The Roberto Clemente Award had, since 1971, only been given to Major League baseball players. After the terrorist attacks in New York City, Major League Baseball made the following press release:
MLB Press Release
In a unique gesture, a second 2001 Roberto Clemente Award presented by John Hancock was given to the citizens of New York City for their humanitarian efforts following the disaster of September 11.
The announcement was made prior to the second game of the 2001 World Series in Phoenix, Arizona, and in conjunction with the Roberto Clemente Award given to Curt Schilling of the Arizona Diamondbacks in an earlier presentation.
On hand to accept the award on behalf of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani were Bobby Valentine, Manager of the New York Mets, and Joe Torre, Manager of the New York Yankees. A message from Mayor Giuliani, who could not be in attendance, was shown on the scoreboard.
"The Roberto Clemente Award recognizes those individuals who truly understand the value of helping others," said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "The example set by the citizens of New York City during this crisis has given us all a great deal of strength. We are proud to present this award to those citizens who, like Roberto Clemente, are committed to helping those in need."
In the weeks and now months following the disaster, firemen, policemen, EMS workers and everyday citizens joined together to help in any way they could. Whether it was through rescue efforts, volunteering, donating blood or money, or just being there for one another, New Yorkers united showing strength, resiliency and most importantly compassion for their fellow man.
The Roberto Clemente Award, presented by John Hancock, is given annually to the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team.
Source: Major League Baseball (Press Release Feed).
Roberto Clemente was the second (Jackie Robinson was the first) Major League baseball player to EVER appear on an official U.S. Postage stamp. Tributes and honors such as these are well deserved and often take many different forms, as is the case with this poem:
You patrolled your expansive terrain,
With the range and prowess of the Peregrine falcon.
Fielding the ball at the base of the outfield fence,
You hurled the Rawlings diamond towards home plate,
As David had slung his stone towards the Philistine,
With the force of the cannon shot.
On the fly, and with a leathery thud, the horsehide cradled in the web of the catcher's mitt,
A split second prior;
You wielded your sword of lumber,
With the ferocity of the Crusader.
A frozen rope towards the power alley,
One more step toward 3000, and immortality.
You stood majestically atop second base,
As the bald eagle stands above its captured quarry.
Stretching the double to a triple, we witnessed your
effortless emotion, rhythmic perfection of sheer will.
In a cloud of dust from the thrust of your silvery spikes,
You sacrificed your being, as a loyal warrior honors his king, sliding safely beneath blue's acclamation.
You cradled third base with both arms, as
In admiration of the spoil of the vanquished.
A symphony, of grace, athleticism, stamina and sacrifice.
The familiar number 21,
Your uniform of the black and gold.
Stained by pine tar and the blades of St. Augustine,
Acquired from the grass fields of Fenway, Chavez Ravine,
Wrigley, and the House of Ruth.
Your aged body,
Shrouded in dirt and chalk,
Scarred by weather, turf and time,
As if the worn armor of a Grail Knight.
As "El Primer Latino",
You passed through the gates of Baseball's Hall.
With the courage of Martin Luther King, Jr.,
You destroyed barriers of color.
You weathered the curse of celebrity and prejudice,
When doubters queried your strength of heart.
Fatefully, as the earth's plates shifted,
So, did your sands of time.
The Lord called upon your courage and strength of soul,
You answered His call for righteous endeavor,
With an absence of fear.
On the wings of Pegasus,
Your valiant effort to ease the travail of others.
As you fell from the sky,
Our wounded souls mourned.
You returned to the depths of life's beginnings,
A life extinguished prematurely,
As the fleeting life of a shooting star.
We acquired understanding…
For your love of home,
As your brother's keeper.
We cannot question your countenance,
Or Your love of the game.
And smiled as you passed through the pearly gates of Heaven's Hall.
Your moments of greatness,
On the hallowed fields of dreams,
Are mere shadows to your everlasting truth,
Not as a ballplayer….
But as a human being.
We are humbled, proud, and blessed,
By your strength of culture, your Grace,
Your richness of Faith.
We pray future generations,
Are witnesses to your magnificence,
Your strength of character,
Your standard of excellence,
Source: Guillermo Calderon, Jr. © 2005.
Did you know that the twelve-foot statue at the entrance of Roberto Clemente Stadium, home of the 2003 Caribbean World Series, is of Roberto Clemente at-bat and a boy reaching up for him. It is inscribed with these simple, but perfect words: "Example and Glory of Puerto Rico".