In November 1960, Roberto Clemente was more than disappointed after finishing only eighth among National League players in the Baseball Writers Association’s Most Valuable Player balloting.
Six long years would pass before Clemente’s excellence was finally recognized. He batted over .300 year after year, but MVP honors eluded him. In 1966, though the Pirates were edged out of the playoffs, he hit .317 with 29 home runs and 119 runs batted in.
Clemente is most valuable player
By Joseph Durso, New York Times, November 17, 1966
Pittsburgh Star Outpolls Koufax
Gets 218 Points to 208 in Baseball Writers’ Vote of National Leaguers
Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates was elected the most valuable player in the National League yesterday, eclipsing Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers in a photo finish.
The 32-year-old outfielder from Puerto Rico won his first such award in 12 baseball seasons, after hitting .317 with 29 home runs and 119 runs batted in. He received one less first-place vote than Koufax, who pitched the Dodgers to the pennant with 27 victories.
He received eight, Koufax nine. But Koufax was shut out completely on one ballot, getting no votes even for 10th place, and Clemente outpolled him, 218 to 208.
Both finished far ahead of their nearest pursuers — Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants, Richie Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies, Felipe Alou of the Atlanta Braves, Juan Marichal of the Giants, Phil Regan of the Dodgers, Henry Aaron of the Braves, Matty Alou of the Pirates and Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds….
Mainstay for Pirates
Clemente’s hitting helped keep the Pirates in the pennant race until the next-to-last day, when they faded to third. He emerged as a power hitter, with 11 triples and 31 doubles in addition to his 29 home runs, and he exceeded .300 for the seventh straight time. He finished fourth in batting in the league, 10th in home runs and second in runs batted in.
“It’s the highest honor a player can hope for,” Clemente said yesterday at his farm in Rio Piedras, P. R. “Of course, it could have gone to Sandy Koufax, but I had the best season of my career and I was confident the sports writers would vote for me. I am thankful they did.”
Clemente Joins Select Group, Wins MVP
13th Time Tan Ace Honored Since 49
The New Pittsburgh Courier, November 26, 1966
PITTSBURGH, PA. — Roberto Clemente, the fiery and exciting right fielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates, joined a National League group of illustrious performers last week when he was named the Most Valuable Player for 1966.
For Clemente, a player who has won the National League batting championship three times, the award was the highlight of a sparkling career that has covered 12 glorious seasons.
In winning the award, Clemente thus becomes the 13th tan winner of the crown since Jackie Robinson first broke the MVP barricade back in 1949. Since that time nine tan stars, counting Clemente, have walked off with the crown…
For Clemente, one of the great stars in the National League and perhaps the greatest Pirate outfielder of all time, the award was a long time coming. Time after time the Clemente has been on the threshold of grabbing the title only to be sidetracked.
This year he wouldn’t be denied. While he gave up the batting crown he had held for the past two seasons to teammate, Matty Alou, Roberto still had the top season of his career.
During a year in which the Pirates were in the thick of the pennant race until the end of the campaign, Clemente was superb. He drove in more runs (119) and his more homers (29) than any other single season in his career. He also finished the season with a robust .317 batting average.
For Clemente, this year’s award somewhat justified his disappointment in not winning in 1960, when former teammate Dick Groat was handed the Toga. That was the year in which the Bucs won the world championship and Clemente performed superbly. He has always felt he deserved the MVPthat year.
“This is a big moment for me,” Clemente said upon learning he has won the award from his home in Puerto Rico. “I am very happy. The only thing I would trade this for is a pennant.”
Clemente’s climb to the very top of the baseball ladder could be only a prelude of things to come. Still young, he’s 32, Clemente has shown no signs of slacking off from the terrific pace he has set over the last seven years.
During that span he has averaged .322 and led the National League in hitting three times. No player in the game has done better…
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