Roberto Clemente, born on August 18th, 1934, was a 5'11" right fielder from Carolina, PR. He got his break at the age of 17 while hitting .288 with the Santurce Crabbers in Puerto Rico, when the Brooklyn Dodgers signed him to play for their triple-A subsidiary, the Montreal Royals. Although he struggled with the extreme difference in climate and culture, he managed to hit .257 in 87 games, mostly off the bench. Pittsburgh drafted him in the Rule 5 Draft in November 1954.
At the age of 20 in 1955, Clemente made Pittsburgh's opening day roster. He appeared 124 times, hitting .255 with 48 runs, 23 doubles, 11 triples (NL fourth), five home runs, 47 RBI, and 18 walks. Defensively, he made 210 RF putouts (NL fourth) for a .974 fielding percentage (NL fourth), leading the league with 15 RF assists and four double plays turned. He batted first or third in the order, and played a few games in center field. On May 29th, in the bottom half of a doubleheader, he went five-for-five with three doubles, scoring twice and knocking one in as the Pirates defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 11-5. On June 5th, in game one of a twin bill, he hit a game-tying RBI triple in the sixth before scoring the go ahead run in a 7-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds. After the Reds again took the lead, Clemente reached on an error in the bottom of the ninth and scored the game tying run on a Dick Cole triple. Gene Freese scored the game winner on a single by Roman Mejias. The Pirates placed last in the NL at 60-94.
In 1956, Clemente hit .311 (NL third) in 147 games, scoring 66 runs and hitting 30 doubles (NL sixth), seven triples, seven home runs, and 60 RBI. For the only time in his major league career, he appeared defensively at positions other than right and center field, showing up at second base, third base, and in left field. He made 192 putouts at his usual spot in right (NL fifth), with 14 assists (NL third). On June 6th, in an 8-2 Pittsburgh win over the Chicago Cubs, he went four-for-four with a home run and three RBI. On July 21st, down 3-1 to the Reds, he hit a three run shot in the top of the ninth to give the Pirates a 4-3 win. In a 10-6 triumph over the Phillies on September 2nd, he went four-for-five with a double, two runs scored and two RBI. The Bucs improved by six games to 66-88, but only enough to finish out of last place.
1957 would see Clemente play in 111 games, hitting .253 and scoring 42 runs with 17 doubles, seven triples (NL 10th), four home runs and 30 RBI. Even though it was probably his least impressive offensive campaign, he still registered a 2.0 dWAR rating (NL third) with 242 RF putouts (NL third) and seven RF assists (NL fourth). He batted mostly leadoff, with occasional starts between third and seventh in the order. In a 13-5 win over the Phillies on May 26th, he had a season high five RBI with three singles and a triple. On June 17th, with the Pirates down 3-1 to the Milwaukee Braves, he hit a two-run, pinch-hit double to left field. The Pirates eventually won the game, 7-5 after a four-run eighth. Pittsburgh finished tied with the Cubs for last, at 62-92.
Clemente hit .289 in 140 games with 69 runs in 1958, knocking 24 doubles, 10 triples (NL fifth), and six home runs for 50 RBI. He ranked 10th amongst position players with a 4.4 WAR, placing fourth with a 2.2 dWAR. He struck out once every 12.7 at bats (NL seventh). Defensively, he led the NL with 310 RF putouts and 22 RF assists and an NL third best .982 RF fielding percentage. On April 25th, he hit a single, a double, and a home run, scoring twice in a 4-3 victory over the Reds. On August 4th, he went three-for-four with three runs scored, including a ninth inning tie breaking home run in a 4-3 win against the Braves. He hit two home runs for four RBI on August 13th in a 10-9 win over the Phillies. The Pirates improved to 84-70, finishing second in the league eight games behind Milwaukee.
In 1959, Clemente played in 105 games, scoring 60 runs and hitting .296 with 17 doubles, seven triples (NL eighth) and four home runs for 50 RBI. He ranked third in the NL defensively in right field with 226 putouts and with 10 assists. In a 12 game hitting streak from August 8th through the 21st, he hit .451 (23-for-51) with eight RBI as the Pirates went 9-3. His best game during the stretch was on the 15th, when he hit three singles and a double, scoring three times and helping the Bucs to a 10-8 win over the Milwaukee Braves. Pittsburgh placed fourth in the NL with a 78-76 record.
1960 would see Clemente earn his first of many all-star invitations, and enough MVP votes to finish eighth in the NL MVP race. He hit .314 (NL fourth) with an .815 OPS (NL 10th) in 144 games, scoring 89 runs with 22 doubles, six triples, and 16 RBI for 94 RBI (NL seventh). In right field, he led the NL with 19 assists, ranked second with 254 putouts, and fifth with a .972 fielding percentage. On April 14th, in a 13-0 win against the Reds, he had a season high five RBI on a single, two doubles, and a sacrifice fly. On July 1st, down 3-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning, he hit a game tying single before scoring the winning run in a 4-3 triumph over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit two singles and a triple for three RBI in an 11-2 win against the Phillies on August 16th. Pittsburgh won the NL pennant with a 95-59 record before defeating the New York Yankees in seven games and a Bill Mazeroski moonshot. For his part, Clemente led the Pirates with nine hits (.310)
clemente won his first batting title in 1961, with a .351 average in 146 games to go along with a .390 OBP (NL sixth), a .559 SLG (NL seventh), and a .949 OPS (NL fifth). He earned his second all-star appearance, his first Gold Glove, and finished fourth in the NL MVP vote. He scored 100 runs (NL ninth) and hit 30 doubles (NL sixth), 10 triples (NL fifth), and 23 home runs for 89 RBI. His 6.3 WAR rating ranked him seventh in the NL, and he was ninth with one strikeout per 9.7 at bats. He led the NL defensively in right field with 250 putouts, 26 assists, and four double plays turned, ranking second with a .968 F%. He batted either third or fifth in the order. On May 9th, he hit two singles and a home run, collecing four RBI in a 9-6 victory over the San Francisco Giants. On May 24th, in a 7-3 win against Chicago, he went deep twice for four RBI. He went five-for-five with a walk, a double, a home run, four runs scored and five RBI in a 15-3 win over the Cubs. Pittsburgh finished at 75-79, sixth in the NL.
In 1962, Clemente played 144 games, earning some MVP votes while collecting a Gold Glove and all-star honors. He hit .312 (NL eighth) with 28 doubles(NL 10th), nine triples (NL fifth) and 10 home runs for 74 RBI. He collected 270 putouts (NL third), 19 assists (NL second), and a .973 F% (NL fifth). Sometimes, he batted third or fourth, with the bulk of his starts batting fifth. On June 1st, in an 8-4 win over the Houston Colts, he hit a single, a double, and a home run with two RBI. He went four-for-five on June 30th in a 17-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, hitting a double, a home run, scoring three times and knocking five in. On August 10th, he hit a game-tying RBI double in the top of the ninth inning before the Pirates lost 7-6 to the Cubs. The Bucs finished fourth in the NL with a 93-68 record.
1963 would see Clemente earn his fourth all-star appearance and third Gold Glove, again earning some notice in the NL MVP race (he finished 14th). He played in 152 games, hitting .320 (NL second) with 77 runs with 23 doubles, eight triples, and 17 home runs for 76 RBI, batting mostly third. He had 224 RF putouts (NL fifth) and 11 RF assists (NL third). In a 6-4 win over the Phillies on April 24th, he walked twice and hit a double and a triple for two RBI, scoring once. On July 15th, down 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth and a man on first, he hit a double to set the table for Willie Stargell to knock in two in a walk-off, 2-1 win over the Giants. At 74-88, the Pirates finished ahead of only expansion teams Houston and the New York Mets.
Clemente won his second batting title in 1964, hitting .339 with a .388 OBP (NL fourth), an .872 OPS (NL ninth) and leading the NL with 211 hits in 155 games. He scored 95 runs and hit a career high 40 doubles (NL second), seven triples, 12 home runs, and 87 RBI, batting third all season. He finished ninth for the NL MVP, also winning his fourth consecutive Gold Glove and his fifth straight invitation to the all-star game, ranking sixth amongst position players with a 7.2 WAR rating. He collected 276 putouts (NL second) and 13 assists (NL third) in right field. On May 26th, he hit two singles, a double and a triple with two RBI in a 13-4 victory over Philadelphia. He went three-for-five on August 5th, including a game winning line drive to center field in the bottom of the ninth as the Pirates defeated the Dodgers, 4-3. On September 18th, he hit a single, a double, and a home run with two RBI in a 4-3 victory over the Giants. The Bucs finished at a disappointing 80-82.
In 1965, Clemente won his second batting title in a row, and third overall with a .329 mark (with a .378 OBP (NL sixth)). In 152 games, he scored 91 times with 21 doubles, 14 triples (NL second), 10 home runs and 65 RBI. He placed sixth in the NL with a 7.1 WAR amongst position players. He had 276 RF putouts (NL fourth) and 15 RF assists (NL second). From May 22nd to July 10th, he hit safely in 42 of 45 contests, going 77-for-191 (.403) with 23 extra base hits and 29 RBI. On May 29th, in a 7-4 win over the Mets, he hit two singles, a double and a triple with three runs scored and two RBI. He went four-for-four with a triple and two RBI in a 6-2 victory against the Giants on August 23rd. On September 19th, he collected the only RBI for either team with the game winning RBI single in the bottom of the 10th, in a 1-0 win over the Phillies. Pittsburgh was third in the NL with a 90-72 record.
1966 would see Clemente earn the NL MVP, all-star honors, and his sixth Gold Glove. He played in 154 games, hitting .317 (NL fifth) with a .536 SLG (NL eighth), and an .896 OPS (NL seventh), scoring 105 runs (NL fourth) and hitting 31 doubles (NL fifth), 11 triples (NL third), and career highs of 29 home runs (NL 10th) and 119 RBI (NL second), finishing sixth in the NL with 8.2 WAR. He led the NL from right field with 313 putouts and 17 assists, ranking fifth with a .965 F%. On July 6th, he hit a single, a double, and a home run for five RBI in a 10-5 win over the Cubs. He went deep twice for five RBI in a 9-7 loss to the Reds on August 7th. On August 26th, he reached base six times with three singles, two walks and a double, scoring twice in a 7-4 win over the Cardinals.The Pirates went 92-70, good for a third place finish in the NL.
Clemente won his fourth NL batting title in seven years in 1967, hitting a career high .357 with a .400 OBP (NL second), a .554 SLG (NL third), and a .954 OPS (NL second) over 147 games. He led the league with 209 hits, scored 103 runs (NL fourth) and hit 26 doubles with 10 triples (NL fifth), 23 home runs (NL 10th), and 110 RBI (NL second). As in most seasons, he was an all-star and won the Gold Glove, finishing third in the NL MVP voting. He had 264 putouts (NL fourth), 17 assists (NL first), and a .969 F% (NL fifth). On May 15th, he accounted for all of the Pirates offense in an 8-7, 10-inning loss to the Reds, hitting a double and three home runs for seven RBI. He hit a single and two round trippers for four RBI on June 4th, in a 4-1 victory over the Dodgers. In an 11-3 win against the Reds on September 13th, he went five-for-six with three singles, a double and a home run for four RBI. The Pirates went 81-81.
In 1968, Clemente earned his eighth straight Gold Glove, although for the first time in nine seasons didn't make an all-star appearance or earn any MVP votes. He hit .291 (NL 10th) in 132 games, with 74 runs scored, 18 doubles, 12 triples (NL second), 18 home runs, and 57 RBI, leading the NL with an 8.1 WAR. He posted a .355 OBP (NL ninth), a .482 SLG (NL sixth), and an .838 OPS (NL seventh). He posted a .981 fielding percentage (NL third) with 295 putouts (NL second). Pittsburgh went 80-82 on the season, placing sixth in the National League.
Over the next four seasons, Clemente played in four all-star games, won four more Gold Gloves, and finished in the top-13 in the NL MVP race four times. He hit 56 home runs with 297 RBI over 480 games. In 1971, he helped the Bucs to a 97-65 record and a first place finish in the NL East. The Pirates won a best-of-five in four games against the Giants before defeating the Baltimore Orioles in seven to take the World Series. Clemente went six-for-18 with four RBI in the NLCS. In the Fall Classic, he earned the MVP Award by going 12-for-29 with five extra base hits and four RBI.
There has been a lot written about the untimely end of Clemente's remarkable life. His last big-league hit earned his passage into the 3000 hit club. He lost his life on New Years Eve in 1972 helping to deliver disaster aid to Managua, Nicaragua. Manny Sanguillen declined to attend the service, instead diving into the waters near the wreckage in an effort to find his teammate. In a tie to today's team, Tom Walker (Neil's dad) helped Clemente load the plane and wanted to go with, but Clemente talked him out of it. Clemente is the only player for whom the mandatory five-year waiting period to be considered for the Hall-of-Fame was waived, entering the hallowed halls with the Class of 1973.
All-Time Statline: 18 seasons, 2433 games, 3000-for-9454, .317/.359/.475, 1416 runs, 440 doubles, 166 triples, 240 home runs, 1305 RBI, 83 stolen bases, 621 walks, 1230 strikeouts, 89.9 wins above replacement.