On September 30, 1972, Pittsburgh Pirates 38-year-old right fielder, Roberto Clemente stepped up to the plate with 2,999 hits behind him.
It was the fourth inning of a game against the New York Mets. Clemente became the 11th player to gather his 3,000th hit with a double. Bill Mazeroski pinch hit for Clemente in what would have been his final regular season at bat.
(Source: MrBuccos YouTube channel)
Clemente boarded a plane New Years eve, 1972, attempting to bring supplies to Nicaragua after the country was left devastated by an earthquake. The aircraft went down off the coast of Puerto Rico, ending Clemente’s life. His body was never recovered.
Clemente’s outstanding performance on the field alongside his humanitarian work was enough for the league to wave the five-year Hall of Fame induction waiting period. He was the first player to have the waiting period waved but the second to be inducted by a special election. (Lou Ghereg was the first. The five-year waiting period was not established until 1954.)
Clemente’s name will forever be remembered through the Roberto Clemente award, given annually to the baseball player who best embodies his lifestyle both on and off the field.
“If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you, and you don’t do that, you are wasting your time on this earth.” -Roberto Clemente
“This is a tremendous honor (winning the 2002 Roberto Clemente Award), to be considered in the same class as Roberto Clemente. He is a hero and role model for all of us who play the game and strive to be as good a player and person as he was.” – Jim Thome