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Legends Of YesterYear: Remembering Roberto Clemente
- Updated: December 31, 2015
In February 1954, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Roberto Clemente as an amateur free agent and placed him on their Triple-A squad in Montreal, Canada and he batted .257 in 87 games.
On November 22, 1954, Clemente was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft.
At the young age of 20 years old, Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, made his major league debut for the Pirates on April 17, 1955 against the team that originally signed him. He recorded his first major league base hit in the game, then went on a tear hitting safely in 34 of his first 40 big league games. He played in 124 games, batting .255, with five home runs and 47 RBI’s.
It took Clemente a few years before he would truly hit his prime on the diamond and become the Legend that all Pirates fans and the people of his native Puerto Rico, would look up to and admire for his greatness.
In 1960, the Great One, as he was known to the fans, batted .314, with 16 home runs and 94 RBI’s in 144 games. He helped lead the Pirates to their first World Series Championship since 1925, while batting .310 in seven postseason games.
In 1961, he continued his surge to greatness, batting .351, with 100 runs scored, 30 doubles, 10 triples, 23 home runs and 89 RBI’s in 146 games.
Clemente reached the 200 hits plateau four times (1961, 1964, 1966, 1967), and in 1966, he hit a career high 29 home runs and drove in a career best 119 runs.
In 1967, the 15-time all-star outfielder, hit a career and league best .357, as he also scored 103 runs, with 26 doubles, 10 triples, 23 home runs and 110 RBI’s.
“I want to be remembered as a ballplayer who gave all he had to give.”
In the winter of 1972, December 31st to be exact, Roberto Clemente would lose his life in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico as he traveled in a cargo plane traveling to Nicaragua to bring supplies to earthquake victims. His tragic and sudden death would send the island of Puerto Rico into mourning, but his legacy of a Legend on the diamond would propel other players from his native land to follow in his footsteps to baseball lore.
In 1973, Clemente was the first Latino to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with his 18 masterful seasons, amassing 1416 runs, 3000 hits, 440 doubles, 166 triples, 240 home runs, 1305 RBI’s and a career .317 batting average. And now heading into the 2016 season, Clemente still leads other Puerto Rican ball players, both inactive and active with his 15 all-star game appearances, 3000 hits, 166 triples, and a .317 batting average.
For his career, Clemente won two World Series Championships with the Pirates (1960, 1971), National MVP (1966), World Series MVP (1971), 12 Gold Glove awards, four NL batting titles (1961, 1964, 1965, 1967), and had his number 21 retired by the Pirates.
Losing Roberto Clemente was a tragic loss for all of baseball, young and old and I thank him for all he did for the game and opening the door for many others to come after him knowing that they too could enjoy the same success.
I am proud to say that my maternal grandparents and paternal great grandparents were born on the island of Puerto Rico and each came to the United States to provide a better life for their families. I am proud to know that my maternal grandfather fought in WWII in the United States Army and just like Roberto Clemente, put their lives on the line for other people’s well-being. Clemente will always be remembered not only for a Legend in the game of baseball but for being a humanitarian and a pioneer in leading Hispanic ball players from Puerto Rico and all of Latin America.
You can also reach out to David at email@example.com
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