A recent story broke that Florida has held 176 books 'under review' for over a year, some of which include stories on Pittsburgh Pirates' legend Roberto Clemente, as well as Jackie Robinson, and Hank Aaron.
Florida is a hot topic in the socio-political world. However, one of their recent moves over the last year has recently leaked into the sports world, specifically focusing on a Pittsburgh Pirates legend. That legend is Roberto Clemente. In December of 2022 (and a topic that started to trend on Pirates-related Twitter), Pen America released an article stating that since January 2022, 176 books were removed from Duval County, Florida classrooms for 'review.' However, by December '22, they had yet to be re-shelved. Although these books are not 'banned' per se (so if you live in Florida, you can still legally purchase these books through an online retailer or at a bookstore/store or library if they have it in stock), there has yet to be any indication that these books will ever be reviewed and re-released to the school district, or any indication that there is intention to 'reviewed' them. The specific books were part of the "Essential Voices Classroom Libraries" collection that the district purchased in 2021. Pen America describes the collection as featuring "characters representing a variety of ethnicities, religious affiliations, and gender identities." Note that this collection of books is not the same as the rumored list of readings that Florida allegedly outright banned that included "Catcher and the Rye", "A Wrinkle In Time", and "To Kill A Mocking Bird" that circulated in August of 2022, which was debunked by USA Today and AP News. These books were not included on that original rumored list.
The Roberto Clemente book in question is called "Roberto Clemente The Pride Of The Pittsburgh Pirates," written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Raul Colon. The book was published in 2008 with the following synopsis:
"On an island called Puerto Rico, there lived a little boy who wanted only to play baseball. Although he had no money, Roberto Clemente practiced and practiced until—eventually—he made it to the Major Leagues. As a right-fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he fought tough opponents—and even tougher racism—but with his unreal catches and swift feet, he earned his nickname, "The Great One." He led the Pirates to two World Series, hit three-thousand hits, and was the first Latino to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But it wasn't just baseball that made Clemente legendary—he was also a humanitarian dedicated to improving the lives of others."
Now the essential banning of a large mass of books is already highly controversial. However, banning a book about one of sport's greatest humanitarian's ever is downright criminal. While he was one of baseball's most talented outfielders, the story of baseball and Clemente cannot be told without his off-the-field contributions. Clemente was one of the sport's biggest advocates for the treatment of Latin Americans in sports. Luis Mayoral, a Spanish broadcaster, compared what Clemente did for Latinos as to what Jackie Robinson did for black baseball players.
Not only would he provide clinics in the off-season in his homeland, but he died while attempting to deliver supplies to Nicaragua, where a devastating earthquake had hit in late-1972. Clemente's plane, which also held the supplies he planned on delivering, crashed immediately after takeoff at Isla Verde International Airport on December 31, 1972. Clemente was immediately elected into the Baseball Hall Of Fame, and in 2002, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom by George W. Bush.
Unfortunately, Roberto Clemente isn't the only historically important baseball player who had a book removed from the district by Florida. A book written by Matt Tavares called "Henry Aaron's Dream" was also among the 176 books listed. A book about Jim Thorpe written by Art Coulson and illustrated by Nick Hardcastle called "Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army" was another one of the many books taken off of school shelves. There were also two books about Jackie Robinson pulled by the Florida government; one is titled "Thank You, Jackie Robinson" by Barbara Cohen and Richard Cuffari. The second book is titled "The Hero Two Doors Down: Based on the True Story of Friendship between a Boy and a Baseball Legend" by Sharon Robinson. Another historically important story called "Barbed Wire Baseball: How One Man Brought Hope to the Japanese Internment Camps of WWII" was also removed by Florida. Written by Maria Moss, this book tells the true story Kenichi Zenimura, who played alongside Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the Barnstorming Tours that he organized to bring US players to Japan. However, after he and his family were sent to an internment camp in 1941, he brought the game of baseball with him, and is known as the "Father Of Japanese-American Baseball." There are also many other books regarding historical figures and events that fought racial inequality in the United States in this 176-book collection that was taken off of shelves.
It's a very upsetting and outright disgusting attempt to hide what minorities had to fight through during an extremely ugly time in America's past. Although Florida will not admit these books are 'banned', the fact they have no intention of re-releasing these books to the school district is concerning, at the very least. What's next? Will Florida's governor Ron DeSantis place MLB The Show 'under review' for over a year because this year's game will prominently feature Negro League stars like Satchel Paige, Rube Foster, and Buck O'Neil?
Florida and governor DeSantis are, unfortunately, no strangers to major controversy. Placing books' under review' and showing no signs of letting schools re-shelve them is ignorant at best and malicious at worst. These are important stories to not only baseball but American history that are essential to teaching the youth of this country. You cannot tell the story of America's pastime without including Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, or even Kenichi Zenimura.