MORRIS HEIGHTS — For decades, the Bronx’s Roberto Clemente State Park bore the baseball legend’s name, but not his likeness.
That changed last week, when a 3,000-pound, seven-foot statue of the late Hall of Famer was installed in the park, in what was said to be the first instance of a statue honoring a Puerto Rican person to grace a New York City park.
The striking statue had been commissioned and donated by Goya, the Latin American packaged-food maker whose popularity in some Hispanic households may rival that of Clemente.
But even as fans celebrated the long overdue memorial, some couldn’t help but fixate on the four-foot pedestal holding the bronze ballplayer aloft — and, in particular, the prominent “Goya” logo whose size seems to match or even exceed the words, “Roberto Clemente.”
“It was the first thing I noticed — it’s so big your eyes are drawn to it,” said Ed Garcia Conde, a Melrose-based blogger who wrote an angry post denouncing the large logo, which he said made "a mockery of our hero."
“Clemente will forever be one of the greatest figures of the Latino community, and we applaud you for making this statue a reality,” reads the petition addressed to Goya executives.
“However, we write to you to reconsider the rather prominent placement of your company logo at the bottom base of the statue…” the letter continues. “It reads like an advertisement for your brand, and it serves no place on such a powerful and dignified statue. The statue's impact, unfortunately, is cheapened.”
Julio Ricardo Varela, the site’s founder, said it only took on the logo's eye-catching size after watching the topic erupt on social media soon after the statue’s unveiling.
For example, one person superimposed an image of a can of Goya beans into Clemente’s hand in a photo of the statue and posted it on Twitter with the message, “It could have been worse #GoyaFail.”
Varela, a Bronx-raised Puerto Rican who grew up with Goya products, said he had no desire to attack the company.
“For me, Goya is like buying milk,” Varela said. “Goya is like oxygen for me.”
In fact, the company’s popularity among so many Latinos is the very reason the large logo, which Varela considers “advertising,” seems unnecessary and out of line, he said — particularly on a statue in a public park.
And especially on the memorial to a revered athlete and humanitarian — Clemente died in a plane crash while delivering relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake survivors — whose status among some admirers approaches the “spiritual,” Varela said.
“You go into some Puerto Rican homes,” he said, “and you have pictures of Clemente and the pope.”
Latino Rebels also pointed out a factual error on the statue’s pedestal — the date when the Pittsburgh Pirates star achieved his 3,000th hit, which the statue commemorates, is off by a day.
In a statement, Goya said it is in the process of fixing the date.
It also noted several ties between the company and Clemente, including that they had organized several baseball clinics together.
And it insisted that the statue was donated “with the best of intentions,” not as a marketing ploy.
“We are aware that the Goya logo is prominent on the base of the statue, but we are very proud of the fact that we could donate this statue to not only the park but to the Hispanic community and the City of New York,” the statement read. “It is disappointing to hear some people think that having Goya's name on the statue would in some way lessen the impact.”
Of course, not everyone felt Goya was in the wrong, including one commenter on Latino Rebels who said the company shouldn’t remove the logo.
“After all — they presumably paid some major bucks in support of the project,” he wrote. “Just sayin' — size matters.”