SportsJam with Doug Doyle: Vera Clemente Honored Roberto's Legacy with Grace and Dignity

Nov 18, 2019

Vera Clemente with SportsJam host Doug Doyle in 2004
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

Vera Clemente, the widow of legendary baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, passed away on Saturday, November 16 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  She was 78. 

As a Goodwill Ambassador for Major League Baseball, Vera impacted countless children and extended her family’s humanitarian legacy of helping those in need.  She also served as the chairwoman of the Roberto Clemente Foundation.

Vera is survived by three sons: Roberto Jr., Luis Roberto and Roberto Enrique. She actively extended her late husband’s philanthropic legacy long after Clemente’s tragic death on Dec. 31, 1972.

Vera Clemente and her late husband were honored by the Newark Bears baseball team at Riverfront Stadium
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

It was in 2004, she made a trip to Newark to speak to school children and be honored by the Newark Bears Independent League Baseball team.   The Bears at that time had Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson in the lineup and were managed by former Pirates and Cubs great Bill Madlock.  During that game at Riverfront Stadium in Newark, I had a lovely chat with Vera.  The result eventually became an episode of SportsJam.

New York Mets current manager Carlos Beltrán was one of many inspired by Clemente, the first Puerto Rican inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and what he accomplished both as a baseball player and as a humanitarian. Beltrán grew up idolizing the proud but humble Clemente, so one day in the winter of 2012, he sought out the person who knew him best: Vera. Beltrán drove to the Clementes’ home in Puerto Rico and spent hours asking Vera about her husband and their life together. She was widely respected in Puerto Rico and throughout the baseball world for her compassionate nature, her giving spirit and her dedication to continuing the philanthropic legacy Clemente left behind.

Vera met her future husband in a drugstore in Puerto Rico after the 1963 season, and they were married on Nov. 14, 1964. Together they started a family that grew together from their native Puerto Rico to southwestern Pennsylvania. Clemente formed a permanent bond with the city of Pittsburgh, and Vera ensured that it would never break.

Click above to hear the revised edition of Sportsjam with Doug Doyle featuring Vera Clemente.