Today is Roberto Clemente Day in Major League Baseball. Roberto Clemente was the first player from Latin America inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but he is also remembered as a selfless humanitarian. When Clemente passed away on December 31, 1972, he was aboard a cargo plane that crashed on its way to Nicaragua. The plane had been carrying crucial supplies to the survivors of an earthquake in the area.
Roberto Clemente Day coincides with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, and on this day, MLB takes the opportunity to remember both Clemente’s altruism and his prowess as a baseball player. The Roberto Clemente Award, which is awarded annually, recognizes players who exemplify good character, community involvement, philanthropy, and positive contributions, both on and off the field.
The list of nominees for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award can be found here.
Phil Niekro pitched for 24 seasons in Major League Baseball, spending 20 of those seasons with the Braves, both in Milwaukee and Atlanta. Niekro’s 318 career victories are the most by a knuckleball pitcher and rank 16th on MLB’s all-time wins list. He won the NL Gold Glove Award five times, was selected for five All-Star teams, and led the league in victories twice and in ERA once.
Niekro also earned the Lou Gehrig Award, the Roberto Clemente Award, and the Brian Piccolo Award for his humanitarian service off the field. He also served on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors since 2009. Niekro was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.
Phil Niekro died December 26, 2020 after a battle with cancer. He was 81 years old.