Roberto Clemente facts most don’t know: Part 1–U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Roberto Clemente

Instead of playing winter ball in Puerto Rico during the 1958-59 offseason, Roberto Clemente served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. He spent six months of his military commitment at Parris Island, South Carolina, and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. While at Parris Island, Clemente received his basic training with Platoon 346 of the 3rd Recruit Battalion. At Camp Lejeune, he was an infantryman. The rigorous training he received helped Clemente physically by gaining ten pounds of muscle and ridding him of long-time back pain. Having served until 1964, Roberto was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. Bob Terrell (right) was the training officer for U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Roberto Clemente.

have-we-lost-our-common-sense Bob Terrell’s “Have We Lost Our Common Sense?” is a self-published book by the former Marine lieutenant who grew close to Clemente during the the six months that the baseball legend served on active duty between the 1958 and 1959 seasons. According to the author, their friendship is mentioned briefly in his book because Clemente cared about others regardless of race and always gave his best. Terell said, “He made an impact on my view of civil rights philosophy. I believe we’re all God’s children, and he being an Hispanic, it opened my eyes about the fact that it’s a big world out there. As we became good friends, we kidded each other about my Kentucky drawl, and he about his broken English.” Sharpshooter-qualified Clemente impressed Terrell.
“He absorbed each detail of instruction and was a perfectionist who wouldn’t be satisfied with mediocrity. He practiced and practiced and it didn’t matter how many people glared at him–he maintained his poise.”

Sharp Shooter Roberto Clemente narrowly missed Expert status in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“Sharpshooter” Roberto Clemente narrowly missed “Expert” ranking in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Roberto Clemente _ Nicaragua Clemente shared with the former military training officer his three goals in life. “The first goal was to be on a World Series Championship team.
His second was to win a batting championship. And his third goal was to build a recreation center in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico,” said Terrell. Until his tragic death in a plane crash on December 31, 1972, during a humanitarian mission to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua, Clemente won the National League batting title four times. He won 12 Gold Glove Awards, was named to the NL All-Star team 15 times, named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1966, and got over 3,000 hits. “The Great One” led the Pittsburgh Pirates to two World Series Championships in 1960 and 1971. With the efforts of Clemente’s widow, Vera Zabala, and the government of Puerto Rico, the construction of the Roberto Clemente Sports City complex fulfilled the wishes of the Puerto Rican iconic hero by providing athletic opportunities and life lessons for young people. Ciudad Deportiva Roberto Clemente occupies 304 acres
in Carolina, just outside the city of San Juan, consisting of baseball, football and soccer fields, a swimming pool, tennis courts, training facilities and meeting rooms. For his efforts on and off the field, Clemente was elected posthumously into the 1973 Major League Baseball Hall
of Fame. Terrell said, “We live in a time when people think more of themselves than of others. My friend died helping strangers. He was a compassionate person. And he was a great ambassador to baseball, and to humanity. I just don’t want people to forget how he lived and how he died. Roberto Clemente was no ordinary player. And no ordinary man.”clemente 2

15 thoughts on “Roberto Clemente facts most don’t know: Part 1–U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Roberto Clemente

  1. Percy P. December 25, 2012 / 1:49 am

    What a beautiful profile of a tremendous ball player! Thank you for writing this and showing us who Roberto Clemente truly was…

  2. Harv December 25, 2012 / 1:20 pm

    Thanks for honoring his memory. Being born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, I saw a lot of him in games. He is truly remember by all of his generation and admired by people across the globe. We honor him by having a nice sized photo of him in uniform in one of our sports stores. Let his memory live forever. Harv

  3. Dennis Corcoran December 26, 2012 / 3:34 am

    I enjoyed Bob Terrell’s article very much. This is the second article I’ve read about Roberto’s life that gave me info. on his life I didn’t know. The other was about the bat he used for his 3000 hit. Both articles help to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his tragic death.
    I was inspired to write my book, “Induction Day at Cooperstown….” (McFarland-2011) because of the fans. There are over 40 photos in the book and the first one I picked out during my six years working on the book was a picture of Roberto with his movie camera taking pictures in 1968 of Hall of Famers at Doubleday Field. This was three years before his death and eventual induction. The picture is in the beginning of my book and is the essence of why I wrote this book. Check out some nice reviews on Amazon and if you’re interested get back to me.
    Happy New Year!

  4. Carlos Perez May 6, 2013 / 10:10 am

    Love this new info on one of baseball greatest players.

  5. Isidro September 23, 2013 / 6:00 am

    He was my hero growing up in Puerto Rico and to this date after his death. Also as a Marine veteran knowing that he also served my beloved Corps. In an age in baseball when players use steroids to become bigger and more powerful, Roberto is a great example of pure talent and hard work!!!!

    • Ruben Cedeño, USMC RET June 20, 2019 / 2:45 pm

      I was a young Puertorican teenager growing up in New York City when he started his playing career. Didn’t like the Pirates that much because I was a Yankees fan but loved to see Clemente play. I also became a Marine in 1965 and was sent to Vietnam in 1967 where I became a highly decorated Marine. After I retired from the Marines in 1992, I was a Guest of Honor at a Marine Corps Birthday and after I finished my speech I was presented a plaque with Roberto Clemente’s picture on it in his Marine uniform during the Command Inspection. I never had an idea that he had been a Marine. I don’t know how they knew that he was one of my favorite players in the 60s.

  6. ramona stoeter September 24, 2013 / 6:32 am

    Roberto Clemente was my neighbor in Carolina, and we went to the same school for a while.

  7. hector December 7, 2017 / 7:12 pm

    As amazing as he was as an athlete, his baseball talent was nothing compared to his humanity.

  8. Eugene Percival February 8, 2018 / 9:09 pm

    one Marine to another, Semper Fi.

  9. Jorge Zenquis Diaz September 7, 2018 / 9:41 am

    Semper Fi Marine Roberto Clemente. I thank you for your service and professional services.

  10. Paul C Agosto December 13, 2020 / 10:23 am

    I had the pleasure of growing up in Puerto Rico, my father took me to the Hiram Bithorn Stadium where Roberto Clemente played. He was something to see…
    I saw him catch a ball up against the wall in Right Field and the runner on third took off,
    It is like time stood still, Roberto just immediately turned completely around and threw to home. Runner did not have a chance. I was 13 years old in 1972 and we were excused from school to go to the airport to welcome the World Series MVP.
    I was there, I saw the look of amazement on Roberto’s face as we crowded the airplane. A few months later, i was at a New Years Eve Party with my family. Around 10 pm the sky towards San Juan was light up like day. We at first thought it was New Years celebrations and soon heard the tragic news of Roberto Clemente’s plain going down. The Navy and Coast Guard were trying desperately to find the plane.
    I have been touched by an Angel
    Paul Agosto

    • Roberto Angotti December 13, 2020 / 11:01 am

      Thanks so much Paul for taking time out to share your memories of the Great One. I was also mesmorized by his talent on the field and his compassion for humanity. I stood up all game in the right field bleachers at Dodger Stadium every time the Pirates came to LA and cheered on my favorite all-time player growing up. We really need to retire his number and let the world know of his legacy.

  11. tootall March 25, 2021 / 8:46 pm

    My dad took me to my first pirate game at age 12 against the cubs. The pirates were losing by 3 runs in the bottom of the ninth and Clemente came up with the bases loaded. He drove a ball off the left center field wall near the 457 foot sign for a inside park home run. Want more Clemente history, google P. P. great Roberto Clemente in the U.S. Marine.

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