• Happy birthday Sonia Levitin (The Cure, Journey to America), and Joan Carris (Bed and Biscuit series).
  • It is also the birthday of Percy Jackson, star of Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief series.
  • It’s the birth date of Louise Fatio (1904-199); The Happy Lion, and Paula Danziger (1944-2004), Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice, Amber Brown series.
  • In 1868, French astronomer Pierre Jules CĂ©sar Janssen discovers helium. Read The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène Du Bois, Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai, and The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse.
  • On this day in 1920, less than a hundred years ago, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, enabling all U.S. citizens to vote, regardless of gender. Read A Long Way to Go: A Story of Women’s Right to Vote by Zibby Oneal and Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon.
  • It’s Bad Poetry Day. Read Teen Angst: A Celebration of Really Bad Poetry edited by Sarah Bynoe.

On August 18, 1934, one of the most revered National League baseball players of all times, Roberto Clemente, was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Considered something of a saint in his native land, Clemente made his fame in America, after being drafted in 1954 by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He brought new life to the team and excitement to the ballpark, ultimately spurring the Pirates on to become World Series champions. As good as Clemente was on the ball field, his activities off the diamond became a critical part of his legend. He built a sport complex in Puerto Rico for children and gave large sums to charity. While delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua in 1972, Clemente died when the plane with these supplies plummeted into the ocean.

In Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jonah Winter stresses Clemente’s genius as a ball player as well as the discrimination that he faced from newspaper writers who called him lazy, mocked his Spanish, and dubbed him a hothead. Winter’s straightforward text, along with Raul Colon’s action-filled illustrations, provide ample details of Clemente’s life, as well as a sense of the obstacles he had to overcome in his career.

Last year a new book, Clemente! by Willie Perdomo, illustrated by Bryan Collier, appeared that provides a different perspective on the first Latin American player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A young boy, named Clemente, in honor of his father’s favorite ball player, narrates a text that moves frequently from English to Spanish to celebrate Clemente’s accomplishments. Both the boy’s father and uncle regale him with information about their idol. Bryan Collier, one of the most talented illustrators working today, has created strong and compelling portraits of Clemente as well as striking and dramatic baseball stadium scenes to make every page of this book visually compelling.

Both books work well together to honor Clemente. Although he died almost three decades ago, he remains a hero for our time—a brilliant baseball player who gave his resources and ultimately his life to help others.

Here’s a page from Clemente!:

Originally posted August 18, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Baseball, History, Latino, Multicultural, Sports
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Clemente!


  1. suzi w. says:

    As a not born and bred but here for most of my adult life Pittsburgher, I only heard the story of Clemente’s death last year on my birthday, as my parents and I walked the river walk in Pittsburgh. From the Rachel Carson Bridge to the Mr. Roger’s statue, there are memorials. As you walk about a mile or so, there are named bridges and statues. There is the Roberto Clemente Bridge (formerly the 6th St. Bridge), a statue of Clemente, war memorials, and of course, our dear Fred.

    Pittsburgh is sometimes a complicated place, but other times, not at all. We’re a sports town, through and through. Thanks for this post, I’ll have to find the book.

  2. Suzi, I used to walk to work across the Clemente Bridge, and used to always swerve to walk right under his statue on the way: it just made me happy, something about knowing what a good person he was came across to me through the statue, and I just felt glad it was there!

    Side note about the sidebar: seeing that it’s Percy Jackson’s birthday is making me want to collect a list of fictional birthdays. Does anyone know of any such lists already existing anywhere?

  3. Anita says:

    If anyone finds a list of fictional character birthdays, I hope they will also let me know! I’ve been tracking these down, one at a time.

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