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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Clemente killed in plane crash
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Dec. 31, 1972

Roberto Clemente, four-time National League batting champion with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the player with perhaps the strongest arm in the game, dies in the crash of a cargo plane carrying relief supplies to the victims of the earthquake in Managua.

The four-engine DC-7, which has five people on board, crashes in heavy seas a mile and a half from shore moments after takeoff from San Juan International Airport. Clemente was the leader of Puerto Rican efforts to aid the Nicaraguan victims and was aboard the plane because he suspected that relief supplies were falling into the hands of profiteers.

Three months earlier, Clemente became the 11th player to reach 3,000 hits. The double off the Mets' Jon Matlack was the final hit of his 18-year career. His .317 batting average was the highest of active players.

The Pirates right-fielder was named to the National League All-Star team 12 times and was the league's MVP in 1966. He led the Pirates to two World Series titles, in 1960 and 1971, winning the MVP of the Series the latter time.

Roberto Clemente was 38.

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