Roberto Clemente

Position: Outfielder
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1955-1972

Roberto Clemente
Roberto Clemente won four batting
titles, hit 240 home runs, and was the
National League Most Valuable Player
in 1966.

Roberto Clemente took being a role model seriously, sending out 20,000 autographed pictures a year to kids. He had one of the strongest outfield arms in history, won four batting titles, and notched 3,000 base hits.

On December 31, 1972, Clemente was on a cargo plane from Puerto Rico airlifting emergency relief supplies, bound for earthquake-torn Nicaragua. The plane crashed a mile off of the Puerto Rican coast, and there were no survivors.

Clemente left behind his wife, three young sons, and millions of fans. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in an extraordinary special election held just 11 weeks after his death; he was named on 93 percent of the ballots.

Roberto Clemente y Walker (1934-1972) grew up near San Juan, Puerto Rico. He developed his strength as a youngster by unloading grocery trucks and by squeezing a rubber ball. He started playing for a pennant-winning Santurce team in 1952.

By age 19 Clemente's outfield mate was Willie Mays. In 1954, he signed with the Dodgers, who attempted to hide him by assigning him to their top minor-league club in Montreal and playing him sparingly. The Pirates unearthed him and drafted him in 1955.

Clemente joined the Pirates that year, and he was a good player for several years. By 1960, he began to emerge as a star, achieving personal bests in runs, home runs, RBI, and batting average. He hit .310 as the Pirates beat the Yankees in the World Series. He raised his game another notch in 1961, hitting .351 in the first of five years he was to hit above .340.

No one who saw Clemente throw the ball could forget the power and accuracy of those throws. His arm was a deadly weapon that he could unleash from impossible angles and distances. He won Gold Gloves every year from 1961 through 1972.

Roberto won four batting titles, hit 240 homers, and was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1966. He has perhaps the greatest defensive reputation of any right fielder in history, playing more games in right field than any player in National League history.

Although Clemente was troubled by a bad back, bone chips, and shoulder troubles throughout his career, he posted the highest batting average for the decade of the 1960s, with a .328 mark. Clemente hit .312 in 1972, at age 38, and rapped his 3,000th hit on September 30, becoming just the 11th man to reach that level.

Clemente felt a duty to his fans, particularly his countrymen. He once said, "A country without idols is nothing." Clemente was an idol for many people in many countries.

Here are Roberto Clemente's major league totals:


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