Sunday, August 18, 2013

Baseball legend Roberto Clemente immortalized with statue at his namesake state park

The 3,000 pound bronze likeness, commissioned and donated by Goya Foods, is city's first statue erected in tribute to a person of Puerto Rican heritage, park official says.


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Goya Foods honors the lifetime achievements of Roberto Clemente by unveiling a life size statue at Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx on Thursday. It is the first in New York to honor a person of Puerto Rican heritage, according to the park's director Frances Rodriguez . (Susan Watts/New York Daily News)

It's another inside-the-park homer for Roberto Clemente.

The baseball great has been immortalized in bronze at his namesake state park in the Bronx.

A life-size statue of the legendary right fielder who helped break down racial barriers now welcomes visitors to the 25-acre Roberto Clemente State Park along the Harlem River.

The statue, unveiled Thursday, is the first in New York to honor a person of Puerto Rican heritage, according to the park's director Frances Rodriguez .

The 3,000 pound bronze likeness of the Hall of Famer who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates was commissioned and donated by Goya Foods.

“For the children who use this park, who play here, this is a great way for them to see who the man was,” said the star’s son, Roberto Clemente Jr. “They will see the statue and be able to learn about Roberto Clemente, not only the baseball player but the human being.”

The elder Clemente played 18 seasons with the Pirates, earning 12 Gold Glove Awards during his storied career.

He became the first Latino-American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and the first to play in a World Series game. He finished his career with his 3,000th hit in his final regular season at-bat, on Sept. 30, 1972.

The star was known as much for his humanitarian efforts in the off-season as for his work in right field.

Clemente’s life of helping others and hitting home runs was cut tragically short by an airplane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico on Dec. 31, 1972. He was only 38.

The baseball legend was on his way to Nicaragua to ensure aid was being properly delivered to earthquake victims.

Clemente was posthumously awarded a Congressional medal of honor for his work.

“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,” Bob Unanue, president of Goya Foods, said at the unveiling.

The dedication of the statue takes place 40 years after Clemente became a member of the Hall of Fame, the same year the riverside park thatnow bears his name — it was originally called Harlem River Park — was built.

It was later renamed in tribute to the legendary player.

The statue, cast by sculptor Maritza Hernandez, captures Clemente thanking fans after his 3,000th hit.

“We are absolutely honored to receive this statue,” said park director Frances Rodriguez.

“The significance is great because we are here to serve the community and Clemente was a true humanitarian. He truly cared about other people.”


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