“Welcome to the greatest fraternity in the world”

It has been 50 years since the legendary Roberto Clemente approached a young Rod Carew during the 1968 All-Star Game at Houston’s Astrodome with a simple request: help young Latino players.

Carew, one of the best pure hitters to grace a batter’s box, kept his promise long after he retired and eventually joined Clemente among baseball’s immortals in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Panamanian Carew has helped countless major leaguers from throughout Latin America. Now he’s likely to help welcome fellow Panama native Mariano Rivera into a more exclusive fraternity because it appears as though the legendary Yankees closer will easily be elected into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Jan. 22.

Carew knows exactly what he’ll tell Rivera because it’s the same message he has given to all the players elected to the Hall of Fame after his 1991 induction in Cooperstown, N.Y.

It’s the same welcome he received from former Red Sox great Bobby Doerr 27 years ago.

“Welcome to the greatest fraternity in the world,” Doerr told Carew.

There is no greater fraternity in baseball than the one that resides in Cooperstown, as Rivera surely knows.

“I say that to all the new guys when they come in because it’s true,” Carew said last July when asked about Rivera’s potential election to the Hall of Fame this year. “This group is a very special group. And we have a good time. We played against each other. We rag on each other, but we have a good time, and it’s a very special group.”

Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, was the first Latin American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was voted into the 1973 class by the BBWAA in a special election 11 weeks after he died in a cargo plane crash into the sea soon after leaving San Juan while attempting to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Carew was the fourth Latino voted into the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA, following Juan Marichal (1983) and Luis Aparicio (1984).

Carew, an 18-time All-Star, is just one of many ballplayers who still live up to the promises they made to Clemente.

“You know, one of the things that I try to do with the young Latin players, I try to make sure I talk to them,” Carew said last July. “And that’s something that Roberto Clemente asked me to do in my second All Star game in Houston.

“He called me over and he says, ‘Tony (Oliva) told me that you’re gonna be a great player.’ And he says, ‘I want you to always help the young Latin players when they come to the big leagues.’”

Rivera is one of many players Carew has reached out to along the way. Now Rivera appears close to receiving another more personal welcome in Cooperstown by the first Panamanian to earn a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Featured Image: Minnesota Twins