Results tagged ‘ Roberto Clemente ’

Perez at home in Puerto Rico

By Brad Horn

A very special surprise awaited Tony Perez on Friday night during the opening ceremonies of the Puerto Rico plaque tour at the Museo del Deporte de Puerto Rico in Guaynabo.

Joined by fellow Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Orlando Cepeda, along with Vera Clemente, the widow of Roberto Clemente, Perez was soaking in an evening of great baseball memories for Museum supporters and the unveiling of the Hall of Fame plaques on loan from Cooperstown, N.Y., for four days here in the baseball-rich island commonwealth when the surprise announcement came.

With both of his sons – Eduardo, the former major leaguer, and Victor, an actor presently living in London – in attendance, Perez received an unexpected recognition during the ceremony, as Henry Neumann, Secretary of the Department of Sports and Recreation for Puerto Rico, brought a special declaration from Governor Luis Fortuno.

Neumann read the proclamation of Tony Perez as an official “native son” of Puerto Rico, recognizing him for his dedication to the commonwealth as a family and community member, and for his impressive baseball accolades achieved while representing the island.

“We thank Tony for all that his adopted Puerto Rican man has done for Puerto Rican sports, for his native homeland, and for his children’s homeland,” said Neumann.

For Perez, who immigrated to Puerto Rico from Cuba at age 16, the honor was beyond emotional.

“It is not too easy to talk today,” said Perez to the audience of dignitaries and Museum supporters. “Since I have lived here, I feel like a Puerto Rican. I was welcomed with open arms when I got here. My wife (Pituka) has been welcomed here, my children were born here. My friends live here. This is my home.”

Following the ceremony, the plaques were unveiled and on Saturday morning, visitors began filing into the Museo del Deporte to see the plaques of their Puerto Rican heroes – Perez included – on display from Cooperstown.

Long-considered a Puerto Rican at heart, Tony Perez celebrated Friday night with the formal recognition from his adopted homeland as one of their own.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A Night of Baseball before Hitting the Road

By Brad Horn

Throughout the day on Saturday, a steady stream of visitors from around the island made their way to Guaynabo to see the Hall of Fame plaques of the four Puerto Rican Hall of Fame legends.

At the Museo de Deporte del Puerto Rico, thousands filed through all day, just waiting to catch a glimpse of the Cooperstown representations of their island heroes.

One Museo visitor, Hector from nearby Bayamon, came to see Orlando Cepeda’s plaque. Hector loves the Yankees and has long-followed another Puerto Rican baseball hero, Bernie Williams.

Following the public display at the Museo on Saturday night, the Hall of Fame team was treated to a night at the ballpark, as the Gigantes de Carolina hosted the Indios de Mayaguez in Puerto Rican Winter League action at Roberto Clemente Stadium.

The evening was arranged by Puerto Rican baseball historian and author Jorge Colon Delgado. A great friend to the Hall of Fame, Jorge has been one of the several islanders who made this experience seamless for us in Cooperstown.

Colon, one of the foremost historians on baseball in Puerto Rico and the statistician of the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues, has his fingers on the pulse of baseball on the island.

On Saturday night, he made our evening a very memorable experience, providing an inside look at baseball in the Caribbean leagues.

Upon arrival at the beautiful – and I mean truly beautiful – Roberto Clemente Stadium, a 12,000-seat treasure for the city of Carolina and the people of Puerto Rico, we headed right to the home clubhouse to see manager Edwin Rodriguez, who guided the Florida Marlins for the first half of the 2011 season.

Edwin, and his coaching staff of major league veterans, including Orlando Merced, Tome Cruz and others, were putting the final touches on their pre-game plan against Mayaguez, but took out time to share stories and pass along the plaque postcards of the four Puerto Rican Hall of Famers to their team.

Moments later, Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson was introduced and whisked to the mound to deliver the ceremonial first pitch. This was a very important moment to the people of Puerto Rico, as it marked the first time a representative from Cooperstown has thrown out a first pitch. As expected, without any preparation, Jeff displayed extreme coolness and confidence in delivering a strike to Carolina catcher Rene Rivera, who appeared in 27 games for the Minnesota Twins in 2011.

Both rosters were highlighted with current and former major league stars, ranging from Carolina’s Pedro Valdes, who is someone of a local icon in Carolina by virtue of playing for the same Carolina club for many years in a career that included stints in Texas and Seattle, to Brendan Harris, Hiram Boccachica, Alex Cintron and Jesus Feliciano, among others.

During the game, we were showered with kindness from the Giagantes staff, sampling the local fare including empanadillas, carne frittas and the Puerto Rican version of chicken tacos.

We left Carolina with a full diet of local fare and flair, resting for two days of travels, starting Sunday morning, with the visits of the plaques to Guayama, Salinas and Ponce still on tap for the next 36 hours.

We were so thankful to the kind people of Carolina for making our evening possible, especially to Hector, Guillermo, Angelica, Edwin and everyone we met. Thanks to Jorge and his ever-lasting kindness, the game provided the ultimate transition halfway through our journey.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Baseball royalty in the Commonwealth

By Brad Horn

Here in Guaynabo, the opening ceremonies for the Puerto Rico plaque tour got under way on Friday night.

On stage, Hall of Famers Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda and Robbie Alomar were joined by Vera Clemente in a festive reception at the Museum del Deporte de Puerto Rico.

Hall of Fame plaques of the three living Puerto Rican stars, along with the plaque of Roberto Clemente, are making their way around the island this weekend.

Other baseball dignitaries in attendance on Friday included Robbie’s father, Sandy, and Tony’s son, Eduardo, both former major league stars, along with former big league pitcher Ed Figueroa. Former wrestler Alvin Lopez, aka Barabas, was also in attendance.

Students from the Guaynabo School for the Arts also performed traditional Puerto Rican musical entertainment.

The festivities continue with the public viewing of the plaques today here at the Museo.

On Sunday, the plaques will visit Guyama in the morning and Salinas in the afternoon. The tour concludes Monday in Ponce.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A trip to the Island

By Erik Strohl

On Friday morning, Hall of Fame director of security Evan Chase and I were picked up at our hotel and driven to the Sports Museum of Puerto Rico in Guaynabo by local baseball historian extraordinaire Jorge Colon Delgado. Jorge also met us at the airport on arrival Thursday night, and he has been exuding excitement about our visit from the first minute.

Bringing the Hall of Fame plaques of Roberto Alomar, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente and Tony Perez to Puerto Rico has everyone connected to the Museum feeling giddy. They have been working hard for months in anticipation of our visit. It is obvious that much time has been spent in preparation for this event.

When we arrived at the Museum shortly after 10 a.m. on Friday, we were greeted by Rafi Serrano and a number of his staff who were working hard in final preparation for this evening’s extravaganza. The purpose of our morning’s visit was to supervise the installation of the four plaques.

It is obvious much care has been taken in order for the presentation of the plaques to look topnotch. The Museum constructed four sided wooden pillars about seven feet high. One side contains the plaque, while the opposite side will house a TV showing highlights from each player. The other two sides contain photos from each player’s career from both their time in Puerto Rico as well as the major leagues. One of these pillars has been built for each of the four Hall of Famers.

Several employees jumped right in as the sound of power tools and the sight of screwdrivers became immediately prevalent. The employees all gathered around in excitement as each of the plaques was installed in succession. Everyone was taking photos and each staff member was pitching in. It was a fun moment and obvious to us that just participating in this pre-event was a special moment for each one of our hosts. The installation took about 15 minutes or so for each plaque, finishing up the job in a little over an hour.

Tonight will be the main event and we are all very excited. It is hopeful that the Governor of Puerto Rico will be able to attend, as well as many other local mayors and other dignitaries. And of course Alomar, Cepeda, and Perez will be present, along with Vera Clemente and other members of the Clemente family. It is sure to be a fun-filled evening and an unbridled celebration of Puerto Rican baseball.

The people here are so passionate about the game. Just hearing them talk about their heroes and the anticipation for this evening is enough to make any baseball fan feel humbled, including members of the Hall of Fame staff like myself. It is a reminder what a powerful hold baseball has on many people of various localities around the world. We have been here less than 24 hours and we already feel so very special because of the unbelievable hospitality we have received.

I can’t wait for tonight. It is sure to be one special evening filled with smiles, laughter, and perhaps even a few tears. It is wonderful to see how much this game and its history mean to the people of Puerto Rico.

Erik Strohl is the senior director of exhibitions and collections for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Homeland heroes

By Jeff Idelson

Twelve years ago, the Hall of Fame corrected a faux pas. At the time of it’s origination, it was barely noticed, but in today’s world was considered a glaring mistake. 

In 1973, when he was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame after a tragic plane crash took his life, his plaque read “Roberto Walker Clemente” when it should have been “Roberto Clemente Walker.” 

At the time, the concern was that fans would not understand the Latino tradition of one having your mother’s maiden name follow your father’s last name. In 1999 we felt it was important to correct this cultural mistake, which truly was done for the right reasons in 1973, but today would appear to be insensitive.

We brought the new plaque to San Juan, Carolina, the home town of Roberto Clemente, and a few other places in 2000. I had Clemente’s plaque postcard translated into Spanish. We handed them out to children in Puerto Rico. It was an unabashed hit.

This year we worked closely with the Museo del Deporte in Guyanabo and its director, Rafi Serrano, to bring 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Roberto Alomar’s plaque to Puerto Rico so that those from his native land who could not be in Cooperstown, would have a chance to see it. We extended the concept to honor all three Puerto Rican Hall of Famers, Alomar, Orlando Cepeda and Clemente, as well as adopted Puerto Rican son, Tany Perez, who moved to the Island from Cuba when he was 16.

We left Cooperstown Thursday, traveling from Syracuse, through JFK Airport in New York, to San Juan. Traveling with four plaques is not easy. Each one, with the backing and case, weighs close to 40 pounds. Four of us each took one as carry on luggage.

Walking through airport security, we had many quizzical looks and then there were smiles as proud central New Yorkers working security thought it was great that plaques from their home region were traveling abroad.

The flights were easy. We were met upon arrival by a delegate from the Museum here in Puerto Rico who took us to the Museum to secure the four plaques for the evening.

After checking into the hotel, we walked over to Lupi’s, a restaurant owned by former pitching great Ed Figueroa. Our group sat at a long table with Ed and had a wonderful evening catching on baseball. He was glad to see us. Dinner was terrific.

Jeff Idelson is the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Experiencing Cooperstown: An Intern’s Perspective

By Chris Duffy

A day in the life of the stereotypical intern has the basic ingredients of a Dilbert comic strip. Each day’s forecast typically calls for eight hours of filing papers, answering phones and periodically refilling the “World’s Greatest Boss” coffee mug.
 
Fortunately, my time as a Public Programs intern at the Hall of Fame has been far from stereotypical. Words such as extraordinary, unforgettable and surreal properly reflect my Cooperstown experience.
 
My morning begins with a scenic commute through the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery, where bronze portraits of baseball legends rest peacefully in silent alcoves. Roberto Clemente’s gaze, Stan the Man’s smile and Ty Cobb’s smirk greet me as I pass by quietly, not wanting to disrupt the stillness of the moment.

Then, the doors open, the Hall of Fame roars to life and the public programs begin.
 
My purpose this summer is to develop, prepare and conduct daily programs for fans to enjoy. My favorite part of programming? The passionate visitors. Whether I’m demonstrating the sweet spot on a bat, or recreating Hank Aaron’s 715th home run call, the fans’ love for the game is always evident.
 
Artifact spotlights, which present artifacts not currently on display in the Museum, are particularly special programs to run. The treasures presented bring out the utmost zeal from fans of all ages. I will never forget the man from Milwaukee with the youthful glint in his eyes as I held Craig Biggio’s batting gloves; I will always remember the young girl from Florida gazing at Derek Jeter’s bat like it was fashioned from solid gold.
 
Moments like these are amazing because my experience with baseball has come full circle. Before this summer, I was simply a fan. Now, I contribute to improving the experience for other fans and sustaining the legacy of America’s national pastime.
 
No papers, phones or coffee mugs. Just fun, excitement and passion for the game of baseball.

Chris Duffy is a public programs intern in the Class of 2011 Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program. For more information on the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program, please click here http://baseballhall.org/education/internship-program/internship-program.

Thankful to be in Cooperstown

By Craig Muder

The brain aneurysm that changed John Olerud’s life is visible today by only a small indentation on the left side of his forehead.

But the effects of that event shape Olerud’s outlook to this day – and has left the 17-year big league veteran with a deep sense of gratitude.

Olerud visited the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday with his wife, Kelly; two of their children, Garrett and Jessica; and his in-laws. The 42-year-old Olerud, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, made the trip to Cooperstown based on the recommendation of former teammate Ed Sprague.

“Ed told me what an incredible visit he had, getting to see all the history,” Olerud said. “I have to say: He was right.”

Olerud, looking very much like the strapping 6-foot-5, 205-pound first baseman he was with the Blue Jays, Mets, Mariners, Yankees and Red Sox from 1989-2005, marveled at Museum artifacts like a Babe Ruth bat and a Roberto Clemente cap.

He even held a bat that he donated to the Hall of Fame in 2000 after recording the first-ever hit at Detroit’s Comerica Park as a member of the Mariners.

His .295 career batting average, 2,239 hits, two All-Star Game selections and three Gold Glove Awards were enough to secure him a place on the 2011 Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot. But the modest Olerud, a key member of the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series winners in 1992-93, downplayed his own accomplishments.

“I’m just so thankful to have had the chance to get married, have kids and play the game I love,” said Olerud, who suffered the aneurysm while he was working out at Washington State University in 1988, but recovered to debut with the Jays in 1989 after bypassing the minor leagues entirely. “When you’re playing, you don’t really think about something like the Hall of Fame because you’re just trying to help the team and keep yourself in the lineup. And now that I’m retired, I’ve been so involved with my family, it seems like that time when I played is so far away.

“But to come here and see all this, it reminds you of how fortunate you are to play baseball.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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