Has it really been 40 years? It is hard to believe that 40 years ago on New Year’s Eve, the game of baseball lost one of its greatest players.
Sports in general lost one of its greatest men. The city of Pittsburgh and many fans in northern West Virginia lost an iconic sports hero.
On Dec. 31, 1972, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente perished in a plane crash. He was one of the best players to ever play the game.
Those who knew Clemente say he was even a better person. They remember his as an unselfish man who treated others with respect. He also paved the way for many black and Latin athletes to easily be accepted in Pittsburgh.
He was a charitable superstar and he died on a small plane crash that was performing a mission of mercy. He was delivering relief supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. The plane was probably too small, and in poor mechanical condition. It was also overloaded with supplies that had been gathered.
Clemente did not have to be on the flight. He could have stayed home and simply written checks to support the relief effort. He didn’t. When he found out that some of the supplies he had sent had been stolen by looters and crooked officials, he decided to get on board himself to make sure the supplies go to the victims. He wanted to make sure the supplies got to those who needed the help the most.
The plane crashed in the Atlantic Ocean about a mile from the coast. Clemente’s body was never recovered.
Many consider Clemente the greatest Latin player to ever play the game. Just months before his passing he collected his 3,000th hit, the first Latin player to do so. He certainly was the most popular Latin player in baseball and he is still beloved in Puerto Rico.
It is interesting that Pittsburgh is a football town owned by the Steelers and their legacy of Super Bowls. But, it is baseball and hockey that has produced Pittsburgh’s most beloved individual sports stars, Clemente and Mario Lemieux.
In Pittsburgh, they simply called Roberoh Clemente, “The Great One.” He was that way as a player and, more importantly, as a human being.