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Classic Three Rivers Stadium

Clemente quietly grew in stature

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Clemente reaches 3,000 hits
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Sept. 30, 1972: Roberto Clemente comes to the ballpark after a sleepless night because of all the telephone calls from New York and Puerto Rico following his near-miss in getting his 3,000th hit the night before. Clemente, who had complained bitterly when he felt the official scorer deprived him of his historic hit, finally achieves his cherished goal when he strokes a long double to left-center off Mets left-hander Jon Matlack in the fourth inning in Pittsburgh. The Pirates right fielder becomes the 11th major leaguer to reach 3,000 hits. "I'd rather have it this way," Clemente says after the 5-0 victory, somewhat repentant for his outburst of the previous night.

Nobody knows it at the time, but this will be Clemente's final regular-season at-bat. Three months later, on a flight from Puerto Rico loaded with relief supplies for earthquake victims in Managua, Nicaragua, Clemente dies as the plane crashes. A four-time batting champion, he will become the first Hispanic inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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