Born in Barrio San Anton in Carolina, Puerto Rico, on Aug. 18, 1934, Roberto Clemente was the youngest of four children. Early on he excelled in track and field, winning medals in the javelin throw and short distance races. However, Roberto's real love was baseball.
In 1954, the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him away from the Dodgers. Clemente joined the Pirates in 1955, where he played his entire 18-year Major League Baseball career. Roberto played in two World Series, batting .310 in 1960 and .414 in 1971. He was the National League batting champion four times; he was awarded 12 Gold Gloves; he was named National League MVP in 1966; and he was chosen as the MVP of the 1971 World Series.
On Sept. 30, 1972, Clemente hit a double to earn his 3,000th Major League hit, placing him in an elite group of baseball greats. No one knew it at the time, but that two-bagger would be Clemente's last regular-season hit. That New Year's Eve, Roberto and four others boarded a plane to deliver relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. Shortly after takeoff, the plane exploded and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean. There were no survivors.
Clemente's death shocked the world. The Baseball Writers Association of America held a special election and the mandatory five-year waiting period for the Hall of Fame was waived. On Aug. 6, 1973, Clemente, who had a lifetime .317 average with 240 home runs and 1,305 RBIs, was posthumously inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. He became the first Hispanic player ever elected to the shrine.
It has been many years since his untimely death, and still today, Roberto is remembered as one of the greatest athletes and humanitarians of all time. Clemente's legacy is perpetuated by his wife, Vera, and sons Roberto Jr., Luis Roberto and Roberto Enrique, who have been instrumental in continuing Clemente's dream. Major League Baseball strives to honor his memory as well. Each year, MLB bestows the Roberto Clemente Award to recognize the player who best represents the game of baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions, both on and off the field.