Grand Slam * Stats & News
Updated: December 31, 2012
Scores & Statistics
Baseball Scores & Stats
Softball Women Scores & Stats
Softball Men Scores & Stats
Copyright © 1997-2012
Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar

International Baseball
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2013 by Marco Stoovelaar

Roberto Clemente remembered; star died 40 years ago
SAN JUAN (Puerto Rico) - Today, December 31, it's 40 years ago that the baseball-world lost one of its most beloved stars, as on this day in 1972, outfielder Roberto Clemente and four others died in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico on their way to Nicaragua.


...Roberto Clemente...
(1934 - 1972)

On December 23, 1972, shortly after midnight, the Central-American country was hit by a devastating earthquake with a 6,2 magnitude on the Richter scale beneath the center of capital Managua. The earthquake lasted almost two hours and destroyed most of the city. Within an hour of the main shock, two strong aftershocks followed. The earthquake caused a lot of widespread damage, resulting in 10.000 casualties, 20.000 injuries and over 250.000 were left homeless.

In the Summer of 1972, the national baseball-team of Nicaragua participated in the Haarlem Baseball Week to prepare for the World Championship, which was held in Managua later in the year. One of the pitchers on the Nicaraguan squad then was future Major League-pitcher Denis Martinez.

Nicaragua accepted aid from several countries. Puerto Rican-born Major League-star Roberto Clemente organised a series of relief flights to help the earthquake victims. However, there were reports that the aid was not distributed well and didn't reach the victims. Reacting to these reports, Clemente decided to personally accompany the fourth of the relief flights, which left Puerto Rico for Nicaragua on New Year's Eve. But shortly after taking off from the international airport in San Juan, the Douglas DC-7 plane crashed into the sea off the coast of Isla Verde. Clemente and four others died. Only the body of the pilot was found. The only personal item recovered was a flight case apparently belonging to Clemente.

Roberto Clemente Walker was born on August 18, 1934 and was only 38 when he died. Clemente signed a contract in 1952 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but never played for this team in the Major League. On November 22, 1954, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and there he played his entire 18-year Major League-career. He made his big league-debut in 1955, playing in 124 games, hitting .255 with 48 runs scored, five homeruns and 47 RBI's.

In his 18 Major League-seasons with the Pirates, the outfielder played in 2433 games, hitting .317. He scored 1416 runs, had 1305 runs batted in and hit 240 homeruns. In the final game of the 1972 season, on September 30, in a game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh and in his last at bat in the regular season, Clemente hit a double off Jon Matlack of the New York Mets to register his 3000th career basehit. Clemente became the eleventh player to reach this milestone.

In 1966, Clemente was named Most Valuable Player of the National League. He played in 15 All Star Games, received 12 Gold Glove Awards (tying outfielder Willie Mays) and was the best hitter in the National League four times. Clemente won the World Series with Pittsburgh in 1960 and 1971 and was the Series MVP in 1971. Clemente is the only player in history to have hit a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam (July 25, 1956).

Part of the rightfield (his position) wall in PNC Park, since 2001 the stadium of the Pirates, is 21 feet (6.4 m) high, referring to Clemente's uniform number 21, which was retired at the start of the 1973 season. Also, a statue of Clemente stands in front of the stadium. In Puerto Rico, the coliseum in San Juan was named Roberto Clemente Coliseum. At Carolina, the Roberto Clemente Sports Complex is situated.

Off the field, Clemente was involved in a lot of charity work in Puerto Rico, but also in other Latin American countries. On March 20, 1973, Clemente was elected posthumously into the Hall of Fame. Clemente is one of only two players to have been elected for whom the mandatory five-year waiting period had been waived. In December 1939, Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees was the first. On June 21 of that year, Gehrig (the 'Iron Horse'), who had played in 2130 consecutive games, retired after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Since then, the disease is also known as 'Lou Gehrig's disease'. July 4 of 1939 was proclaimed Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day and it was on that day that the first baseman held his famous and emotional farewell speech in which he stated that he 'considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth, having been in ballparks for seventeen years and never received anything but kindness and encouragement from the fans'. The Yankees retired his uniform number 4, making Gehrig the first player in history to be honored that way. In December, Gehrig was elected into the Hall of Fame in a special election. Gehrig died on June 2, 1941, 17 days before his 38th birthday. The life and career of Gehrig is depicted in the 1942 movie 'The Pride of the Yankees' with Gary Cooper playing the part of Gehrig. Cooper was nominated for an Oscar. It was one of eleven nominations for an Academy Award, but the beatiful and emotional movie only won an Oscar for Best Editing.

In 1973, the Commissioner's Award was renamed Roberto Clemente Award. The award is given annually to a Major League-player for sportsmanship, community involvement and his individual contribution to his team, voted by fans and members of the media.

(December 31)

Thank you for visiting this site.
Mail your suggestions and questions to
Copyright © 1997-2012 Marco Stoovelaar / Grand Slam * Stats & News.