PR native Cora takes Sox on trip to Clemente Museum

Manager on the legacy of 'The Great One': It's 'bigger than the Hall of Fame'

August 19th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- The Red Sox visited the Roberto Clemente Museum on Wednesday morning, with players like Kiké Hernández, Trevor Story and Nathan Eovaldi making the trip. But the person most connected to Clemente in the tour group was Boston manager Alex Cora.

Cora, a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, said he had been to the museum a few years ago, but every time he visits, all of the stories of “The Great One” -- an MLB and Pirates hero, a Puerto Rican legend and one of the game’s biggest humanitarians -- come rushing back to him.

As he sat in the visiting dugout at PNC Park ahead of Wednesday night's game, looking out at the Clemente Bridge in the distance, Cora reflected on the many facets of Clemente’s legacy, including the pride that the Pirates outfielder took in being Latino and from Puerto Rico, never diminishing who he was for American audiences.

He wasn’t “Bob” Clemente, as some wanted to call him; he was Roberto. When the Pirates won the World Series in 1971, he stopped his postgame interview to send a heartfelt message to his parents in Spanish. The English translation of it, per the Roberto Clemente Foundation, was, “On the greatest day of my life, to my children [I give] my blessing, and [I ask] that my parents in Puerto Rico give me their blessing.”

“I should have done that when we won the whole thing [in 2018]," Cora said, "but I asked for the trophy to go home, so that’s cool.”

Cora not only followed in Clemente’s footsteps by becoming a name in MLB, but through his work with Puerto Rican baseball teams. The Red Sox manager played for the team in 2006 and ‘09. His rise as a managerial candidate in MLB also coincided with when he led Puerto Rico to the championship of the 2017 World Baseball Classic as general manager, though the team lost to the United States.

That work was bigger than baseball for Cora. It connected him in another way to Clemente, who also helped manage the San Juan Senadores in the Puerto Rican League.

“Something that always caught my attention was his willingness to manage the national team back home, to give more to the kids as far as clinics and all that,” Cora said. “It’s something that we know we have to do, because if he did, we have to do it.”

Tie that lifetime of representing and working for the Puerto Rican community, among others, with what Clemente did on the field in MLB -- 3,000 hits, a cannon of an arm from right field and two World Series titles -- and it raises Clemente to another level.

“The guy was, I always said a Hall of Famer as a baseball player, [but] there has to be something bigger than the Hall of Fame up there,” Cora said, “and he’s part of that.”

The connection to Clemente is also a family affair for Cora. His brother, Mets third-base coach Joey Cora, became the first Puerto Rican to wear the No. 21 jersey as a Pirate last season. That jersey is now on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cora hoped the tour resonated with those who made the visit on Wednesday. The afternoon after the visit, Hernández walked into the visiting clubhouse sporting a “21” shirt, while Story repped a Cangrejeros de Santurce shirt with the No. 21 under the iconic Puerto Rican League wordmark.

Doing it with a group of his players as an MLB manager made it all the more special.

“It means a lot,” Cora said. “We’re all baseball rats. We love this game. … To be able to go to this kind of venue is always cool. It puts everything in perspective.”