Three months before he died, Roberto Clemente achieved what no Latino major league player had done before: his 3,000th career hit. He dedicated the hit to his fans in Pittsburgh and to the people of Puerto Rico.
Clemente Notches No. 3,000, Officially
The New York Times, October 1, 1972, Sunday
PITTSBURGH, Sept. 30 — Roberto Clemente, who complained bitterly when he felt the official scorer deprived him of his 3,000th hit last night, finally achieved his cherished goal today when he stroked a long double to left-center field off the Mets’ J. Matlack in the fourth inning to become the 11th man in major league history to reach the 3,000-hit plateau.
Clemente’s double, opening the fourth inning, started a three-run Pittsburgh Pirate rally that resulted in a 5-0 victory over the Mets.
“I’d rather have it this way,” Clemente said afterward, somewhat repentant for his outburst of the previous night when a ground ball back over the mound was bobbled by Ken Boswell and was ruled an error.
There was no doubt about the hit that put the great Puerto Rican star in a class with people such as Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Henry Aaron, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Willie Mays, Paul Waner and Cap Anson…
As the 12,117 fans stood to give Clemente an ovation, the Pirate star stood on second base and raised his cap in a gesture of appreciation.
Mays Offers Congratulations
Clemente said later that the ball he hit with an 0-1 count was a curveball.
“It was the same pitch he struck me out on in the first inning,” Roberto said. The game was halted for several minutes while the fans cheered their 38-year-old idol.
Clemente played one more inning in the field and then as he returned to the dugout Willie Mays trotted over from the Mets’ dugout and offered his congratulations while the photographers and TV cameras took pictures.
Mays and Aaron are the only other active players with 3,000 or more hits.
An Assist from Stargell
Clemente said that he had spent a sleepless night because of all the telephone calls from New York and Puerto Rico following his near-miss last night.
“Then my wife had to be at the airport at 6 o’clock to meet some friends so we didn’t even bother to go to bed,” he said. “When I arrived at the ball park I had no sleep at all.”
It was a teammate, Willie Stargell, who picked out the bat that Clemente used to get his big hit.
“I haven’t been swinging good lately so Willie picked out one of my bats… a heavier one that I have been using. He handed it to me and told me to 'go get it.’”
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