Tuesday, December 31, 2013



Isla Verde, Puerto Rico (JFK+50) 41 years ago today, New Year's Eve, December 31, 1972, future Hall of Fame baseball player Roberto Clemente* was killed in a plane crash with 4 other persons on their way to deliver supplies for the relief of the people of Nicaragua who had been victims of an earthquake on December 23rd.

The Pittsburgh Pirate, who had recorded the 3000th hit of his career in the fall, was a hero in Puerto Rico and he traveled to Nicaragua for charitable causes.

Clemente had chosen the DC-7 owned by Arthur Rivera because he needed a plane which would hold all the relief supplies he had on hand.

Two factors spelled doom for the flight.  First, the pilot, Jerry Hill, was alleged to have a sketchy record and second, the aircraft was loaded 4200 pounds over maximum capacity.

At 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve, the aircraft took off but rose to only 200 feet when it exploded and went down into the ocean.  The bodies were never found.  A friend of the baseball star described the tragedy as "the night that happiness died."

*Roberto Clemente (1934-1972) was born in San Anton, Puerto Rico.  He worked in the sugar industry and served in the USMC Reserve.

RC made his debut in professional baseball in 1955.  His career included National League MVP, 12 time All-Star, and 9 time Golden Glove winner.

His career stats including a .317 BA, 240 HRs, 1305 rbis, and 3000 hits.

Robert Clemente
USMC (1958)
National Archives Photo