"Any time you have an opportunity to make things better and you don't, then you are wasting your time on this Earth."
-- Roberto Clemente
It was 40 years ago this month that Roberto Clemente reached out from his customary stance far away from the plate and hammered an outside curve from Jon Matlack off the left-field wall at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh for a double.
That was Clemente's 3,000th and final hit. Three months later, on New Year's Eve, the Pirates' Puerto Rican great was lost at sea when the plane he was aboard went down while delivering relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. His legacy lives on, forever.
2012 Clemente Award nominees
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Willie Bloomquist|
|Atlanta Braves||Tim Hudson|
|Baltimore Orioles||Jim Johnson*|
|Boston Red Sox||Jon Lester|
|Chicago Cubs||David DeJesus|
|Chicago White Sox||Jake Peavy*|
|Cincinnati Reds||Todd Frazier|
|Cleveland Indians||Jason Kipnis|
|Colorado Rockies||Michael Cuddyer|
|Detroit Tigers||Miguel Cabrera*|
|Houston Astros||Wesley Wright|
|Kansas City Royals||Alex Gordon|
|Los Angeles Angels||C.J. Wilson*|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Clayton Kershaw*|
|Miami Marlins||Logan Morrison|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Rickie Weeks|
|Minnesota Twins||Justin Morneau|
|New York Mets||Johan Santana|
|New York Yankees||Mark Teixeira|
|Oakland Athletics||Brandon McCarthy|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Jimmy Rollins|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Chris Resop|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Matt Holliday*|
|San Diego Padres||Luke Gregerson|
|San Francisco Giants||Matt Cain*|
|Seattle Mariners||Felix Hernandez*|
|Tampa Bay Rays||David Price*|
|Texas Rangers||Michael Young|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Ricky Romero|
|Washington Nationals||Ryan Zimmerman|
"The 40th anniversary is a big one for us," Clemente's widow Vera told MLB.com this summer. "We have done something special on all of the major anniversaries. I remember one anniversary, when they presented us with the sign that had been on one of the original recovery ships searching for him. I am sure we will do something special this year."
Tuesday is Roberto Clemente Day throughout Major League Baseball, a day instituted on the 30th anniversary of his passing, and it will be testament to the fact that every year is a major anniversary for those who keep alive Clemente's spirit of giving. MLB announced the names of the 30 club nominees, including nine 2012 All-Stars, who are candidates to receive the overall Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet at the World Series.
Voting is under way through Oct. 14 at MLB.com/ClementeAward as fans help decide which of those 30 club winners will receive this prestigious recognition. The nominees were chosen based on their dedication to giving back to the community, as well as their outstanding ability on the field.
"It's humbling to be associated with all the tremendous names that have won this award in the past, and I look forward to continuing to do my part to maintain Roberto Clemente's legacy," Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said in accepting the 2011 award at Busch Stadium.
The list of 30 nominees is an inspiring one. It includes such community leaders as A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who was just released from a hospital after requiring surgery following a liner back to the head; repeat nominee and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who for years has worked to help provide children greater opportunities through reading or health matters; and Rangers veteran Michael Young, the 2008 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award winner who helps kids in many ways through his family foundation.
"It's a tremendous honor, and one that I'm very proud of," Rockies nominee Michael Cuddyer said. "Like Roberto Clemente, it is not something we do for recognition, but it's always nice when someone notices. The real heroes are the ones that benefit from the good deeds of our profession."
"I am honored to have my off-the-field work recognized," Angels nominee C.J. Wilson said. "To be on a list with these other distinguished players is a testament to how important it is for Major League Baseball players to give back and be a positive factor in their communities."
Willie Mays won the first Clemente Award in 1971, when it was created to recognize community service around the game. He is one of 14 future Hall of Famers on the distinguished list of recipients. That list also includes Barry Larkin, a 1993 Clemente Award winner who was inducted into the Hall this summer.
"It has to do with community work and giving back to the community," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said in his 2009 acceptance speech. "I think people in our position should take advantage of it. They should try to give back as much as possible. I know I'm being awarded for this right now, but there's a lot of players that give back to the community, and I think everyone should be commended for that."
All clubs playing at home on Tuesday will acknowledge their local nominee as part of Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies, while visiting clubs will honor their nominees before another September home game. As part of the league-wide celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and the official dugout lineup cards.
Fans who participate in the vote will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2012 World Series.