I'm a fan of both PBS and The American Experience in particular, they put together a great bio on the Great Roberto Clemente. The episode isn't so much about a base ball player, it's about history. It's about culture and I found it very educational.
I've never watched the American Experience and not learn something new.
Check it out on line.
On December 31, 1972, Roberto Clemente, a thirty-eight-year-old baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, boarded a DC-7 aircraft loaded with relief supplies for survivors of a catastrophic earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua. Concerned over reports that the Nicaraguan dictatorship was misusing shipments of aid, Clemente, a native of nearby Puerto Rico, hoped his involvement would persuade the government to distribute relief packages to the more than 300,000 people affected by the disaster. Shortly after take off, the overloaded aircraft plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, just one mile from the Puerto Rican coast. Roberto Clementeâ€™s body was never recovered.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents Roberto Clemente, a one-hour documentary about an exceptional baseball player and committed humanitarian, who challenged racial discrimination to become baseballâ€™s first Latino superstar. From independent filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz, Clemente features interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning authors David Maraniss (Clemente) and George F. Will (Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball), Clementeâ€™s wife Vera, Baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, and former teammates, to present an intimate and revealing portrait of a man whose passion and grace made him a legend.
Roberto Clementeâ€™s untimely death brought an end to a spectacular career. In his eighteen seasons with the Pirates, he led the team to two World Series championships, won four National League batting titles, received the Most Valuable Player award, and earned twelve consecutive Gold Gloves. In his final turn at bat for the 1972 season, Clemente made his 3,000th career hit â€” an achievement that had been reached by ten major league players before him, and only fifteen since.
Born in a poor rural barrio in Puerto Rico in 1934, Clemente grew up â€œwith people who really had to struggle,â€ he later recalled. An avid baseball player throughout his youth, Clemente was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 just seven years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. As a black Latino, Clemente encountered many of the same obstacles and prejudices as the first African-American ball players. His starting bonus of $10,000 was just a fraction of the amount paid to white draftees, and during his first spring training in Florida in 1955, segregation laws meant that while Clementeâ€™s white teammates relaxed at beaches, swam in pools, and stayed in hotels that didnâ€™t admit blacks, he was frequently forced to find his own lodging, and eat meals on the bus.
Roberto Clemente was offended by the racism he encountered in the United States, an injustice he had not experienced growing up in Puerto Ricoâ€™s relaxed racial climate. Later in his career, after signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clemente often felt estranged in the blue-collar steel town, where the white majority saw him as a black man, and the African-American community too labeled him a foreigner. The sports press often took jabs at the rising star by quoting him in broken English.
But by 1964, Clemente led a National League all-star team that featured more Latino players than ever. His success in baseball became an important symbol for the nationâ€™s growing Latino population as he excelled in Americaâ€™s pastime while still maintaining his Latino identity. Today, seventy percent of foreign-born baseball players in the United States hail from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, or Puerto Rico.
Eventually, Clemente used the podium his fame offered to talk about human rights and his dream to help underprivileged youth in Puerto Rico. During road trips with the Pirates, he routinely stopped to visit sick children in area hospitals. â€œIf you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you, and you donâ€™t do that, you are wasting your time on this earth,â€ he told a Houston audience in 1971, just one year before his death.
â€œWith all the negative attention being paid to baseball these days, itâ€™s important to look back at the kind of impact a true sports hero can have on our nation,â€ says AMERICAN EXPERIENCE executive producer Mark Samels. â€œRoberto Clemente was much more than an athlete â€” he channeled that fame into a larger mission of helping people, broke racial barriers, and continues to inspire today.â€
The Fight is an American Experience episode that deals with all the history and politics invovled in the fight between Joe Louis and Max Shcmeling. There are teacher guides for educators, lessons plans etc. This wasn't so much about a boxing match it got into race, politics, Hitler, FDR. This was also one of AE's better episodes.
History tied these two men together and in history they'll always be together."
-- David Margolick, author
June 22, 1938. Though the Great Depression rages and war looms, the eyes of the world are on Yankee Stadium in New York where, beneath threatening skies, German Max Schmeling and American Joe Louis are squaring off for the heavyweight championship of the world. More than 90,000 people crowd the stadium to watch the encounter, and countless millions more -- the largest radio audience in history -- listen in around the world to what one commentator would call "two minutes and four seconds of murder."
The pressure on each fighter is enormous. Joe Louis is not only fighting for the honor of the country, he is quite literally holding the hopes of all of black America in his fists. For Max Schmeling, the fight will be a demonstration of Hitler's racial theories, and should the German lose, many fear for what could happen to him. Theirs was a rivalry that would draw in two nations inching closer to war, and take the measure of two men who had been fighting all their lives.
American Experience presents The Fight, a 90-minute program that looks at the famous 1938 heavyweight bout and finds two men who, in the shadow of war, became reluctant symbols of equality and supremacy, democracy and fascism.
"Often individuals become symbols of larger ideas and regimes. This was no less true in 1938, on the eve of World War II," says producer Barak Goodman. "On both sides of the Atlantic, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling came to personify two sides of a worldwide ideological struggle."
The son of Alabama sharecroppers, Louis rose to become the first crossover hero in American history, embraced by both blacks and whites. Born in 1914, he was in his early teens when his family left Alabama for Detroit, lured by the promise of $5 a day at the Ford factory. Pushing 200-pound truck bodies on a conveyor belt and hauling ice in the summer layered Joe's lean physique with muscle. It was only natural that Joe should find the boxing ring. Boxing promised Louis not only a way to escape poverty; it was a way to reinvent himself -- to leave behind the slow, stammering kid from the cotton fields and become the fast, fearsome fighter.
He soon caught the eye of two big-city racketeers, John Roxborough and Julian Black, who became his managers. Together with a tough ex-con named Jack Blackburn who signed on as trainer, the team set out to make Louis the second black heavyweight champion ever. To do this, they had to overcome the legacy of the first, the controversial Jack Johnson. Joe had seen firsthand what happened to impudent blacks, so he willingly donned the mask of the "good Negro." Historian Jeffrey Sammons recalls that Louis "could not gloat over opponents, could not be seen in public with white women. He had to be seen as Bible-reading, mother-loving, God-fearing... and not be too black."
Once Louis hooked up with savvy New York promoter Mike Jacobs, he was able to cross boxing's color line and break into the big-time. "Joe Louis opened a door of history for every great black athlete in the coming generations," says journalist Jack Newfield.
Max Schmeling, too, was adept at disguise. The son of a working-class sailor, Schmeling had discovered boxing in his hometown, Hamburg. The penniless 20-year-old arrived in Berlin in 1926. There his talent caught the eye of Germany's leading boxing writer, Arthur Bulow, who became his manager. Schmeling rose quickly, becoming first German, then European champion. His rise was followed avidly by Berlin's predominantly Jewish avant-garde, who had fallen in love with boxing. Within two years, the raw provincial boy was wearing tux and tails and attending the best parties. But when Hitler came to power in 1933, Schmeling dropped his former life and courted favor with the new regime.
The two fighters met for the first time in Yankee Stadium in 1936. Louis, whose rise to the top of the heavyweight ranks was accomplished with unprecedented speed and brilliance, was the prohibitive favorite, so much so that not even the Nazi government thought Schmeling had a chance. Only Max himself was confident, believing that he had spotted a tiny flaw in Louis's overwhelming attack.
The fight was even through three rounds, but in the fourth Schmeling saw his opening and struck Louis with a devastating overhand right. At that moment, Schmeling would later say, Louis changed from an indestructible force to "a hurt and bewildered boy." Finally, in the twelfth round, the punishment became too much. "This brown god had crumbled before our eyes," trumpeted sportswriter Davis Walsh. "Louis, the flawless fighter, was a myth, a delusion."
Louis's loss was crushing to black Americans, who had come to regard him as the only black man who could meet and defeat whites on equal terms. The victory thrust Schmeling into the awkward role of Aryan stalking horse and chief symbol of Nazi propaganda. "He was loyal to his government," sports journalist Volker Kluge says of Schmeling. "But this loyalty came at a price. He had to burden his conscience with the dark sides of the regime: the dictatorship, the camps, the persecutions, the discrimination." Though the opportunity to escape presented itself, Schmeling willingly accepted his role as Hitler's favorite boxer.
The rematch was scheduled for June 1938. By this time, Hitler's intentions were clear and Schmeling, once popular in America, had become the hated symbol of Nazi aggression. Meanwhile, Louis was elevated to the role of standard-bearer for American democracy, despite the fact that blacks were still often blocked at the voting booths, and couldn't fully share in the freedoms enjoyed by whites. "The Fight" climaxes with the recounting of this most famous of heavyweight bouts.