Clemente’s home run powers Pirates to World Series win
Roberto Clemente already had a World Series ring to his credit when his Pittsburgh Pirates took the field against the Baltimore Orioles in Game 7 of the 1971 Fall Classic.
But unlike 1960, this Pirates team truly belonged to the Great One.
Clemente’s fourth-inning home run off Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar gave the Pirates a lead they would not relinquish as Steve Blass pitched a four-hitter to lead Pittsburgh to the title on Oct. 17, 1971, at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.
Clemente hit safely in all seven games of the World Series – just as he did in 1960 – finishing with a .414 batting average and Series MVP honors.
“Clemente did it all,” Blass told United Press International after the game.
Around the time Blass spoke those words, Clemente was being interviewed by Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince – doubling as a reporter for NBC – in the Pittsburgh locker room.
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Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, took time to thank his mother and father in Spanish on national television.
Later, Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger entered the Pirates locker room and sought out Clemente.
“You are one of the greatest,” Hoffberger said.
“I want you to know you beat a great ball club. We lost because of you. You are just great.”
The 37-year-old Clemente batted .341 during the regular season in 1971 and earned his 11th consecutive Gold Glove Award in right field.
He batted third in the Pirates lineup throughout the season, the same position he often held in 1960 when the Pirates defeated the Yankees in seven games to win the title.
In 14 World Series games during his career, Clemente hit .362.
But even though Clemente was 11 years older than when he won his first World Series championship, he was optimistic that his team would continue its winning ways in the coming seasons following the 1971 title.
“This team is younger (compared to the 1960 team),” Clemente told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after Game 7.
The Pirates would win the National League East title again in 1972 before falling to the Cincinnati Reds in five thrilling games in the National League Championship Series. It would be Clemente’s final baseball game before perishing in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, while ferrying earthquake relief supplies to Nicaragua.
Clemente was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum