The year was 1972. Even though the United States was fighting a multinational war in Asia and the President was embroiled in a major political scandal leading to his resignation, it still seems like a simpler time in history. In the baseball world, there were a few notable events. At the beginning of the year, there was a players’ strike, the first of which that cancelled regular season games. The conflict was resolved soon after, however. It was the first year that the Washington Senators had relocated to Dallas to become the Texas Rangers, leaving DC baseball-less until 2005. Generally, 1972 was a normal year in the baseball world.
All of that normalcy came to a screeching halt on New Year’s Eve.
In a tragedy that struck the sports world much like the death of basketball player Kobe Bryant earlier this year, Pittsburgh Pirates star outfielder Roberto Clemente was killed in a plane crash.
The purpose of this post today is not to talk about Clemente and his achievements on the diamond, but rather to honor him for his accomplishments off of the field.
Just seven days before Clemente died, a terrible earthquake struck Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. The effects were disastrous – the
death count ranges anywhere from 4,000 to 11,000, and a shocking two-thirds of Managua’s 1,000,000 residents faced food shortages. To make matters worse, Nicaragua was being governed by a strongman dictator, Anastasia Somoza. When countries and individuals sent aid for the people affected by the earthquake, Somoza would keep the resources for himself and his inner circle, instead of delivering it to the people who needed it the most.
One person who was affected by this was Clemente. He arranged three relief flights sending aid to the victims of the Managua earthquake. Every aid package on each flight was intercepted by Somoza, making Clemente furious. He then chartered a fourth flight, which he flew on to make sure that the packages were delivered to those in need. And it was instantly after takeoff when Clemente’s plane fell. He and the other four passengers on the plane were killed.
After his death, the sports world was stunned. He didn’t die of a disease or an overdose on alcohol or drugs – he died trying to help other people. His spirit led to the creation of the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, and community involvement.” The Nationals nominated Anthony Rendon last year for his work with the Nationals Youth Academy, and the winner of the 2019 award was Cleveland pitcher Carlos Carrasco.
It’s in the spirit of Clemente and his legacy of charity work that I ask you to help out local organizations on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now more than ever, we have to put all of our differences aside and instead focus on what connects us. COVID-19 doesn’t care what race you are, what gender you identify as, what political opinions you have, or even if you’re a Braves or Phillies fan. It’s affecting everybody in this country, and we must work together to support those who are so valiantly fighting this crisis head-on.
The undoubted heroes of the pandemic we currently face are our healthcare professionals. They are intentionally increasing the likelihood of their contracting of the virus to help save other people. Every state is facing a shortage of PPE equipment like surgical N95 masks, ventilators to help oxygenate patients, and tests for COVID-19. I’m asking, if you are able, to help support the people who are helping us by making a donation to Johns Hopkins medicine. Johns Hopkins runs many hospitals in the District and Maryland, including Sibley Hospital in Palisades, DC, Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, and their main facilities in Baltimore. Johns Hopkins is taking some of the swiftest actions to combat COVID-19, including developing and testing a therapeutic treatment for those who have recovered from the virus, and by developing a map of coronavirus cases worldwide. Yet, they still need PPE and other supplies to combat the virus. If you live outside of the DMV area, you can donate to your local hospital (Penn Medicine in Philadelphia and Columbia Medical Center in New York come to mind), but if you are local, I would strongly encourage (if you can) to support those working in the Johns Hopkins Medicine system.
Aside from the virus, two of the biggest and most pressing issues right now are the economic recession that stemmed from the virus, and the temporary closure of most small businesses, restaurants, and schools. This has led to unease in underserved communities across the country
– and has further exacerbated the socioeconomic divide in our nation’s largest cities. And just like he did after Hurricane Maria and during the government shutdown, celebrity chef Jose Andres is coming to the rescue. Andres, the brainchild behind some of DC’s best restaurants like Jaleo, America Eats Tavern, and Oyamel, has also launched a philanthropic endeavor called World Central Kitchen. You can read about all they’re doing to help combat and mitigate COVID-19 by clicking on the link, but in essence, Andres and his team are helping deliver fresh meals to underserved communities and helping small restaurants nationwide get back on their feet. I support World Central Kitchen and their message, and if you can, I encourage you to make a donation to them as well. Andres and his team have consistently helped communities in need for the last two years, and his mission is very inspiring. To add a local angle, Jose is moving his World Central Kitchen operations in Washington from his restaurants to Nationals Park, which will be used as a drive-thru free meal distribution center throughout the crisis. Once again, I encourage you to visit wck.org to make a donation to one of my favorite and most inspiring organizations.
I hope that all of my readers are doing well and listening to orders from the CDC to stay home and save lives. If you or someone you know is currently being affected by the virus, know that we are all collectively pulling for you in this fight against COVID-19. Because that’s what this challenge is – it’s a fight. No, it’s not a battle of traditional war. No, it’s not a benches-clearing brawl. No, it’s not winning the World Series after starting the year 19-31. But to get through this, we must do it together, we must support local foundations that support those who help us, but most importantly, we must listen to Davey Martinez. Stay in the fight. And if we stay home for however long is necessary, and treat this public health emergency for what it really is, then together, we will defeat COVID-19.
Stay in the fight,