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51 years ago, Pirates legend Roberto Clemente became 11th member of 3,000 hit club

Clemente’s legacy speaks for itself!

USA TODAY Sports Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

51 years ago Saturday, The Great One notched his memorable final hit to close a sensational Hall of Fame career.

On September 30, 1972, Roberto Clemente recorded his 3,000th hit on a gap shot to left-center field against the New York Mets at Three Rivers Stadium. In his final regular-season at-bat, Clemente crushed starter Jon Matlack’s pitch and one-hopped the wall for a double.

Roberto became the 11th player in MLB history to reach the accomplishment and the first Latin American-born player to total 3,000. The 37-year-old Clemente became the gatekeeper to the 3,000-hit club, which now includes 33 players.

Unaware to anyone in Pittsburgh or across the entire baseball landscape, the hit would be Clemente’s last in a Pirates uniform.

Clemente passed away in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972, attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua.

The Hall of Fame waiting period was immediately waived, and The Great One was inducted into the hall as a member of the 1973 induction class. Clemente was also a leading member of the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame inaugural class in 2022. His representation of the Latin American community opened doors for baseball players around the world to become Major League ball players.

The Roberto Clemente Award is considered one of the most prestigious distinctions in all of sports, honoring the player throughout baseball making a significant effort to assist their community in any way possible. Mars native David Bednar is the Pirates representative for the second consecutive year. Andrew McCutchen was awarded the honor in 2015.

September 15 is celebrated as Clemente Day throughout Major League Baseball. All Pirates players don No. 21 to represent Clemente and forever remember his legacy. Clemente was much more than a great player. He was a HERO.