Clemente has 3,000 hits in his 18-year career and helped the Pirates win two World Series titles. On December 31, 1972, at the age of 38, he perished in an aircraft crash while attempting to provide humanitarian help to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Clemente played baseball during a time when many players used dirty tricks to get themselves out of jams. He never used such methods and always had good manners on and off the field. In fact, he is considered one of the best hitters of all time because of his ability to keep his mind clear and focus only on hitting.
He was born on January 16, 1934, in San Pedro de Macoris, Cuba. His parents were poor farmers who could not afford to send him to school so he worked from an early age to help support his family. When he was 15 years old, Clemente made his way to Puerto Rico where he joined a team that eventually became known as the Brooklyn Dodgers. He stayed with the team for six years, playing second base and batting third. During that time, he learned how to handle himself well with people from both coaches and managers to owners and executives.
In 1952, the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Clemente number three out of college. He immediately made an impact by hitting over.300 for four straight seasons from 1952-1955.
Clemente's historic hit occurred the next day, when he doubled off Met pitcher Jon Matlack to begin a fourth-inning Pirate rally. It was Clemente's final at-bat of the season, and unfortunately, his final at-bat of his career; the Puerto Rican hero died in an aircraft crash during the off-season. He was 34 years old.
Clemente is one of only two players (the other being Rogers Hornsby) to have their numbers retired by more than one team. His image appears on the Pirates' baseball card series beginning in 1972, and he has been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by both fans and members of the media every year since 1995.
In honor of Clemente, who will be celebrated this Sunday with a National Night Game between the Pirates and Cardinals, here are some facts about him:
He was born on December 30th, 1934 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His family moved to Florida when he was eight years old, where he grew up in Hialeah. He began playing baseball as a teenager for the Hollywood Stars of the major league ball club owned by his father. He also played football and basketball while in high school.
Clemente first came onto people's minds when he captained the United States national baseball team that won the 1969 World Cup of Baseball.
During the 1960s, he led the National League in hitting four times and played in the 1971 World Series. In 1972, he was killed in an aircraft crash while carrying products to Nicaragua.
Roberto Clemente scores his 3,000th career hit in his final at-bat. Gregory H. Wolf authored this piece. Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh's 38-year-old right fielder, was fatigued as the 1972 season came to a close.
Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh's 38-year-old right fielder, was fatigued as the 1972 season came to a close. Clemente, coming off an MVP performance in the Pirates' World Series triumph against Baltimore the year before, had endured possibly the most difficult of his 18 seasons with the Bucs.
The country was still reeling from the effects of a severe earthquake in 1972. Clemente was on his way to Nicaragua to offer assistance and aid materials, demonstrating his commitment to humanitarianism. On New Year's Eve 1972, his jet crashed en way to Nicaragua. At the age of 38, Roberto Clemente died while working to aid people in need. He remains one of the most inspiring figures in American history.
After graduating from Puerto Rico's University of Puerto Rico, Clemente joined the Navy. He served with honor during the Vietnam War and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. After leaving the Navy, he signed on with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a pitcher but also spent time as a full-time captain for the team. He is considered by many to be one of the best baseball players in Pirate history.
Clemente gained national fame after leading the charge for charity events throughout his career. From visiting hospitals to feeding the homeless, he used his celebrity status to raise money for causes that were near and dear to his heart. In 1975, at the age of 40, Clemente traveled to Nicaragua to help rebuild houses after the 1972 earthquake. There he was killed when the plane he was traveling in crashed on its way to Haiti to attend an exhibition game between the Pirates and the Chicago Cubs.
Clemente has been named to several all-time baseball teams. In 1973, he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by his fellow members.
Clemente had just four hits in the five-game series loss that formally dethroned the 1971 World Champions, but those four singles included a double and a home run. After 18 beautiful seasons of watching Clemente handle the diamond like few others, the world was given a devastating blow on December 31, 1972, when Clemente was slain. He died protecting his fellow player, Walt Williams, who was struggling with a hit-and-run driver. Williams survived, but Clemente did not.
Clemente's death caused an outpouring of grief from around the world, and for many, it remains the single most memorable moment in Pittsburgh Pirates history. During his career, Clemente made the ultimate sacrifice for his team every time he went to the plate, and he left us way too early at the age of 38.
In conclusion, Clemente had more hits than any other Pirate during the 1970s, and his 4 singles in the 1971 World Series loss are the most hits any Pirate has ever had in a series game. His legacy as one of the best hitters in baseball history is undeniable, and he will be fondly remembered by millions of fans across the globe.