“They don’t make ‘em like they used to,” a weathered man said to me as I stood looking at a portrait of Roberto Clemente in the small Lawrenceville space that pays tribute to one of the greatest baseball players of all time.
It cannot be more true. Clemente played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for 17 years with a record-setting career that changed the sport forever. Off-season, Clemente committed his time to charity work—traveling to Puerto Rico and poverty-stricken countries in the region to work with children and donating his time to causes and nonprofits that advocated for those in need. He died in a plane accident in 1972 on his way to Nicaragua to deliver aid to earthquake victims. Indeed, he is “The Great One.”
In 2006, 34 years after his death, photographer Duane Rieder founded the Roberto Clemente Museum. Rieder met the athlete’s widow, Vera Clemente, and her children, while shooting a calendar in 1994 and saw how the family has carried on the athlete’s commitment to charity. Over a decade later, Rieder hosted an event for the family at his studio, displaying Clemente memorabilia he has collected over time.
“Vera told me, it looks like a museum here,” shares Rieder. “And the seed was planted there.”
The project began as a personal commitment to support the Clemente family’s continued charity work but in almost a decade has evolved to become a significant and fitting tribute to a baseball legend and a great man.
On September 17th, the museum will host its annual fundraiser with the Clemente family present. Attendees will get access to the museum and be the first to see its new additions.
“We are very excited about the upcoming fundraiser. It will be our sixth one and we are so proud to show all of our sponsors, supporters and donors how the Museum is progressing,” says Rieder. “This year, we added a 1960 scoreboard with a working clock and lights. We have also added a Clubhouse Store where fans can get Clemente memorabilia.”
“Having the Clemente family here means so much to us,” Rieder adds. “We greatly appreciate their love and support. It is always wonderful having them all together it one room as we celebrate Roberto.”
More information about the event and tickets for the fundraiser are available at the museum website.