Roberto Clemente was one of the all time great players in MLB history with the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, the Pirates were not his original franchise, as Clemente signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers on this day in 1954.
Even before he played in the Majors, Roberto Clemente was a highly sought after commodity. Quite a few teams were interested in procuring his services, with the Dodgers, Yankees, Giants, and Braves all in hot pursuit. Although virtually every team was interested in the young outfielder, those teams were the clear favorites.
On this day, the Dodgers emerged victorious, signing Clemente to a one year deal with $5000, with a $10,000 signing bonus. In doing so, they outspent the Giants and Yankees, who also had designs on inking Clemente. The Dodgers also beat the Braves to the punch, as Milwaukee offered Clemente more money to sign there. However, he was already the Dodgers property at the time.
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Clemente spent the 1954 season in Montreal, where he put up decent numbers as a 19 year old. That year, he produced a .257/.286/.372 batting line, with ten extra base hits. In 155 plate appearances, Clemente drew six walks, and struck out only 17 times. Those numbers may not have indicated that he was a future star, but it was obvious that he had talent.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, he would never play a game in Brooklyn. They left him exposed to the Rule V Draft in 1954, where he was selected by the Pirates. Clemente would never play another game in the minors, cementing his place in the Pirates outfield.
While it took a few seasons before Clemente reached his full potential, there was no questioning the star he became. He made 12 All Star Games, and was named the 1966 National League MVP. Clemente also established himself as one of the premier defensive players in the game, winning 12 Gold Glove awards.
Of course, no one can discuss Clemente without talking about how he was at a person. One of the great humanitarians of his time, his charitable works were well known throughout his career. His death on New Year’s Eve in 1972, when he was taking part in humanitarian efforts to come to the aid of Nicaragua after their devastating earthquake, left behind a legacy that few could approach.
Roberto Clemente had been one of the greatest players in the history of the game with the Pirates. However, if he had been given more of an opportunity, that production could have been with the Dodgers.