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Clemente family coming to Watertown


Since legendary baseball player Roberto Clemente died 41 years ago, his family has worked toward continuing his legacy as the game’s greatest humanitarian.

That effort has brought Clemente’s widow, Vera, and their youngest son Ricky to the area for a book signing at Carthage Federal Savings and Loan’s Watertown location.

The family will sign copies of the book, “Clemente: The True Legacy of an Undying Hero,” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

“The person Roberto was, he was always helping other people,” said Vera Clemente, who works for Major League Baseball as a Goodwill Ambassador and annually presents the Roberto Clemente Award at the third game of the World Series to the player that best exemplifies sportsmanship and community involvement.

“His fans, children, he loved children, and people he never met before. He always was doing something for people and there are many stories in the book from different situations where he was helping people he didn’t even know.”

Vera said that writer Mike Freeman of approached the family about the book idea about a year ago, and the family agreed to take part. She said the book should give fans an idea of who Roberto Clemente was from the family’s perspective.

Freeman interviewed Vera, her and Roberto’s three sons along with Roberto’s only living brother and others who were close to the Hall of Fame right-fielder that played 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“There are many, many stories like that. But (the book) should give an idea of how he was. He had a very, very big heart,” Vera Clemente said.

“People always have something to say about him,” she added. “Everywhere I go, because I have to travel to different countries for different activities, not only baseball, different activities for children and other things. And always, something comes up about Roberto and he was always, every time he traveled, he would get involved helping someone.”

Clemente — a 15-time All Star, four-time National League batting champion, two-time World Series champ and member of MLB’s 3,000 hit club — famously died in a 1972 plane accident in an attempt to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

“The way he died showed the way he lived. He died helping others,” Vera Clemente said. “And people don’t realize this: People thought that after the accident the help never did get there. That cargo didn’t get there but another plane went three times and we sent a ship with help.”

Vera Clemente said that Roberto’s willingness to help others is what brought the two together. It is also why she is happy to continue his legacy and represent him whenever the opportunity arises.

“Since I was a young girl, my heart was for everybody,” she said. “I tried to help in my situation, even when I was young. Him and myself, we were (complimentary). We were like two in one. We had the same feelings, the same way to act and everything. And we were a happy couple.”

She said that Saturday’s book signing was arranged by Victor Rivera, a close friend of the family who is a retired Fort Drum soldier.

Carthage Federal Savings and Loan purchased 100 copies of the book and plans to donate the proceeds from the event to the Watertown Teen Center and Meals on Wheels.

Vera said that the charity involvement is what ultimately led to her flying to the area for the event.

She said that she has long planned to write her own book but her travel schedule and humanitarian work has prevented her from doing so. She did endorse Freeman’s book, which was released in September.

“I’m always planning in the future, when I have more time, to write my own book,” she said. “But this one is a very good book. It includes everything, many situations, because he was a person who always lived to help others, always.”

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