1968. Somehow or other, Roberto hits under .300, the first time he’s done so in ten years (it’s also the last time he will ever do that).
Swinging the bat?
1969. Roberto hits an incredible .345 and leads the league in triples.
Yeah, yeah, swing the bat.
1970. He ups last year’s average by seven points, finishing at .352.
Yeah, yeah, toss the ball. Sure, whatever.
1971. The World Series year. Roberto would hit an incredible .341 in the regular season, then a ridiculous .414 in the Series. Yours truly would see his second ever Pirates game during that Series, sit in right field, and watch Roberto do his wonders at the plate and in the field. I can’t even remember which game that was, but I’m pretty sure Roberto must have hit four homers and thrown out six guys at the plate. Well, whatever it was, it was enough for me to bond with him and the Bucs for life.
Letting the third strike go by qualifies as “action,” huh?
Hoping that was a ball …
1972. It’s Roberto’s last year. Though he only gets 378 at bats, he still manages to hit .312. He also reaches 3,000 hits. In fact, he finishes his career with exactly 3,000.
Yup, this is his last year. He dies tragically in the offseason when an overloaded relief plane he organized for Nicaraguan earthquake victims goes down off Puerto Rico.
I still remember where I was when I heard about it. I was living in Pittsburgh at the time, and it only seems fitting that I heard it from our parish priest at New Year’s Day mass. Yup, Roberto was that kind of icon in the Steel City.
Personally, Roberto is my all-time favorite. Such a classy guy. And, boy, could he play ball. In addition to the 3,000 hits; he also led the league in hitting four times; finished with a .317 average; and was a one-time MVP, 12-time Gold Glover, and 12-time All Star.
Plus, he’s only the third player to ever have the waiting period for sainthood (i.e., election to the Hall) waived. Can you guess the others? Answers shown below. Just scroll down.
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Pretty good company, huh?