Pittsburgh Pirates: 6 Facts You Didn't Know About Roberto Clemente

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2012

Pittsburgh Pirates: 6 Facts You Didn't Know About Roberto Clemente

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    Roberto Clemente's baseball legacy is well known throughout the baseball world.

    He was a 15-time All-Star, a 12-time Gold Glover and a four-time National League batting champion. His abilities make him one of the greatest five-tool players to ever set foot onto a baseball diamond.

    Clemente was also well documented for his humanitarian work and his willingness to give back to the people of his native Puerto Rico.

    However, there are small nuggets of information left uncovered in Clemente's storied legacy.

    Here are six things you didn't know about Roberto Clemente.

Political Aspirations

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    Roberto Clemente was known for his leadership on the field, and off it.

    He was a man of high character, and he managed to inspire a great number of people during his lifetime.

    Clemente never forgot his roots and always made sure the people of Puerto Rico were taken care of. This led many citizens to urge Clemente to run for mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital city.

    If Clemente had lived a longer life, this would have suited him. He was an exemplary person with a magnetic aura.

Saved His Best for Last

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    Roberto Clemente joined the 3,000-hit club on September 30, 1972.

    Sadly, his 3,000th hit would be his last but possibly greatest achievement.

    Clemente was killed later that same year, but his legacy was sealed with this monumental double off Mets pitcher Jon Matlack.

    His ability to make contact and use the entire field is right up there with other player in baseball history. The 3,000-hit club is suitable for an elite player like Clemente.

Broke the Hall of Fame Trend

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    The Baseball Hall of Fame normally must wait five years after a player retires to induct him into its Cooperstown, New York facility.

    However, the Baseball Writers' Association of America held a special election on March 20, 1973, and voted Clemente into the elite of the elite.

    Clemente received 92 percent of the vote.

    Clemente's achievements certainly would have warranted Hall of Fame status at some point, but the unprecedented time frame put a cap on Clemente's illustrious career.

Multi-Sport Athlete

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    Roberto Clemente's throwing arm is widely considered one of the best to ever grace the outfield of any ballpark.

    This could be due, in part, to Clemente's prowess with a javelin during his earlier life.

    Clemente was an excellent javelin thrower at Vizcarrondo High School in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He was considered a candidate to represent Puerto Rico in the Olympics.

    Great athletes excel in multiple sports, and Clemente was no different. Pirates fans can probably thank his early interest for many of the frozen ropes Clemente launched from his spot in right field.

How Was He Discovered?

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    Roberto Clemente was not always an iconic baseball figure.

    Clemente was a discovered talent, just like everyone else. Before his discovery, Clemente's parents actually wanted him to be an engineer.

    However, local businessman Roberto Marin had different plans after spotting a 14-year-old Clemente whacking tin cans. Marin would invite Clemente to play softball with his Sello Rojo team.

    The rest is history. Clemente rapidly ascended the Puerto Rican amateur ranks and would soon be discovered by Major League Baseball's talent scouts.

    But did you know...?

Clemente Was Originally a Dodger

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    The thought of Roberto Clemente wearing any uniform other than Pirates' black and gold is astonishing, but it almost came to fruition.

    Clemente impressed Roberto Marin so much at the amateur level that Marin contacted his friend, Brooklyn Dodgers talent scout Pedrin Zorilla.

    Zorilla owned a Puerto Rican Professional team, the Santurce Crabbers. Clemente would sign with Zorilla's team and eventually face multiple offers from several Major League Baseball teams. Clemente wound up choosing Zorilla's Dodgers and would begin his career with their minor-league affiliate in Montreal.

    Baseball regulations made Clemente eligible for the draft because of his high signing bonus. The Dodgers did not want to lose him, but the Pittsburgh Pirates scooped him up with their first-round selection in 1953.

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