Roberto Clemente Makes History with 3000th Hit

The 3000 Hit Legacy

There are plenty of important dates in the life of Roberto Clemente: his birthday, his first contract, his Major League debut, his marriage to Vera, his World Series victories, and his tragic death. But every year we celebrate his 3000th hit on September 30th, 1972.

Before 1970, the “3000 hit club” was only eight players, all white men. No one reached 3000 hits during the ’60s. Then, in 1970, the legendary Hank Aaron and Willie Mays hit 3000 within a month of each other. Two years later, Roberto Clemente became the first Latino to join those ranks.

A Dreary Saturday in Pittsburgh

If you look at the roster of 3000 hit club members, only Clemente has exactly 3000 hits and no more. Tragically, this is because he died in a plane accident on New Year’s Eve that year, on his way to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

The September 30th game at Three Rivers Stadium was not well attended. The stands were mostly full of devoted Clemente fans who were aware of how important the game was for him. Many had flown from Puerto Rico just for the occasion! Roberto was a team-first player, and wasn’t very interested in stats. But he loved his fans and didn’t hesitate to salute them for their support, producing the iconic image of him waving his helmet.

“I dedicate this hit to the fans of Pittsburgh,” he said later. “They have been wonderful. And to the people back home in Puerto Rico, but especially to the fellow who pushed me to play baseball: Roberto Marín.” At this milestone, he tied it all back to the very beginning, when he was recruited by Marín in 1948.

Carrying on the Legacy

Twenty-one players have joined the 3000 hit club since that day, the same as the number on Clemente’s jersey. The most recent was Albert Pujols from the Dominican Republic in 2018. He’s a prominent holder of the Clemente Award, which sits proudly in his home.

Other Latino legends in the 3000 club are Adrián Beltré, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Rod Carew.

For more information on Roberto’s final hit, visit this page in our history section.