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National Postal Museum to feature Roberto Clemente Walker

The Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum has announced it will feature Roberto Clemente Walker, an endearing figure, of American baseball, in a new exhibit titled "Roberto Clemente." The exhibit opens April 1 and runs through Oct. 15.

Clemente was first honored with an appearance on a U.S. stamp on Aug. 17, 1984; and as a tremendous recognition of his enduring character, he was chosen again as a stamp subject just last year, appearing in the recently released "Legends of Baseball" series.

Only a few stamps issued in the United States each year feature a specific individual, and in order to be chosen, an individual must have a proven legacy to this nation. This is ensured through the postal service's 10-year waiting policy, which says that an individual (excepting U.S. presidents) may only be considered for this honor a decade after his or her death To be celebrated on a stamp even once is an extraordinary honor, but to be celebrated twice is a remarkable acknowledgment.

Objects selected for display in the "Roberto Clemente" exhibit include:

  • Clemente batting helmet
  • Baseball autographed by the 1960 World Champion Pirates
  • Patch worn by the Pittsburgh Pirates after Clemente's death
  • Ticket stub from the game in which Clemente got his 3000th hit
  • Both U.S. postal stamps featuring Roberto Clemente

Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico on Aug. 18, 1934, Clemente was a number one draft pick chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954. He remained with the team throughout his entire Major League Baseball career, which lasted until his death in 1972 Clemente helped lead the Pirates to their first world championship win in 35 years in 1960 and then again, 11 years later, in 1971 He is remembered today as one of the game's best all-around right fielders, with one of the best
arms in baseball. He was also a strong hitter, posting a career average of 317. Clemente's personal records included four National League Batting Championships, 12 Gold Gloves, the National League MVP in 1966, and the MVP in the 1971 World Series.

On Nov. 14, 1964, Clemente married Vera Cristina Zabala in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Later, he insisted that all of his four sons be born in Puerto Rico as a sign of pride for his heritage.

Clemente devoted himself to helping others throughout his career, giving gifts of time, money and personal assistance to those in need. In 1972, after an earthquake had devastated Nicaragua, he headed up the Puerto Rican aid efforts; and, out of concern that the supplies were being stolen, he personally accompanied a shipment on New Year's Eve. Tragically, the plane crashed into the ocean shortly after takeoff, and Clemente's body was never recovered.

His death shook the baseball world and, shortly after, the National Baseball Hall of Fame voted to waive its five-year eligibility rule for Clemente. Eleven weeks after his funeral, he was voted into the Hall of Fame. He was the first Latin American to be so honored.

The "Roberto Clemente" exhibit begins April 1 and runs through October 15. The National Postal Museum's Web site will also provide an online version of the exhibit in both English and Spanish. The project has received support from the Latino Initiatives Fund, administered by the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives.

The National Postal Museum showcases stamps, philatelic materials and postal history artifacts. Its galleries explore such themes as the Colonial Post, the Pony Express, the art of letter writing and the beauty and lore of stamps. The museum, located next to Union Station on Capitol Hill at 2 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., is wheelchair-accessible and is open dally from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.

 
 
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