Dec 312012

Humanitarian and Hall of Fame Baseball Player Roberto Clemente died tragically forty years ago on New Year’s Eve in 1972.

The year 1972 was when the song “Heart of Gold” by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young was released from the album “Harvest” having been recorded one year earlier in 1971. This song, unlike the protest song “Ohio” written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970 (sung by the Group : Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) that was banned from some AM Radio Stations reportedly because of the Nixon Administration references and challenges in the lyrics, was not reportedly ever banned and was played on both AM and FM Radio Stations internationally.

The year 1972 was apparently a little more than a decade before steroid usage pervaded sports in the US and apparently rendered the potential athlete who did not use such or similar performance enhancing substances or devices at a disadvantage.

The year 1972 was a little more than a decade before the US was found guilty in its role in Nicaragua. In 1984 a ruling was made in The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America by an International Court of Justice in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States. The International Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. had violated international law by mining Nacaragua’s harbors and supporting the Contras in their rebellion against the Nicaraguan government. The U.S. later blocked enforcement of the judgment by the UN Security Council and prevented Nicaragua from obtaining compensation from the US.

An earthquake which struck on 12-23-1972 reportedly killed 5,000 people and destroyed nearly 90% of Managua, Nicaragua. Two-thirds of Managua’s one million residents were reportedly displaced and faced food shortage and disease. Clemente, who had spent much of his time during the off-season involved in charity work and had been visiting Managua three weeks before the quake, reportedly immediately began setting up emergency relief flights. Instead of helping to rebuild Managua, the then leader Anastasio Somoza Debayle reportedly used relief money to help pay for luxury homes while the homeless poor had wooden shacks constructed. There were reports that identified government workers under Somoza in Nicaragua were looting the relief aid coming in. Roberto Clemente reportedly learned that the aid packages on the first three flights had been diverted by corrupt officials of the Somoza government and had never reached the intended earthquake victims. This identified mishandling of relief money/aid reportedly prompted Roberto Clemente to fly to Managua on December 31, 1972. He was on the fourth relief flight to reportedly ensure that the aid would be delivered to the survivors but it crashed soon after take off from Puerto Rico. Roberto Clemente died on 12-31-72 at the age of 38.

Soon after the 1972 earthquake, Somoza’s apparent corruption (which included the allegations of mishandling of aforementioned relief aid) as well as economic problems in Nicaragua helped the identified Sandinistas in their struggle against Somoza. The Sandinistas, whose support included a large percentage of the people and the Catholic Church Clergy, assumed power in 1979. The Carter administration reportedly worked with the new government. US President Ronald Reagan in 1981 upon assuming the office of the US Presidency reportedly had stated that he was concerned about the then Soviet Union turning Nicaragua into a “second Cuba”.

Noam Chomsky gave the “Erich Fromm Lecture 2010″ titled ” ‘The evil scourge of terrorism’ reality construction, remedy” (pages 27-34, Fromm Forum 14/2010 [English Edition]) which included  the following :

“For the most part, victims of Reaganite terror were defenseless civilians, but in one case the victim was a state, Nicaragua, which could respond through legal channels. Nicaragua brought its charges to the World Court, which condemned the US for ‘unlawful use of force’ – in lay terms, international terrorism – in its attack on Nicaragua from its Honduran bases, and ordered US to terminate the assault and pay substantial reparations. The aftermath is instructive.

Congress responded by increasing aid to the US-run mercenary army attacking Nicaragua, while the press condemned the court as a ‘hostile forum’ and therefore irrelevant…Nicaragua then brought the matter to the UN Security Council, which passed two resolutions calling on all states to observe international law. The resolutions were vetoed by the US, with the assistance of Britain and France, which abstained…

…The Court rejected most almost all of Nicaragua’s case,…, on the grounds that when the US had accepted World Court jurisdiction in 1946, it added a reservation exempting itself from charges under international treaties, specifically the Charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Accordingly, the US is self-entitled to carry out aggression and other crimes that are far more serious than international terrorism. The Court correctly recognized this exemption,…”

Along with a couple of posters of some other baseball players I had a Roberto Clemente poster in my bedroom as a youth. I remember watching the graceful Pittsburgh Pirate right fielder on television many times with my Grandfather especially during the World Series the year before Clemente died in which he lead his team to a seven game World Series Championship and was the 1971 World Series MVP. Living in Northeast Ohio, my Grandfather had taken me to Cleveland Municipal Stadium to watch the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers play each other once but we never went to Pittsburgh and hence see Clemente play live. I do recall watching Roberto Clemente on television moving his head around just prior to getting set to hit in the area near or in the batter’s box. As an eleven year old in 1971 and in the prior and ensuing years I had a similar mannerism when I played baseball that did resemble what Clemente did. Until my Grandfather pointed out this similarity I had not been aware of it.

As was characteristic, my grandfather was able to change this outward unusual “negative” behavior into something glowing and “positive” by making the comparison to what I was doing to what Clemente did. He used to discuss the art of hitting a baseball with me on many occasions and especially after Little League Baseball Games usually played at Cedarquist Park in Ashtabula, Ohio. My grandfather also used to write letters to me during the Winters he went to Florida. His letters, like the time we spent together, were supportive as he encouraged me to do well in school, “listen to” and help my parents, and play baseball well. I never did develop the talented ability to consistently throw out runners from deep (as Roberto Clemente did often) right field in my shortened playing career. I played my last baseball game as a twenty year old having started for and lettering in both my Freshman and Sophomore Years on the Varsity College Baseball Team playing full time and batting cleanup for two full seasons. And, I never looked back and never played again after my grandfather’s death in 1981 and have been steroid free and free of similar performance enhancing substances or devices for life.

I realize to this day how superb his skills as a Coach and “Sports Psychologist” and Grandfather have been. And, likewise, many know well what a superb Humanitarian and Hall of Fame Baseball Player Roberto Clemente had been and the inspiration for many he continues to be to this day. Thank you, Grandpa, and thank you, Roberto Clemente.





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Louis Anthony DeCola, Jr.                                    © 2012 The Hygiology Post ®



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