Roberto Clemente

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Roberto Clemente : biography

August 18, 1934 – December 31, 1972

Clemente decided to accompany the fourth relief flight, hoping that his presence would ensure that the aid would be delivered to the survivors. The airplane he chartered for a New Year’s Eve flight, a Douglas DC-7, had a history of mechanical problems and sub-par flight personnel, and it was overloaded by 4,200 pounds. It crashed into the ocean off the coast of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico immediately after takeoff on Sunday December 31, 1972. A few days after the crash, the body of the pilot and part of the fuselage of the plane were found. An empty flight case apparently belonging to Clemente was the only personal item recovered from the plane. Clemente’s teammate and close friend Manny Sanguillén was the only member of the Pirates not to attend Roberto’s memorial service. The catcher chose instead to dive into the waters where Clemente’s plane had crashed in an effort to find his teammate. Clemente’s body was never recovered.

In an interview for the ESPN documentary series SportsCentury in 2002, Clemente’s widow Vera Clemente mentioned that Clemente had told her several times that he thought he was going to die young. Indeed, while being asked by a reporter about when he would get his 3,000th career hit in July 1971, Clemente’s response was "Well, uh, you never know. I, I, uh, if I’m alive, like I said before, you never know because God tells you how long you’re going to be here. So you never know what can happen tomorrow."http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfuckArQ_dQ

At the time of his death, Clemente had established several records with the Pirates, including most triples in a game (three) and hits in two consecutive games (ten). Clemente also tied the record for most Gold Glove Awards won among outfielders with twelve, which he shares with Willie Mays. He also is the only player to have hit a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam. He accomplished this historic baseball-event on July 25, 1956 in a 9–8 Pittsburgh win against the Chicago Cubs, at Forbes Field. In addition, he was one of four players to have ten or more Gold Gloves and a lifetime batting average of .317.

Posthumous honors

On March 20, 1973, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America held a special election for the Baseball Hall of Fame. They voted to waive the waiting period for Clemente, due to the circumstances of his death, and posthumously elected him for induction into the Hall of Fame, giving him 393 of the 420 available votes, or 92% of the vote. Clemente’s Hall of Fame plaque had originally read "Roberto Walker Clemente". In 2000, the plaque was recast to express his name in the proper Hispanic format, "Roberto Clemente Walker".

MLB presents the Roberto Clemente Award every year to the player who best follows Clemente’s example with humanitarian work.

In 1973, Clemente was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the first Presidential Citizens Medal.

In 2002, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2003, he was inducted into the United States Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2005, Clemente was named a member of Major League Baseball’s Latino Legends Team.

File:PresMedalFreedom.jpg|Presidential Medal of Freedom File:PresidentialCitizensMedal.jpg|Presidential Citizens Medal

At the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Pittsburgh on July 11, 2006, many of the players on both teams wore yellow wristbands with the initials "RCW" in honor of Clemente. At the end of the fourth inning, Clemente was awarded the Commissioner’s Historical Achievement Award by the Commissioner of Baseball; the award was accepted by his widow. During the award presentation, the Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig stated that "Roberto was a hero in every sense of the term".

PNC Park, the home ballpark of the Pirates which opened in 2001, includes a right field wall high, in reference to Clemente’s uniform number and his normal fielding position during his years with the Pirates. The Pirates originally erected a statue in memory of Clemente at Three Rivers Stadium, an honor previously awarded to Honus Wagner. The statue was moved to PNC Park when it opened, and stands at the corner near the Roberto Clemente Bridge. An identical smaller statue was unveiled in Newark, New Jersey’s Branch Brook Park in 2012. The team considered naming PNC Park after Clemente, but despite popular sentiment the team chose instead to sell the naming rights to locally based PNC Financial Services, with the bridge being renamed after him considered a compromise.