There should be no argument as to the best Puerto Rican baseball player of all time. Roberto Clemente set the standard for other Puerto Ricans to follow. One of the greatest to play the game, he was a hero and humanitarian to countless numbers of fans and citizens.
Clemente was named to 12 All-Star teams and won 12 Gold Gloves in his 18 seasons in Pittsburgh. He also won four batting titles, including two consecutive titles in 1964 (.339) and 1965 (.329).
While Clemente did not win a batting title in 1966, he posted career-highs with 29 home runs and 119 RBI to earn NL MVP honors. He is one of four players in baseball history to have a career batting average of at least .300 (.317) and win at least 10 Gold Gloves.
Clemente led the Pirates to a pair of World Series titles and batted .318 in five postseason series. In the 1971 Fall Classic, he was named World Series MVP after batting .414 (12-for-29) with two home runs and four RBI in a seven-game victory over Baltimore.
On Sept. 30, 1972, Clemente collected his 3,000th hit in the final game of the regular season. No one in attendance that day at Three Rivers Stadium would imagine that Clemente 3,000th hit would be his last regular season at-bat.
Nearly three months later, on Dec. 31, 1972, Clemente died in a plane crash while helping to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The mandatory five-year waiting period for the Hall of Fame was waived, and Clemente was inducted in 1973 as the first Latin American enshrined.
Among his many posthumous honors, Major League Baseball presents the Roberto Clemente Award each year to the player who best follows Clemente’s example of humanitarian work.