The event that I attended was the Roberto Clemente Symposium which was held in Richard Stockton College’s PAC Theatre on Friday October 14th. In the week leading up to the symposium, my Life of the Mind class discussed John Henry “Pop” Lloyd and his importance to baseball as well as the Atlantic City area. “Pop” Lloyd was widely considered the top shortstop to ever play in the Negro Leagues and was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977. More importantly, however, was Lloyd’s commitment to the Atlantic City community and local players, many of whom learned invaluable lessons about baseball and life directly from Lloyd. This humility and dedication to community was echoed in the discussion of Roberto Clemente.
The speaker, whose name was Luis Mayoral, put the emphasis of his speech not on the vast span of Clemente’s achievements in regards to baseball, but Clemente’s passion for helping others. Mayoral was blessed enough to had become close friends with Clemente and shared many humorous anecdotes about their experiences together. Throughout these stories, however, there were a few elements that Mayoral continued to harp upon. The first of which was the pride that Clemente had for Puerto Rico even when he was playing in league, let alone a nation, in which he was restricted by language barriers. Mayoral also described how Clemente loved to give back to others, even going as far as to establish a Sports City in Puerto Rico so that the youth of the future were afforded just as wonderful an opportunity as he was. Finally, to end the symposium, Mayoral discussed the details of Clemente’s tragic death. Tearing up himself, Mayoral described how Clemente, who worked extensively with charity organizations, was sending aid packages to Managua as it had been hit by a devastating earthquake. However, after learning that the first few aid packages had been seized by the corrupt government and never reached the victims in need of relief, Clemente himself set off to accompany the next aid package to Managua. Mayoral, extremely emotional at this point, closed his speech by saying that Clemente died when plane crashed just off of the coast of Puerto Rico on December 31st, 1972, with Clemente’s body never being recovered.
For my part, I absolutely loved the Roberto Clemente Symposium. I thought that Mayoral did an excellent job telling the story not of Roberto Clemente the baseball player, but of Roberto Clemente the dedicated and caring person. After the symposium, I was able to draw important connections between Roberto Clemente, “Pop” Lloyd, and Field of Dreams which we read in class just a few weeks prior. I look forward to future symposiums and the unique insight which they offer.