December 31, 1972

On December 31, 1972, Pittsburgh Pirates superstar Roberto Clemente dies in the crash of a four-engine plane over the Atlantic Ocean. The 38-year-old Clemente was supervising the delivery of relief supplies to the earthquake victims of Managua, Nicaragua. The plane, a DC-7 that departed from San Juan Airport in Puerto Rico, crashed shortly after takeoff. In 18 major league seasons, Clemente batted .317, won the 1966 MVP, and led the Pirates to the World Championship in 1971. Shortly after his death, the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors votes to waive the usual five-year waiting period for Clemente, paving the way for his election to Cooperstown in 1973.

December 25, 1989

On December 25, 1989, former New York Yankees and Oakland A’s manager Billy Martin dies in a car accident at the age of 51. Martin, a five-time Yankee manager under owner George Steinbrenner, was rumored to be a candidate to replace current Yankee skipper Lou Piniella. During a 16-year career, Martin forged a record of 1253-1013, led his teams to five divisional titles, and guided the Yankees to the 1977 World Championship.
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