Watch Roberto Clemente's 3,000th and final hit from 41 years ago today
On September 30, 1972, Roberto Clemente stepped to the plate in the fourth inning of a game against the Mets. Little was at stake for the Pirates, as they'd already clinched the NL East title. But history was at hand for the 38-year-old right fielder, who sat at 2,999 hits.
He had struck out in the first inning, but he wouldn't be denied in his second at-bat -- he doubled, becoming the 11th MLB player, and first Latino, to reach the 3,000-hit milestone. 1960 World Series hero Bill Mazeroski (also playing in his final season) pinch hit for Clemente the next time his spot came up in the order. Although he briefly played in the field three days later, as well as throughout that year's NLCS against the Reds, Clemente would never make another regular season plate appearance.
He died in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico on New Year's Eve 1972, attempting to bring emergency supplies to Nicaragua, which had recently been ravaged by a major earthquake. His influence as a pioneering Latino, a humanitarian and an outstanding baseball player was recognized in his time as much as it is today -- he the second player in history (after Lou Gehrig) to have the five-year Hall of Fame induction waiting period waived.