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1972 Roberto Clemente Ball Marker

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Roberto Clemente (Aug. 18, 1934 - Dec. 31, 1972) was a Puerto Rican professional baseball right fielder who played 18 seasons in the MLB for the Pittsburgh Pirates. 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of his 3,000th hit and sadly his untimely death at just 38 years of age in a plane crash on New Year's Eve.

“He played a kind of baseball that none of us had ever seen before… As if it were a form of punishment for everyone else on the field.” – Roger Angell

Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Clemente excelled in athletics as a youngster. At the age of 17 he was playing for the Santurce Crabbers of the Puerto Rican Baseball League. The Dodgers signed him the following year, and by 1954 he was playing for their Triple-A team in Montreal.

Following the 1954 season, however, the Dodgers tried to slip Clemente through the offseason without putting him on the big league roster. He was taken by the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft for $4,000.

Clemente worked to find his stride during the next five seasons, battling injuries and a language barrier in a country where he was a citizen but had no home. But in 1960, the Pirates and Clemente came of age as the limber right fielder batted .312 with a team-high 94 RBI to lead the Pirates to the World Series. In the Fall Classic, Clemente hit .310 to help the Pirates defeat the Yankees in seven games.

Clemente was an All-Star for 13 seasons, and selected to 15 All-Star Games. He was the NL Most Valuable Player in 1966, the NL batting leader in 1961, 1964, 1965, and 1967, and a Gold Glove Award winner for 12 consecutive seasons from 1961 through 1972. His batting average was over .300 for 13 seasons. He also was a two-time World Series champion. Clemente was the first player from the Caribbean and Latin America to win a World Series as a starting position player (1960), to receive an NL MVP Award (1966), and to receive a World Series MVP Award (1971).

Although he was frustrated and struggling with injuries, Clemente played in 102 games and hit .312 during the 1972 season. On September 30, he hit a double in the fourth inning off Jon Matlack of the New York Mets at Three Rivers Stadium for his 3,000th hit.

Clemente was involved in charity work in Latin American and Caribbean countries during the off-seasons. He often delivered baseball equipment and food to those in need. On December 31, 1972, he died in a plane crash at the age of 38 while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The following season, the Pirates retired his uniform number 21, and MLB renamed its annual Commissioner's Award in his honor. Now known as the Roberto Clemente Award, it is given to the player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."

This stunning ball marker commemorates Roberto Clemente's 3,000 career hit on September 30, 1972 with an original 1972 penny, which has been surrounded by a zinc alloy edging and also commemorates his retired uniform number 21. Each ball marker measures 1.5" and comes in a protective, drawstring pouch.

Roberto Clemente® is a registered trademark of 21 In Right, Inc.

Item: 1972RCPZBM