N. Phila. street may be renamed for Pirates' Clemente

** FILE ** --Roberto Clemente (21), outfielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, is photographed in 1971 at an unknown location. Their major league paths crossed only briefly. Jackie Robinson was ending a Hall of Fame career crammed with sociological ramifications about the same time that Clemente was starting one every bit as critical. They shared one other similarity. Each of them believed there was more to life than runs, hits and errors. (AP Photo)
** FILE ** --Roberto Clemente (21), outfielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, is photographed in 1971 at an unknown location. Their major league paths crossed only briefly. Jackie Robinson was ending a Hall of Fame career crammed with sociological ramifications about the same time that Clemente was starting one every bit as critical. They shared one other similarity. Each of them believed there was more to life than runs, hits and errors. (AP Photo) (AP)
Posted: May 01, 2014

HARRISBURG There is no shortage of memorials to baseball great Roberto Clemente. Postage stamps, life-size bronze statues, parks, schools, and a bridge in Pittsburgh bear his name.

Now Clemente may soon receive a new honor: a Philadelphia street named after him.

Wait a minute. The man whose name is synonymous with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who wore black and gold for 18 seasons, gets his own street in the Phillies' heartland?

A bill that passed the state House unanimously Monday would rename the 100 block of West Erie Avenue in North Philadelphia "Roberto Clemente Way," after the Hall of Fame outfielder.

"This man is a legend, a hero," said Rep. Angel Cruz (D., Phila.), the bill's sponsor. Like Clemente, he is of Puerto Rican descent.

The bill now heads to the Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. John Rafferty (R., Montgomery) - a die-hard Phillies fan.

"I bleed red and white," Rafferty said. "But Roberto Clemente was one of those people who transcended regionalism or sports teams."

Rafferty said he would move the bill as soon as it reached his committee.

Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D., Phila.), another Phillies fan whose district includes West Erie Avenue, said she, too, would support the bill.

"We'll suck it up," she said in jest. "He was much more than a baseball player. He was a humanitarian."

Philadelphia's most recognized sports fan had this to say: "Roberto Clemente was to citizens all over the world a sports idol," Ed Rendell offered. "It's very appropriate in a Latino neighborhood of Philadelphia."

The bill even went over without a hitch in the Phillies clubhouse.

"While he might have played for the Pirates, Roberto Clemente exemplified the best of the best in the game," said Bonnie Clark, the Phillies' vice president of communications. "His commitment to baseball, his sportsmanship, and his passion and commitment to serving the community were beyond admirable. Naming a street after him in Philadelphia further demonstrates how his impact continues to transcend borders."

The section of the state road that would be renamed is in front of Roberto Clemente Middle School, which serves a majority Hispanic population.

Drafted by the Pirates in 1954. Clemente was an electric player, nicknamed "the Great One," who broke ethnic barriers as the first Latino to be named World Series most valuable player, the first to reach 3,000 hits, and the first to enter the Hall of Fame.

On Dec. 31, 1972, Clemente was aboard a plane carrying relief supplies to Nicaragua following an earthquake when it crashed into the sea on takeoff.

Clemente, who would have turned 80 this year, was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame.

One member of the Clemente family can stake legitimate claim to being part of the home team in Philadelphia.

Clemente's eldest son, Roberto Jr., had a brief career with the Phillies, playing for a rookie-league affiliate in 1984.

Cruz hopes Clemente Jr., a businessman in New York, will join him for a ribbon-cutting.

After all, shouldn't such an event be a historic moment for the state to come together?

"There's Pittsburgh, there's Philadelphia, and there's Pennsylvania," Cruz said. "We're the three P's. No matter what, you have to recognize that."


aworden@phillynews.com

717-783-2584 @inkyamy

www.inquirer.com/phillydawg

www.inquirer.com/commonwealthconfidential

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