Huddle Up with Gus
Huddle Up with Gus

Episode · 2 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, gustsFurrat. I played quarterback fifteen years in the NFL. This is my showcalled huddle up with gusts. Each week I team up with my longtime friendDave Hagar, and we talked with guests about how sports shape their lives.Pro Athletes, business executives, community leaders, everyone has a story to tell aboutsports. We invite you to huddle up with guss this week in thehuddle. Well, Hey, thanks for joining us today. Oh, andhuddle up with gusts fraut and we're here at the wonderful Clementi Museum and EngineHouse Twenty Five and we got a wonderful guest, Roberto Clementi Jr, andmy partner, Dave Hagar. They're here with us today and you know,we want to go into the huddle right now with you, Roberto. Iknow 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 thehuddle with you and start asking some questions about how sports shaped your life andhow the you've had many transitions in your life, good and bad, andhow you've dealt with those. And so first one of our questions was likewhen you were young and growing up in Puerto Rico, I know you wereback and forth sween Puerto Rico and Pittsburgh. Who was like your main influence onyou? You know, I there are a couple of ways of lookingat it, because before that's passing and after, before that's passing. Forme, 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 Oliverand kind of emulate them in terms of hitting. And as a kid Iremember walking Ricky havener do his you know, pull over his Jersey and I will. I thought that was so cool. But then, you know, Iremember one day many singing and showed up at our place and he hadthe stuffle bag with him and he opened it up when he walked into theapartment and here in Green Tree and here comes a bunch of equipment and ballsand stuff. And then I cattres gear.

When Dad saw the cattress gear,he says get the stuff out of my house right now. None ofmy 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 becausethat said, none of my boys are going to be a catcher. Thatwas actually my favorite position growing up, which is kind of funny, butyou know, after after his passing, for me, obviously baseball was abig sport for me, but basketball, football, soccer, I played atall. You know, Peley was a big inspiration for me because of theway he carried himself, and Muhammad Ali and boxing. I was a bigfan 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 hadto have like another father figure for you after your dad passed. who wasthat like that you could turn to when you were young and just, youknow, kind of get stuff off your shoulders or, you know, wasn'tan uncle or who was at there was actually there was one man and naturallywas 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'shome for three days. So when he drove us to the House, Iremember 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 togo up the hill to the house and when we get there I see abus getting to the front of the House and the doors opening. The PirateBuss 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 peoplethere. So I remember trying to run into the House and and Jack Davisfrom Philadelphia grabs me and we take a August, take a walk and wehad a conversation and he goes, you know what happened, and I sayI'll never see that again, and we had this whole conversation about it andhe goes you were going to be strongly you were the men of the Housenow, and I remember having this conversation with him. We walk him backto the House and now let me in front of the House and I turnedto Jack and I look up at him and I said, Jack, who'sgoing to take me to play baseball and Victor and vicus was standing right therewhen he heard me ask Jack that question. And Victor had just married my father'ssister, like a sister do. They grew up together, and heput his hand on my shoulder. He goes, Rovertto, don't worry,I'm going to take care of that. And his word, he never failedto 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, youknow, in my heart. I mean he had passed away a couple ofyears ago and he never ever felt me. Your instrument close? Oh yeah,I mean his wife is still my aunt. And you know, hewas my hero because he really took care of my need to go and playthe game and I never knew who was going to take that part of mylife 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 sportsthat you like to play. Right, did he baseball sends? He wassmart. 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. Hetaught me a lot in the game of baseball and how to look forward andbefore anything happens, how to really visualize and and be ready for any playthat can happen, and he really helped me immensely. What was his nameagain, Victor. We call him be ten, V ten. He wasquite 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, Luiseand and Riki. We're Bern and Rique. We call him Rinky. He wasonly three when the accident happened, but luise and I are Irish twins, were only living months apart. So he was born in July, Iwas born in August. So for one month out of the year where thesame 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. Hehad a were number twelve because in rever right. So, but he,Luise, was always in the car with us. He took US everywhere inevery 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 throughall this, as you got older, and then you journey into high schoolright where you still continuing to were you guys in Puerto Rico? More,where you in Pennsylvania? Movie? We had no choice, we had togo 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 andI played every sport growing up, from basketball, I was a captain ofmy bout basketball team. I volleyball team. We went to boxing, track andfield, 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 willgo from change you, from uniform to the other one, I andand 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 alivetoday, but I was very active, to say the least least. Whatwas your best sport, volleyball and basketball, for by far. I mean myhands. Will see you see my hands big. So if I havehad 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 againsthis as a kid and my hand was this at age twelve. Right.So being able to palm a basketball is nothing. So right. So Iwas good. I will be able to shake and bake and you know,with all if you were in volleyball, you had, you had to havea good vertical volleyball. Yes, absolutely. So you were known as a jumper. Yes, I could spike, no doubt. So we're your longjumper 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 thantwenty years ago, fifteen years ago, and he still had the record forjavelin. 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 hisability to his arm was superb and still today I have haven't seen and I'mlike kids but seeing, but really said it's a rap shot through it.Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I think he had I school recordfor a while for national and you asked was maybe we should get some majorleaguers through playing baseball on through the Jablin just dring there. You got toyeah, yeah, because it is. I thought. I've thrown a fewtimes and it is a different technique and tech the correct or anything. Andso now you in high school. You played a lot of sports. Wetalked about that, but I want to know. was like, who isyour favorite coach? Who was a coach that that pushed you the hardest ormade you want to be better, because we all have those. Yes,ball growing up I had this guy, he's in Willie Medina, and Williewas 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 PhiladelphiaPhillies, 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 fromPuerto Rico and those two really gave me a hard time because they saw agreat potential and I was lost. I mean I got to clear water whenI signed with the with the Philadelphia Phillies, and I walked in. I rememberwalking in and I was lost. I had a lot of questions andI had no one to turn to to actually ask those questions. And youknow, 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 playedagainst your dad and you know, they they knew that they needed to stepup 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 fromwhen you were seventeen or whatever? Did you see yourself, as we youknow, kind of continue what your father and started with humanitarians standpoint? Isthat 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 youknow, our pool table was, and looking around and all the accolades andyou, I mean the rooms were three rooms full of you know, trophiesand go gloves and silver bats and mvps. For me, the two items thatreally I connected the most where the one thousand nine hundred and sixty andnineteen seventy one, word series rings, and for me I felt that Iwanted to earn my own and that became a goal. That became a goalto become a professional baseball player and a goal to go to the world seriesand actually earn my own or series rings. Right, and that is something thatI tell young kids and about up, never giving up on your goals andthey 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 turningpoint in terms of thinking I'm never going to get to the world series andthree surgeries, three years of Rehab and then signing with the oriels in eightynine, being paralyzed spring training back injury. So that in itself stop that obviouslymy career and my dream of going to the world series and earning myown wings. Then after that I decided...

...to become a broadcaster and because ofbecoming a broadcaster for the New York Yankees, I was able to go in onethousand nine hundred and ninety eight, Ninety Ninety, two thousand and twothousand and one to the world series. Those are couriers and though they arethe best years for the Yankees period on. You know, and and I wasfortunate enough to be part of that team, not as a player butas a broadcaster. So it shows that if you love your game and you'reconnected to the game somehow, you can still be part of a team andearn your goals that way. If you don't have the ability or for somereason it's caught short because of injury, you can now be part of ateam that way as well well. And you probably learned World Series Rings CorrectRock. Yes, I have three words. Three wow. Yes, well,that's great and that's kind of like so important for kids to hear isthat you have all these transitions in your life and then you have this goalthat you want to be the best and win a world series, but thensomething cuts a short but it doesn't mean you can't go and complete that glador give up again. And that's so important for kids to hear because somebodykids say, well, I live in this impoverished area or whatever, andI have to play sports to get out right. A lot of people saythat you got to play sports to get out of here, but it's nottrue. Not just you just got to work hard and you got to havea goal and you got to try and obtain that. And that sounds likejust like what you really wanted to do. All right, and I think it'sjust amazing hear your story and everything you've been through and obviously, sittingin this room with your dad all around us. There's one person, andwe haven't really talked about not your mom. I always say that we as threeboys. She was thirty when the accident happened. My mother still marriedto my father and we always say that we are very, very proud tobe 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 momhad the ability. We were sitting here and if we were acting out forfor any reason, somehow it was invisible. A pinch, she will do atwist, like on the side. She will go and she will gohere and you and she'll give you a look like, just wait, dowe get home, Cop d? But you know, she never did anythingwhere you got home. But it wasn't right then at that moment. USEAall, you know, you knew that you need it to behave and andand mom, you know, still a rock to this family and obviously shehas kept that legacy alive and her dream of the REPERTA clementy sports city hisdream. They actually incorporated Sports City together and when the accident happened they werelooking for a land to start this sports city for kids and she's kept thatdream 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, especiallynowadays, because kids, as you know we grew up, I grew upjust going in the backyard and plane and you know, my buddies would goto 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 thatfor kids that want to go be a part of but one of the questionsI wanted to ask you is when she got mad at you, what wouldshe call you? I know she had a nickname for you that was likemy 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 growit a deep dool. I will always for for the end of my timewith her. I'm Groorteth. But when she would get mad, she willsee 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 hada they had our nickname or the one, or they called you by your realname, 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. Alot of people knows, because you know, if your dad and everything you guyswent through as a family and and your mom being the rock of thefamily, and so now you know, as you kind of get out inyour 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 stillhave the system around you. Now you got to kind of go. Likefor me, after I retired, I have my family right and I hadsome people that I go to after I retired because I lost my family ofsports. Like it was a big transition for me. So have you hadsome of those kind of transitions, like after baseball has done? You saidyou went onto the Yankees and like kind of some think about some of theother transitions you had in your life. Wow, I can tell you thatone of the reasons why I'm I'm really looking forward in writing my book isbecause I know from the day the accident occurred to probably age twelve. Ihave a whole book. I mean that's a that's it. That's a partof my life. That's a whole book. So from twelve to sixteen. Sothat's a different book. You keep a diary, or did you?So? No, it's it. I said, I god has given mean ability to remember so many things, and I don't know how, becauseI suffered fifteen concusitions before high school and Non Sports Related. But I nineyears ago I was treated in a brain center clinic in Dallas and they actuallyconfirmed that I had suffered so many concussions. I figure out that I grew upin paired and there may answered so...

...many questions for me. So forme to be able to tell my story, I think it's going to be ableto really target, or even have the opportunity to engage a lot ofthe people that have gone through the same things. But there are so manydifferent hats that I can actually put on any conversation because I've gone through alot in terms of suffering, in terms of from racism to sexual abuse tomean, there's so many deep conversation that we can have it'll take hours toreally, I mean, unvail the whole thing. That's why I believe writingmy 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 thatbook and you get that story out. It's almost more for you than justare anybody. Yes, as soon as I started talking about it and andit kind of letting it go and publicly about the things that I've I've gonethrough, 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 tofor me, really just let it all out and, at the same timebe able to help other people. So you've had almost like PTSD for allthese years. I've had. Yes, I was, I wasn't. Iwas 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, andyou know that's a long time not knowing that you have, you suffering fromPtaz since you were age seven. Can I is coming? How you gotfifteen concussions. It's a lot of yes, well, that's very simple. It'sactually being a kid when you have eight, when you have eight kidsin 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 Imean, obviously, and and those things that we did. We had noidea 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 fanfor 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 heavycurtains and very high and I was swinging a room and just hold it toa big curtain strings. They're going back to the wall. I hit thewall all the time with my forehead and I would see stars out. Ican cuss myself so many times it was unbelievable. Well, so that's so, Deuce can. Yes, yes, those aren't the good kind. I'vehad one of those. Yeah, well, anyway, we've seen. Yeah,anyway. So I think you know, just getting you know, hearing allthis and and I think it's so powerfully you tell your story, becauseit's powerful. Few and and just hearing it. For me, it ispowerful because you know just where you came from and all these things that you'vebeen going through and all those transitions you've had in your life and you're stillstanding right, and that's what's important, is that you know. People needto 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 inthe males PPG guy. We have any money. It's just like you justbattled your way through, you got hurt, you got up, you got backin and did everything you had to do. And so I think whenyou talk about concussions and all those things and now being a part of thecompany, Arc Twenty one x, which is named after your father, andunderstanding brain performance, and I think now I see why you wanted to beinvolved in that, you know, telling your story, so that that's reallyimportant. So we talked about brain health a little bit and how how you'vechanged and how you let it change your life and understand it a little bitmore now has it. You have children...

...and for children, right, andyou have grandkids. Correct. I am waiting actually next both in a fewweeks, 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. Itry to help with my my kids understand life a little bit more. Sowhat do you try to teach your kids about all your experiences? Have you'vebeen you know, I missed a lot with my three daughters. I alwayssay they've got had a very good sense to humor, because he sent methree daughters and I was wanted to boy, right, but obviously I was notprepared to have a boy and just understanding how tough it is to bea parent. For me, I didn't know how to be a parent becauseI did have my father around. I was afraid to fail my children andit really it messed me up. I mean they really it was a veryhard time for me. They understand me now because we have this conversations andthey 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 myfather around, but I had the world looking at me like I was myfather. So they wanted to come to me and touch me like they weretouching my father. They start crying. I consoled so many, thousands ofthousands of people that never knew my father, but they would meet me and theywill start crying, they will get emotional and just people are adults andI'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 wastheir loss as well. So anyway, the way, it's a very complicatedsituation for me to want to really articulate...

...it as a whole and such ashort time, but for me it really showed the love that the people havefrom my father, but at the same time, they never asked me howI was right. It was about them, it was about their relationship with myfather and that was it. And for many, many years I wasalone. I felt alone. I felt guilty onto two thousand and four becauseof him getting on that plane, because I try to stop him to tellthat I told him not to get on the plane because the play was goingto crash. So that's another element of my whole situation growing up. Ifelt guilty that I did not do enough to get him not to get onthat plane. Yeah, it took you a long time to come yes andunderstand that that wasn't your fault. Quite a lot of pressure with comparisons toyour father being such a great man, and it's all of a sudden youknow you're in best. Get about the man. Right. Enough for asecond. When I sign my contract in eighty four with Philadelphia Phillies, Iremember 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'monly eighteen years old right. So why you asking me? Yeah, I'mnot even in the major leagues. Yet I just sign a contract. I'mhere. Ask those guys up there. I don't think there are anybody outthere as good as him right now. So I and I had to answerthe same question and at put pressure myself. It was subconscious. It was tough. It was really tough. Looking back at it, I really hada 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? II think my mother protected Louise and Riggy.

Mom left everything intact after the accident. I was always with that. I was you know, I willget in the car, we would go and spend time. Mom had louiseand 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 ina plane and go and speak at a banquet receiving and an award behalf ofthe 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 awardand they fly back home alone. So I grew up very quickly. Idid 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 peoplespeak and that's all I knew to do. So it was pretty interesting how thathas really been a big fact there, obviously in my life today. So, before we break the huddle here, so you have girls, you havegrandkids and then recently you just have Roberto clementia the third. Tell usabout a little row. You know, God knew that I needed to beprepared and ready to have a baby boy and and and to name him RobertoClementia the third. It's a big deal and I I thank God that Itoday I can actually make sure that he understands he's responsibility to carry that nameand I'm very proud that I am where...

I'm sitting today, being able towatch him grow every day and I want to make sure that he understands thathis name is going to be able to do good for humanity. Are youdon't let him be a catcher. If it's any wants me, I don'tcarry 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 goingto have these every week and we wanted to be the first one. You'dbe our first guest, and just doing it here at the Clementi Museum meantso much. It's a big part of Pittsburgh and we wanted to give alittle bit of your story to all those people out there that need to transitionand 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 youthat I want to come back and continue more stories, but I wish youthe best. I think that this is fantastic and I'm looking forward to tohere. You guys, you know every show. Yeah, it's going tobe great. It's going to go right out on trip and be on triplive and huddle up with gusts check us out. And you know, atleast we got one goodlooking guy with us here and makes the camera looked waybetter. So thanks for joining us today and listen to our stories with ourspecial guests Roberto and Dave. What do you think about Roberto Story? Itwas unbelievable. I was sitting here next to him, riveted everywhere, andand doing it with his dad's round, I guess was incredible. So pleasejoin us again next week when we bring on Rocky Bler.

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