NEW YORK -- The son of baseball great Roberto Clemente is
sending money and 2 tons of supplies -- originally destined for
Nicaragua to honor his late father's ill-fated humanitarian flight
exactly 32 years ago -- to tsunami victims.
"My father always said, 'If you have an opportunity to make
things better and you don't, then you are wasting your time on
Earth,"' Roberto Clemente Jr. said in a telephone interview
Thursday with The Associated Press from Puerto Rico.
On Dec. 31, 1972, the Hall of Fame outfielder who played for the
Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955-72 was killed when his plane crashed
while carrying supplies from Puerto Rico to victims of
For the past several months, his son has been raising money and
collecting clothing and medical supplies to re-enact his father's
unfinished mission on this New Year's eve to bring closure to his
But inspired by his father's humanitarian spirit, Clemente Jr.
canceled that ceremonial flight and will divert the 2 tons of
supplies and $18,000 earmarked for charities in Nicaragua to
tsunami victims in south Asia.
"I decided to hold off on that flight to help the people who
really desperately need it right now," said Clemente Jr., 39, of
New York and an ESPN commentator. "This is my upbringing and the
legacy of my mother and my father to help others."
Clemente Jr. was 7 when his father was killed. He said the death
still haunts him because he had a premonition of his father's crash
and pleaded with him not to get on the plane.
"I carry the guilt to this day of not doing enough to stop
him," Clemente Jr. said. "He said, 'Don't worry, I'll see you
when I get back."'
Clemente's cargo plane crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico
shortly after takeoff, apparently because it was too heavy with
supplies, his son said. His body was never recovered.
When Clemente Jr. turned 39 this year -- his father was 38 when
he died -- he decided it was time to re-enact his father's "flight
for humanity" to complete his mission.
He teamed with Project Club Clemente, a New York organization
dedicated to the ballplayer's humanitarian projects, and held a
dinner dance and food drive to raise money for the flight.
While he was in Puerto Rico completing plans, the earthquake and
tsunami hit in southern Asia and Africa -- on the same date the
earthquake rocked Nicaragua in 1972. He said he feels this is an
Clemente Jr. said he is leading a campaign with the American Red
Cross in Puerto Rico to help the victims of south Asia.
Donations can be made in Clemente's name to: the International
Disaster Fund, American Red Cross, P.O. Box 9021067, San Juan, PR