June 13th, 2011
Omaha, NE – Opening day for the College World Series starts this Friday, with many baseball fans traveling to Omaha from near and far. El Museo Latino doesnâ€™t want fans to strike out and not catch â€œBeyond Baseballâ€ – an exhibit featuring the life of baseball great Roberto Clemente.
â€œThis man in person is just a great treat. He does it all: he runs, he throws, and boy does he hit,â€ exclaims a sports announcer in a short video clip playing in the background at El Museo Latino, as the museumâ€™s executive director, Magdelena Garcia, conducts a guided tour.
â€œBeyond Baseballâ€ is a traveling Smithsonian exhibit that highlights the life of Roberto Clemente – a Puerto Rican Major League Baseball player.
In the video, Clemente describes his early love of baseball. “When I was a little kid, the more I think about it Iâ€™m convinced, God wanted me to play baseball. When I was a little kid, the only thing I would do is to play ball all the time with a paper ball, with a rubber ball, a tennis ball.â€
When Clemente first began playing ball in the 1940s, Latinos and African Americans werenâ€™t allowed to play in the Major League because of unwritten color barrier rules.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t as easy as one could think. He had to address major hurdles,” Garcia said. “Heâ€™s black, he spoke Spanish, had to learn the language. And finally, when he started excelling in the sport, thatâ€™s what pulled him out of everything, and by then America was changing,â€ she added.
By the early 1950s, things had started to change, and Clemente was drafted to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954. Clemente would also become known for his many baseball accomplishments, including receiving the Most Valuable Player award in the 1971 World Series, one of first Hispanic players to do so.
In 1972, on his way to deliver humanitarian aid to Nicaragua, Clemente died in a plane crash. But, Garcia said his legacy lives on.
“His legacy goes way beyond the actual fantastic baseball player that he was and the role model in sports that he is. It goes beyond color, goes beyond a country, even beyond Latin America, itâ€™s greater,â€ Garcia said.
â€œBeyond Baseballâ€ is on display, in both Spanish and English, through July 17th at El Museo Latino in South Omaha.
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