Pirates Legend Roberto Clemente's Widow Vera Dies at Age 81

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorNovember 17, 2019

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Vera Cristina Zabala speaks to the media after presenting the 2015 Roberto Clemente Award prior to Game Three of the 2015 World Series between the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals at Citi Field on October 30, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Vera Clemente, the 81-year-old widow of Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente, died Saturday.

Pirates Chairman of the Board Bob Nutting released a statement confirming the news:

Bill Hartlep of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote that Clemente served as the chairwoman of the Roberto Clemente Foundation, a nonprofit that provides relief to areas afflicted by disasters and long-term poverty and holds baseball clinics for children, among other initiatives.

She also worked as a Goodwill Ambassador for Major League Baseball, and commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement expressing his condolences.

"As a Goodwill Ambassador for MLB, Vera impacted countless children and extended her family's humanitarian legacy of helping those in need," Manfred said (h/t Hartlep).

"With grace and strength, she led the way in welcoming players to the fraternity of Roberto Clemente Award winners, the single most prestigious off-the-field honor in our game."

Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Vera Clemente graduated first in her class at the University of Puerto Rico.

"She was strong, smart, gentle and funny, the perfect ambassador for carrying on the Clemente legacy—in large part because she also helped to create it," Mackey added.

Per Mackey, Clemente died of unknown causes in Puerto Rico. She is survived by three sons: Roberto Clemente Jr., Luis Roberto Clemente and Roberto Enrique Clemente.

Roberto Clemente stands as one of the game's all-time greats and perhaps its best humanitarian. He won two World Series with the Pirates, smacked 3,000 hits and was gifted with perhaps the best outfield arm in league history.

Clemente passed away on New Year's Eve 1972 in a plane crash while delivering supplies to Nicaragua, which had been struck by an earthquake eight days earlier.