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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday …Roberto Clemente

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On of the true underappreciated superstars of baseball in my opinion is Roberto Clemente. There was nothing on a baseball diamond he couldn’t and didn’t do, run, steal hit for power hit for average, play the field catch and had a great great throwing arm. He was as around player as you could get. Roberto Clemente played 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 through 1972. He was a National League, Most Valuable Player once, All-Star twelve times (15 games), batting champion four times, and Gold Glove winner twelve times. In 1972, Clemente got his 3,000th major league hit.

The 1970 season was the last one that the Pittsburgh Pirates played in Forbes Field before moving to Three Rivers Stadium; for Clemente, abandoning this stadium was an emotional situation. The Pirates’ final game at Forbes Field occurred on June 28, 1970. That day, Clemente noted that it was hard to play in a different field, saying, “I spent half my life there.” The night of July 24, 1970, was declared “Roberto Clemente Night”; on this day, several Puerto Rican fans traveled to Three Rivers Stadium and cheered Clemente while wearing traditional Puerto Rican indumentary. A ceremony to honor Clemente took place, during which he received a scroll with 300,000 signatures compiled in Puerto Rico, and several thousands of dollars were donated to charity work following Clemente’s request.

During the 1970 campaign, Clemente compiled an average of .352; the Pirates won the National League East pennant but were subsequently eliminated by the Cincinnati Reds. In the offseason, Clemente experienced some tense situations while he was working as manager of the Senadores and when his father, Melchor Clemente, experienced medical problems and was subjected to a surgery.

In the 1971 season, the Pirates won the NL East, defeated the San Francisco Giants in four games to win the National League pennant, and faced the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Baltimore had won 100 games and swept the American League Championship Series, both for the third consecutive year, and were the defending World Series champions. The Orioles won the first two games in the series, but Pittsburgh won the championship in seven games. This marked the second occasion that Clemente had won a World Series with the Pirates. Over the course of the series, Clemente batted a .414 average (12 hits in 29 at-bats), performed well defensively, and hit a solo home run in the deciding 2–1 seventh game victory. Following the conclusion of the season, he received the World Series Most Valuable Player award.

3,000th hit
Frustrated and struggling with injuries, Clemente played in 102 games in 1972 and hit .312 in his final season. On September 30, he hit a double off Jon Matlack of the New York Mets at Three Rivers Stadium for his 3,000th hit. It was the last at-bat of his career during a regular season, though he did play in the 1972 NLCS playoffs against the Cincinnati Reds. In the playoffs, he batted .235 as he went 4 for 17. His last game ever was at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium in the fifth game of the playoff series. He and Bill Mazeroski were the last Pirate players remaining from the 1960 World Series champions.

Clemente was involved in charity work in Puerto Rico and Latin American countries during the off seasons, often delivering baseball equipment and food to those in need. He died in an aviation accident on December 31, 1972, while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Clemente was inducted posthumously to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming the first Latin American to be enshrined. His death established the precedent that as an alternate to the five year retirement period, a player deceased for at least 6 months is eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame.

Clemente is the first Latino player to win a World Series as a starter (1960), to receive a National League MVP Award (1966), and to receive a World Series MVP Award (1971).

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes an all time great Baseball Player and humanitirian…Roberto Clemente.

MLB debut

April 17, 1955 for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Last MLB appearance

October 3, 1972 for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Career statistics

Batting average

.317

Hits

3,000

Home runs

240

Runs batted in

1,305

Teams
Pittsburgh Pirates (1955–1972)

Career highlights and awards

15× All-Star (1960–1967, 1969–1972)
2× World Series champion (1960, 1971)
NL MVP (1966)
World Series MVP (1971)
12× Gold Glove Award (1961–1972)
4× NL batting champion (1961, 1964, 1965, 1967)
Pittsburgh Pirates #21 retired

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