Born Aug. 18, 1934, in the city of Carolina on Puerto Rico’s northeast coast, Roberto Clemente became a beloved figure in professional baseball long before his tragic death at age 38.
During the off-season, on the last day of 1972, Clemente was accompanying a relief flight heading to Managua, Nicaragua, which had suffered an earthquake just a week earlier. The overloaded plane crashed shortly after taking off from Puerto Rico, killing all aboard.
After playing baseball in Puerto Rico as a youngster, Clemente was signed to a minor league contract by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952, who just five years earlier had become the first team to sign a black player, Jackie Robinson, to a major league contract.
Clemente was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and made his major league debut on April 17, 1955.
He joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 1958, and remained a reservist until 1964.
As the Pirates’ right fielder, Clemente batted .312 in 1960 and led the Pirates to a World Series victory over the New York Yankees in seven games. During his career he played in 2,433 games and compiled 3,000 hits in 18 seasons.
His plaque in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame reads: “Roberto Clemente Walker. Member of exclusive 3,000-hit club. Led National League in batting four times. Had four seasons with 200 or more hits while posting lifetime .317 average and 240 home runs. Won Most Valuable Player award in 1966. Rifle-armed defensive star set N.L. mark by pacing outfielders in assists five years. Batted .362 in two World Series, hitting in all 14 games.”
Two U.S. stamps honor Roberto Clemente. The first, issued Aug. 17, 1984, is a 20¢ stamp showing Clemente wearing his Pittsburgh Pirates cap in front of the flag of Puerto Rico (Scott 2097).
The second was issued 16 years later on July 6, 2000: a 33¢ stamp in the Legends of Baseball set of 20 (Scott 3408j).