Pittsburgh Pirates: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /
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Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirates
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

4. . RF. 1955-72. Roberto Clemente. 2. player

The premature ending to Roberto Clemente’s life is only part of the story. Truly one of baseball’s greatest human beings, Clemente spent his entire 18-year MLB career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In those 2,433 games, he finished with exactly 3,000 hits and a batting line of .317/.359/.475. A legend on and off the field, he’s the second greatest player to ever suit up for this franchise.

Clemente began his career in 1955. His early years didn’t include many accolades. It wasn’t until he became an All-Star for the first time in 1960 that things began to turn around for the 25-year-old.

From 1960 to 1972, Clemente was an All-Star in every year, but one. Beginning in 1961, he had a stranglehold on Gold Glove Awards. He would win one in every year of his career afterwards.

Clemente’s amazing outfield arm made him one of the most dangerous fielders in baseball. He was a two-way player, though, with four seasons in his career with 200+ hits. Twice, he led the league in this category. Four times, he won a batting title.

In 1966, Clemente was the National League MVP winner. The year included a career-best 29 home runs and 119 RBI. He also added 202 hits to go along with a .317/.360/.536 batting line.

It’s no coincidence his MVP season included a batting average and OBP nearly identical to his career numbers. This should show you how fantastic of a player he was, that an average year was practically MVP-worthy.

When October rolled around, Clemente was just as amazing. He helped the Pirates win the 1960 and 1971 World Series. In the latter, he was the series MVP with a pair of home runs and .412 batting average against the Baltimore Orioles.

Sadly, on New Year’s Eve of 1972, Clemente passed away tragically in a plane crash while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Though this took him from us way too soon, his legacy continues both as a baseball player and person.

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