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Roberto Clemente's Death

Roberto Clemente

He was a gifted athlete, a source of an island nation's pride and a true humanitarian. And when he was lost, he was never seen again.

Roberto Clemente was born in Puerto Rico and became the first great Latin superstar in baseball, becoming for many Hispanics what Joe DiMaggio represented to Italian-Americans and Jackie Robinson meant to Black-Americans.

His baseball accomplishments are legendary, including fifteen appearances in the All Star Game, two World Series rings, four National League batting championships and a dozen Gold Glove awards for plays like this:

Roberto Clemente Catching Ball

But Clemente was best known for his bat and he notched his three thousandth hit late in what turned out to be his final big league season in 1972, at home in Pittsburgh against the New York Mets.

Clemente was very proud of his Puerto Rican roots and preferred to be called Roberto, but many baseball writers and even the baseball card companies tried to Americanize him, by changing his first name.

Roberto Clemente Baseball Card

When Nicaragua was rocked by an earthquake in December 1972, Clemente decided to use his celebrity to help the victims and rented a plane (with a history of mechanical problems, and a minor-league flight crew) to deliver aid. He never made it. The plane crashed into the ocean off Puerto Rico, the wreckage found a few days later.

Roberto Clemente Plane Crash

Clemente's flight case was also recovered, but his body was never found.

Gone, but never forgotten. He gained fast track entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. His number 21 was retired by the Pirates. Clemente's statue graces the outside of the Pirates home at PNC Park.

Roberto Clemente Statue

And while other players are honored by statues…Roberto Clemente's scored a unique tribute, with a bridge that's named after him, that can be seen from the Pirates ballpark.

Roberto Clemente Bridge