Roberto Clemente

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Roberto Clemente : biography

August 18, 1934 – December 31, 1972

In the 1971 season, the Pirates won 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. Struggling with injuries, Clemente only managed to appear in 102 games in 1972, but he still hit .312 for his final .300 season. On September 30, in a game at Three Rivers Stadium, he hit a double off Jon Matlack of the New York Mets 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.

During much of his career, Clemente was often called by the Anglicized name of "Bob Clemente" by the media and in baseball merchandise such as baseball cards, even though he clearly preferred being called by his given first name of Roberto. According to contemporary accounts, "Roberto" was too exotic of a name at the time. Although Clemente was largely called Roberto by the late 1960’s, he was called Bob as late as 1972, when he collected his 3,000th hit and Pirates announcer Bob Prince referred to him as "Bobby" while calling the game for KDKA.

Major League highlights

  • National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) (1967)
  • World Series MVP (1971)
  • National League batting title (1961, 64, 65, 67)
  • National League leader in batting average (1961, 64, 65, 67)
  • National League leader in hits (1964, 67)
  • National League leader in triples (1969)
  • National League leader in fielding average as right fielder and outfielder (1972)
  • 12-time National League All-Star (15 games)
  • 12 Gold Glove Awards

Early life

Roberto Clemente was born in Barrio San Anton, Puerto Rico, to Don Melchor Clemente and Luisa Walker, the youngest of seven siblings, with five brothers and one sister. During his childhood, his father worked as foreman of sugar crops located in the municipality. Because the family’s resources were limited, Clemente worked alongside his father in the same fields, loading and unloading trucks. Clemente showed interest in baseball early in life and often played against neighboring barrios. He attended Vizcarondo High School in Carolina. During his first year in high school, he was recruited by Roberto Marin to play softball with the Sello Rojo team after Marin saw Clemente playing baseball in Barrio San Anton. He was with the team two years as shortstop. Clemente joined Puerto Rico’s amateur league when he was 16 years old, playing for the Ferdinand Juncos team, which represented the municipality of Juncos.

On November 14, 1964, he married Vera Zabala at San Fernando Church in Carolina. The couple had three children: Roberto, Jr., Luis Roberto and Enrique Roberto.

Death in airplane accident

Clemente spent much of his time during the off-season involved in charity work. When Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, was affected by a massive earthquake on Saturday December 23, 1972, Clemente (who had been visiting Managua three weeks before the quake) immediately set to work arranging emergency relief flights. He soon learned, however, that the aid packages on the first three flights had been diverted by corrupt officials of the Somoza government, never reaching victims of the quake.