Roberto Clemente was born on August 18, 1934, in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Clemente was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 and made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955. He quickly established himself as one of baseball’s brightest stars, winning National League Rookie of the Year honors and helping the Pirates win their first World Series title in 35 years.
In his 18-year career, Clemente was a 15-time All-Star and four-time Golden Glove winner. He compiled a .317 batting average, hit 240 home runs and drove in 1,305 runs. Clemente also became known for his humanitarian work, particularly his efforts to help those affected by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. On December 31, 1972, Clemente died in a plane crash while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was posthumously inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.
Here are five unbelievable facts about Roberto Clemente:
1. Clemente was born on August 18, 1934, in Carolina, Puerto Rico. His parents, Don Melchor and Luisa Walker de Clemente, had seven other children. Roberto was the youngest of the bunch and the only one born in Puerto Rico; the rest of his siblings were born in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico.
2. Clemente’s baseball career began when he was just 16 years old. He played for the Junior Diplomats of Santurce in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Clemente quickly impressed scouts with his hitting and throwing abilities and was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954.
3. Clemente made his Major League Baseball debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 17, 1955. He played in just 12 games that season but still managed to hit .310 with one home run and five RBIs. Clemente’s breakout season came in 1956 when he batted .314 with 13 homers and 66 RBIs.
4. Clemente was an excellent defensive player as well as a hitter. He won 12 Gold Glove Awards during his career, which is tied for the most all-time among right fielders. Clemente was also a 15-time All-Star and was named the National League MVP in 1966.
5. Clemente was known for his humanitarian work off the field. He frequently donated money and supplies to charities, particularly those helping people in his native Puerto Rico. Clemente also helped deliver aid to victims of earthquakes and hurricanes in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Haiti.
On December 31, 1972, Clemente died in a plane crash while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was just 38 years old. Clemente was posthumously inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. His number 21 is retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates and he was named one of Major League Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players of All Time in 1999.