Salute to Roberto Clemente

Salute to Roberto Clemente

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Salute to Roberto Clemente

“If it was humanly possible for a ball to be caught, Roberto Clemente was going to get it.” –Pirates’ manager, Danny Murtaugh

As I’m sure many of you are aware, today, December 31, is the anniversary of the tragic death of Roberto Clemente, killed in a plane crash 45 years ago today while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. As has now become our custom, we like to honor the memory of this great ball player each year on the anniversary of his death.

In the great photo above, we get a glimpse of this great five-tool player in action. To honor the memory of one of the game’s all-time greats, here’s a few words edited from previous posts about his Hall-of-Fame career:

Whenever anyone from the “older generation” is asked who was the best right fielder they ever saw was, they usually respond “Roberto Clemente” without hesitation. It’s a shame today’s younger fans didn’t get to see him play. As a Cub fan, I saw him beat the Cubs many times. If it wasn’t with his bat, it was with a great catch in right, with his cannon of an arm, or with his speed on the bases. National League runners knew not to try to take an extra base on Roberto Clemente.

Roberto Clemente played 18 seasons for the Pirates from 1955 through 1972. He was inducted posthumously to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming the first Latin American player to be enshrined. His death established the precedent that as an alternate to the five year retirement period, a player deceased for at least six months is eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame.

Over his career, Clemente hit .317, with exactly 3000 hits, 1416 runs, 440 doubles, 166 triples, 240 home runs, 1305 RBIs, .359 on-base percentage, and .475 slugging. Clemente was a 15-time All-Star, a National League Most Valuable Player (1966), a World Series MVP (1971), a four-time National League batting champion (1961, ’64, ’65, and ’67), a two-time World Series champion (1960 and 1971), and a twelve-time Gold Glove winner. He led the National League in hits twice, triples once, put-outs as a right fielder three times, and outfield fielding average once.

Over Roberto Clemente’s storied career he set many defensive records for outfielders. I recently discovered an unusual offensive record that he set 47 (August 23, 1970). On that day, he compiled his second straight five-hit game during an 11-0 pasting of the Dodgers in Los Angeles. He became the first major leaguer in the 20th century to collect 10 hits in two consecutive games. As far as I know the record still stands.

Here’s a couple of the more unusual records he holds: He is the only player to have hit a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam, which he accomplished on July 25, 1956 in a game against the Cubs at Forbes Field. In addition, he is one of only four players to receive ten or more Gold Glove awards and have a lifetime .317 batting average. In a record that may never be broken, Clemente is first all-time by a wide margin in career assists for a right fielder with 266. In second place is Hank Aaron with 186. Only 16 men in baseball history have as many as 100.

Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Statistics from Baseball 

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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