de Nueva York.

“Es probable que esté mirando hacia nosotros diciendo ‘Chicos, ya era hora'”, sonrió Peter Unanue, vicepresidente de Goya Foods.

Después de la inauguración, los visitantes del parque fueron gratamente sorprendidos al ver una nueva, pero familiar cara entre ellos.

“Esto realmente hace que el parque destaque”, dijo Francina Frías, una visitante regular y fan de Roberto Clemente. “Él es una leyenda”.

Para más sobre Roberto Clemente State Park, favor visite www.nysparks.com/parks/140.