Monday, February 24, 2014

IN MEMORIAM- PART XI: ROBERTO CLEMENTE

The last card in my "In Memoriam" series is perhaps the most well-known card depicting a player that tragically died before the card was issued during the 1970's: the Topps 1973 card (#50) of Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente.
For this post, I also changed the image on the card, using a black and white photo of Clemente taken after his 3000th hit as he acknowledged the crowd.
Seemed a bit more appropriate for the card.
Take a look:

Thanking the crowd after his 3000th hit.

As we all know, after the 1972 season, a season which saw him attain his 3000th career hit on the last at-bat of the regular season, Clemente was was killed on December 31, when the plane he was a passenger on crashed on it's way to deliver relief packages to victims of a massive earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua.
A tragic end to one of the game's greatest players of the post-war era.
It's even more tragic when you read that the only reason Clemente was on the plane in the first place was to ensure the supplies would reach their intended target, since the previous three planes full of supplies were diverted by corrupt politicians.
Clemente's career is the stuff of legend: His fiery play on the field, his good deeds, and his absolute adoration by teammates and fans alike.
On the field Clemente's numbers were incredible: four batting titles, five seasons batting over .340, four 200 hit seasons, 12 all-star nods, 12 Gold Gloves and a Most Valuable Player Award in 1966.
And a prime example of Clemente's importance to the game was his immediate induction into Cooperstown by special committee in 1973, waiving the standard five-year wait before a player joins the Hall ballot, as well as the establishment of the "Roberto Clemente Award", given every year to the player that exemplified "outstanding baseball playing skills who is personally involved in community work."
With this post, I think this thread has been covered, and thankfully so.
The decade of the 1970's was extremely tough as far as players dying young, and I'm hoping I don't come across a player that I've overlooked earlier.

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