Thursday, December 27, 2007
CLEMENTE, ROBERTO Throughout an eighteen-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Roberto Walker Clemente demonstrated an athletic ability surpassed by few in the history of major league baseball. As a fielder, his speed and superior throwing arm were reminiscent of Jackie Robinson, the first black man in the major leagues. Clemente had a career batting average of .317 and was one of a dozen baseball greats to collect more than 3,000 lifetime hits. A native of Puerto Rico, the 38-year-old Clemente was killed on December 31, 1972 when his chartered cargo plane, engaged in a mercy flight to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua, crashed into the sea moments after its take-off from San Juan. Shortly after his death, Clemente's greatness was recognized by his special election to Baseball's Hall of Fame, thus bypassing the usual five-year waiting period for eligibility.