Huddle Up with Gus
Huddle Up with Gus

Episode · 3 years ago

Roberto Clemente Jr.

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Roberto Clemente Jr. talks about living in the shadow of his father, the impact it has had on his love of sports and his own identity. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

I am former NFL quarterback, gusts Furrat. I played quarterback fifteen years in the NFL. This is my show called huddle up with gusts. Each week I team up with my longtime friend Dave Hagar, and we talked with guests about how sports shape their lives. Pro Athletes, business executives, community leaders, everyone has a story to tell about sports. We invite you to huddle up with guss this week in the huddle. Well, Hey, thanks for joining us today. Oh, and huddle up with gusts fraut and we're here at the wonderful Clementi Museum and Engine House Twenty Five and we got a wonderful guest, Roberto Clementi Jr, and my partner, Dave Hagar. They're here with us today and you know, we want to go into the huddle right now with you, Roberto. I know that's a football term and it's okay, I can handle it. Yeah, I know, I know, but so we want to get in the huddle with you and start asking some questions about how sports shaped your life and how the you've had many transitions in your life, good and bad, and how you've dealt with those. And so first one of our questions was like when you were young and growing up in Puerto Rico, I know you were back and forth sween Puerto Rico and Pittsburgh. Who was like your main influence on you? You know, I there are a couple of ways of looking at it, because before that's passing and after, before that's passing. For me, many Sangian would come over to the House and dad was always dead. I mean and I will always look at Willie Star Jeel and Al Oliver and kind of emulate them in terms of hitting. And as a kid I remember walking Ricky havener do his you know, pull over his Jersey and I will. I thought that was so cool. But then, you know, I remember one day many singing and showed up at our place and he had the stuffle bag with him and he opened it up when he walked into the apartment and here in Green Tree and here comes a bunch of equipment and balls and stuff. And then I cattres gear.

When Dad saw the cattress gear, he says get the stuff out of my house right now. None of my kids are going to be a catturer, but blah, blah. So, I mean that was he threw him out. He threw the stuff. I'll get out use, you know, and I remember that very well because that said, none of my boys are going to be a catcher. That was actually my favorite position growing up, which is kind of funny, but you know, after after his passing, for me, obviously baseball was a big sport for me, but basketball, football, soccer, I played at all. You know, Peley was a big inspiration for me because of the way he carried himself, and Muhammad Ali and boxing. I was a big fan of his and being able to meet him and hang out with him, and I mean those things for me I really shape me who I am today. Well, that's awesome and I think you know, after your dad passed, we all had somebody who kind of kept on like I know you had to have like another father figure for you after your dad passed. who was that like that you could turn to when you were young and just, you know, kind of get stuff off your shoulders or, you know, wasn't an uncle or who was at there was actually there was one man and naturally was three days after a dacks accident. I have not seen my mother, have not been home for three days and we were in my youngest brothers Godfather's home for three days. So when he drove us to the House, I remember that day they were Holl helicopters, there were I mean there were cars, hundreds of cars everywhere. So it was it took us a while to go up the hill to the house and when we get there I see a bus getting to the front of the House and the doors opening. The Pirate Buss just got there into the house.

So they're walking into the house, they're falling in one by one into the home. There were hundreds of people there. So I remember trying to run into the House and and Jack Davis from Philadelphia grabs me and we take a August, take a walk and we had a conversation and he goes, you know what happened, and I say I'll never see that again, and we had this whole conversation about it and he goes you were going to be strongly you were the men of the House now, and I remember having this conversation with him. We walk him back to the House and now let me in front of the House and I turned to Jack and I look up at him and I said, Jack, who's going to take me to play baseball and Victor and vicus was standing right there when he heard me ask Jack that question. And Victor had just married my father's sister, like a sister do. They grew up together, and he put his hand on my shoulder. He goes, Rovertto, don't worry, I'm going to take care of that. And his word, he never failed to pick me up for every practice, every game. Never ever felt me. So that man for me was like a second father and he's, you know, in my heart. I mean he had passed away a couple of years ago and he never ever felt me. Your instrument close? Oh yeah, I mean his wife is still my aunt. And you know, he was my hero because he really took care of my need to go and play the game and I never knew who was going to take that part of my life and he was the one that stepped up to the plate. Yeah, those because those conversations that you have in...

...a car are going to the sports that you like to play. Right, did he baseball sends? He was smart. It was a smart guy. So he was like a for me. He actually really shaped and it really continue to ask questions. Okay, so in situation, situation, play for example, he was actually very smart, as if this happens here. He actually taught me a lot. He taught me a lot in the game of baseball and how to look forward and before anything happens, how to really visualize and and be ready for any play that can happen, and he really helped me immensely. What was his name again, Victor. We call him be ten, V ten. He was quite a quite a character that he support your brothers in the same way. Yeah, so lise and I my brother and I have two brothers, Luise and and Riki. We're Bern and Rique. We call him Rinky. He was only three when the accident happened, but luise and I are Irish twins, were only living months apart. So he was born in July, I was born in August. So for one month out of the year where the same age. So because of that he had to play up in the league. Oh yeah, so he was such a caught in that that in between. Right. So he was always I wore a number twenty one. He had a were number twelve because in rever right. So, but he, Luise, was always in the car with us. He took US everywhere in every practice in every game. For you guys, competitive, absolutely still today. We still competitive. Yeah, I bet brothers are like yeah, right, and you played multiple sports. So when you as you were going through all this, as you got older, and then you journey into high school right where you still continuing to were you guys in Puerto Rico? More, where you in Pennsylvania? Movie? We had no choice, we had to go back. I actually had a scholarship...

...sky. Sounds kind of weird, but I had a scholarship from kindergarten and a private school in Puerto Rico and I played every sport growing up, from basketball, I was a captain of my bout basketball team. I volleyball team. We went to boxing, track and field, javelin, disc for by four, a hundred, you know, yards, and I did it all. I mean I was very busy. I had three, four different practices. is about every other day I will go from change you, from uniform to the other one, I and and before that I will be running three miles before going to school every morning. So I was I don't know, I don't even know how I'm alive today, but I was very active, to say the least least. What was your best sport, volleyball and basketball, for by far. I mean my hands. Will see you see my hands big. So if I have had separate photos from Patrick Ewing, to, I mean I'll be guys even taller, to Chenko from the Russian Olympic team, and put my hands against his as a kid and my hand was this at age twelve. Right. So being able to palm a basketball is nothing. So right. So I was good. I will be able to shake and bake and you know, with all if you were in volleyball, you had, you had to have a good vertical volleyball. Yes, absolutely. So you were known as a jumper. Yes, I could spike, no doubt. So we're your long jumper and track and all that stuff. I this and long jumper. Yes, I we beat it at all. So I was very, very active. I think dad actually had the record for the Javelin in his high school. The high school was demolished. I will I want to say less than twenty years ago, fifteen years ago, and he still had the record for javelin. So imagine how long he had...

...that record held for a javelin throwing. Obviously he was a softball player and and and the thing is like his ability to his arm was superb and still today I have haven't seen and I'm like kids but seeing, but really said it's a rap shot through it. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I think he had I school record for a while for national and you asked was maybe we should get some major leaguers through playing baseball on through the Jablin just dring there. You got to yeah, yeah, because it is. I thought. I've thrown a few times and it is a different technique and tech the correct or anything. And so now you in high school. You played a lot of sports. We talked about that, but I want to know. was like, who is your favorite coach? Who was a coach that that pushed you the hardest or made you want to be better, because we all have those. Yes, ball growing up I had this guy, he's in Willie Medina, and Willie was a very young coach for me and he really taught me a lot. But then when I became a professional, Roley D armist who played for Philadelphia Phillies, and that's when I signed with the phillies in a eighty four, he pushed me. He actually taught me a lot. He and Oboless from Puerto Rico and those two really gave me a hard time because they saw a great potential and I was lost. I mean I got to clear water when I signed with the with the Philadelphia Phillies, and I walked in. I remember walking in and I was lost. I had a lot of questions and I had no one to turn to to actually ask those questions. And you know, those guys kind of of give me a hard time at the beginning, but then they open up and said this and you know, we played against your dad and you know, they they knew that they needed to step up and at least give me some guidance. Nice Day now. As far as, like, what were your aspirations...

...when you're in high school and when, like did you see yourself? What did you see yourself ten years from when you were seventeen or whatever? Did you see yourself, as we you know, kind of continue what your father and started with humanitarians standpoint? Is that pro athlete or do you didn't know at that point. For me, you know, going into the trophy room downstairs and and being there where you know, our pool table was, and looking around and all the accolades and you, I mean the rooms were three rooms full of you know, trophies and go gloves and silver bats and mvps. For me, the two items that really I connected the most where the one thousand nine hundred and sixty and nineteen seventy one, word series rings, and for me I felt that I wanted to earn my own and that became a goal. That became a goal to become a professional baseball player and a goal to go to the world series and actually earn my own or series rings. Right, and that is something that I tell young kids and about up, never giving up on your goals and they you set and every day being able to continue working towards that goal. So getting hurt in eighty six with with San Diego was a big turning point in terms of thinking I'm never going to get to the world series and three surgeries, three years of Rehab and then signing with the oriels in eighty nine, being paralyzed spring training back injury. So that in itself stop that obviously my career and my dream of going to the world series and earning my own wings. Then after that I decided...

...to become a broadcaster and because of becoming a broadcaster for the New York Yankees, I was able to go in one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight, Ninety Ninety, two thousand and two thousand and one to the world series. Those are couriers and though they are the best years for the Yankees period on. You know, and and I was fortunate enough to be part of that team, not as a player but as a broadcaster. So it shows that if you love your game and you're connected to the game somehow, you can still be part of a team and earn your goals that way. If you don't have the ability or for some reason it's caught short because of injury, you can now be part of a team that way as well well. And you probably learned World Series Rings Correct Rock. Yes, I have three words. Three wow. Yes, well, that's great and that's kind of like so important for kids to hear is that you have all these transitions in your life and then you have this goal that you want to be the best and win a world series, but then something cuts a short but it doesn't mean you can't go and complete that glad or give up again. And that's so important for kids to hear because somebody kids say, well, I live in this impoverished area or whatever, and I have to play sports to get out right. A lot of people say that you got to play sports to get out of here, but it's not true. Not just you just got to work hard and you got to have a goal and you got to try and obtain that. And that sounds like just like what you really wanted to do. All right, and I think it's just amazing hear your story and everything you've been through and obviously, sitting in this room with your dad all around us. There's one person, and we haven't really talked about not your mom. I always say that we as three boys. She was thirty when the accident happened. My mother still married to my father and we always say that we are very, very proud to be Roberto Clementi sons, but we were...

...very fortunate to be very clementi sons. So what she used? You have a sponge, you have a switch. What was it? You know, my mom and mom had actually mom had the ability. We were sitting here and if we were acting out for for any reason, somehow it was invisible. A pinch, she will do a twist, like on the side. She will go and she will go here and you and she'll give you a look like, just wait, do we get home, Cop d? But you know, she never did anything where you got home. But it wasn't right then at that moment. USEA all, you know, you knew that you need it to behave and and and mom, you know, still a rock to this family and obviously she has kept that legacy alive and her dream of the REPERTA clementy sports city his dream. They actually incorporated Sports City together and when the accident happened they were looking for a land to start this sports city for kids and she's kept that dream alive for the past forty six years. So that is amazing that she's done. Then it's something, I think that that's very much needed, especially nowadays, because kids, as you know we grew up, I grew up just going in the backyard and plane and you know, my buddies would go to a field and didn't matter fit basis or not, we just go play, and it's different today. So when you got to build things like that for kids that want to go be a part of but one of the questions I wanted to ask you is when she got mad at you, what would she call you? I know she had a nickname for you that was like my mom, which she'd called me junior, which he when I was yes, yeah, well, I'm I was always and still today I'm still grow it a deep dool. I will always for for the end of my time with her. I'm Groorteth. But when she would get mad, she will see Croo edical and I knew she was really madcast she never called me Roverta. Oh really, yes, that's that's...

...that's kind of what I want. Like all of our mom's like when they get mad at us, they had a they had our nickname or the one, or they called you by your real name, right you yeah, exactly. That's what my mom used to do. So we've gone over a lot about your life, you know, and this shows really about how I mean your story is out there. A lot of people knows, because you know, if your dad and everything you guys went through as a family and and your mom being the rock of the family, and so now you know, as you kind of get out in your own right, you get away and you're an adult now and you, like you talked a little bit about getting hurt and getting injured and you still have the system around you. Now you got to kind of go. Like for me, after I retired, I have my family right and I had some people that I go to after I retired because I lost my family of sports. Like it was a big transition for me. So have you had some of those kind of transitions, like after baseball has done? You said you went onto the Yankees and like kind of some think about some of the other transitions you had in your life. Wow, I can tell you that one of the reasons why I'm I'm really looking forward in writing my book is because I know from the day the accident occurred to probably age twelve. I have a whole book. I mean that's a that's it. That's a part of my life. That's a whole book. So from twelve to sixteen. So that's a different book. You keep a diary, or did you? So? No, it's it. I said, I god has given me an ability to remember so many things, and I don't know how, because I suffered fifteen concusitions before high school and Non Sports Related. But I nine years ago I was treated in a brain center clinic in Dallas and they actually confirmed that I had suffered so many concussions. I figure out that I grew up in paired and there may answered so...

...many questions for me. So for me to be able to tell my story, I think it's going to be able to really target, or even have the opportunity to engage a lot of the people that have gone through the same things. But there are so many different hats that I can actually put on any conversation because I've gone through a lot in terms of suffering, in terms of from racism to sexual abuse to mean, there's so many deep conversation that we can have it'll take hours to really, I mean, unvail the whole thing. That's why I believe writing my book is going to be able to help a lot of people. Yeah, and I think in turn it helps you a lot when you write that book and you get that story out. It's almost more for you than just are anybody. Yes, as soon as I started talking about it and and it kind of letting it go and publicly about the things that I've I've gone through, it has helped me and I know by be able to write, writing my book is going to be the best therapy period to be able to for me, really just let it all out and, at the same time be able to help other people. So you've had almost like PTSD for all these years. I've had. Yes, I was, I wasn't. I was actually diagnosed a year and a half, probably a year and a half now, and I had no idea. And I'm fifty three today, and you know that's a long time not knowing that you have, you suffering from Ptaz since you were age seven. Can I is coming? How you got fifteen concussions. It's a lot of yes, well, that's very simple. It's actually being a kid when you have eight, when you have eight kids in one room, that's trying to take your heads up with pillow fights, you're tagging and you're hitting someone here, someone's hitting from and all this I mean, obviously, and and those things that we did. We had no idea that damn which we did, were...

...we were doing to our brains right, and it was. It was tough. And I used to be a fan for a Tarzan in spider man, so I used to latter swinging. I'll be swinging in my room with a cord from the we have very heavy curtains and very high and I was swinging a room and just hold it to a big curtain strings. They're going back to the wall. I hit the wall all the time with my forehead and I would see stars out. I can cuss myself so many times it was unbelievable. Well, so that's so, Deuce can. Yes, yes, those aren't the good kind. I've had one of those. Yeah, well, anyway, we've seen. Yeah, anyway. So I think you know, just getting you know, hearing all this and and I think it's so powerfully you tell your story, because it's powerful. Few and and just hearing it. For me, it is powerful because you know just where you came from and all these things that you've been going through and all those transitions you've had in your life and you're still standing right, and that's what's important, is that you know. People need to learn, like with this day and age and everything we go through. That was for me was we had a roughest kids. My Dad worked in the males PPG guy. We have any money. It's just like you just battled your way through, you got hurt, you got up, you got back in and did everything you had to do. And so I think when you talk about concussions and all those things and now being a part of the company, Arc Twenty one x, which is named after your father, and understanding brain performance, and I think now I see why you wanted to be involved in that, you know, telling your story, so that that's really important. So we talked about brain health a little bit and how how you've changed and how you let it change your life and understand it a little bit more now has it. You have children...

...and for children, right, and you have grandkids. Correct. I am waiting actually next both in a few weeks, couple weeks, I'll have my fourth grandchild. So, yes, I'm a grandfather three wait for my fourth grandchild. So everything you've been through, and I think it's just amazing, is is all my experience. I try to help with my my kids understand life a little bit more. So what do you try to teach your kids about all your experiences? Have you've been you know, I missed a lot with my three daughters. I always say they've got had a very good sense to humor, because he sent me three daughters and I was wanted to boy, right, but obviously I was not prepared to have a boy and just understanding how tough it is to be a parent. For me, I didn't know how to be a parent because I did have my father around. I was afraid to fail my children and it really it messed me up. I mean they really it was a very hard time for me. They understand me now because we have this conversations and they understand where I was and they forgive me that. We forgive you. Don't worry, because we understand. I was actually not only not having my father around, but I had the world looking at me like I was my father. So they wanted to come to me and touch me like they were touching my father. They start crying. I consoled so many, thousands of thousands of people that never knew my father, but they would meet me and they will start crying, they will get emotional and just people are adults and I'm a young kid and I'm looking at them, they're, I mean, bawling and I'm consoling them because they're because of my loss, but it was their loss as well. So anyway, the way, it's a very complicated situation for me to want to really articulate...

...it as a whole and such a short time, but for me it really showed the love that the people have from my father, but at the same time, they never asked me how I was right. It was about them, it was about their relationship with my father and that was it. And for many, many years I was alone. I felt alone. I felt guilty onto two thousand and four because of him getting on that plane, because I try to stop him to tell that I told him not to get on the plane because the play was going to crash. So that's another element of my whole situation growing up. I felt guilty that I did not do enough to get him not to get on that plane. Yeah, it took you a long time to come yes and understand that that wasn't your fault. Quite a lot of pressure with comparisons to your father being such a great man, and it's all of a sudden you know you're in best. Get about the man. Right. Enough for a second. When I sign my contract in eighty four with Philadelphia Phillies, I remember every single day from day one in clear water Florida. They the reporters. It was the same question. I you as good as your father? My answer was like is anyone good as my father right now? And I'm only eighteen years old right. So why you asking me? Yeah, I'm not even in the major leagues. Yet I just sign a contract. I'm here. Ask those guys up there. I don't think there are anybody out there as good as him right now. So I and I had to answer the same question and at put pressure myself. It was subconscious. It was tough. It was really tough. Looking back at it, I really had a heart time with it. So all the issues that you went through, did your brothers kind of go through a lot of the same things? I I think my mother protected Louise and Riggy.

Mom left everything intact after the accident. I was always with that. I was you know, I will get in the car, we would go and spend time. Mom had louise and Riggi kind of right here when the accident happened. It stayed the same. I really grew up alone and in many aspects I had to get in a plane and go and speak at a banquet receiving and an award behalf of the family, and I'm talking about very young I will get in a plane, go to a different city, Miss School to go and receive an award and they fly back home alone. So I grew up very quickly. I did not have a childhood. So for me it wasn't quite an interesting dynamic. I handled it the way I could and it's who I am today. I was able to, you know, just go and be from a people speak and that's all I knew to do. So it was pretty interesting how that has really been a big fact there, obviously in my life today. So, before we break the huddle here, so you have girls, you have grandkids and then recently you just have Roberto clementia the third. Tell us about a little row. You know, God knew that I needed to be prepared and ready to have a baby boy and and and to name him Roberto Clementia the third. It's a big deal and I I thank God that I today I can actually make sure that he understands he's responsibility to carry that name and I'm very proud that I am where...

I'm sitting today, being able to watch him grow every day and I want to make sure that he understands that his name is going to be able to do good for humanity. Are you don't let him be a catcher. If it's any wants me, I don't carry can do whatever we wants to do. Absolutely, he hasn't set you, but you know, thank you for coming on our show. We're going to have these every week and we wanted to be the first one. You'd be our first guest, and just doing it here at the Clementi Museum meant so much. It's a big part of Pittsburgh and we wanted to give a little bit of your story to all those people out there that need to transition and and go through fights in her life and to know that, hey, it's going to be okay, just work hard and put forth on bestuff. Thank you for having me. I wish your luck. I can tell you that I want to come back and continue more stories, but I wish you the best. I think that this is fantastic and I'm looking forward to to here. You guys, you know every show. Yeah, it's going to be great. It's going to go right out on trip and be on trip live and huddle up with gusts check us out. And you know, at least we got one goodlooking guy with us here and makes the camera looked way better. So thanks for joining us today and listen to our stories with our special guests Roberto and Dave. What do you think about Roberto Story? It was unbelievable. I was sitting here next to him, riveted everywhere, and and doing it with his dad's round, I guess was incredible. So please join us again next week when we bring on Rocky Bler.

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