On April 17, 1955, At Forbes Field, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 20-year-old rookie Roberto Clemente makes his major league debut, playing both ends of a doubleheader, ironically but perhaps fittingly, against the Brooklyn Dodgers, the team that first signed him but left him unprotected in the 1954 Rule V draft. In his first at-bat, the future Hall of Famer rifles one back through the originator, Johnny Podres, and off the glove of shortstop Pee Wee Reese, for the first of his 3,000 career hits. The “Bums” sweep the Bucs to stretch the latter’s losing streak to six, but the Pirates’ highly-touted prospect is far from done for the day. He will also make, in the words of Jack Hernon of the Post Gazette, “a heart-stopping catch of Junior Gilliam’s long fly in the 4th inning of the opener, leaping high to grab the ball.” In the much more competitive nightcap, Clemente is stranded after his one-out, 6th-inning double but, two innings later, his aggressive baserunning will wreak havoc and reap rewards. With one on and none out, writes Hernon, “Clemente’s short fly fell safely in center and when the kid rounded first and had to come back in a hurry, Don Zimmer’s throw hit him on the leg and went into the dugout. That put Dick Smith over and Clemente on third. Dick Cole scored him with a single.” This narrows the Dodgers’ lead to one but, one inning later, the game will end with Clemente in the on-deck circle and the tying and winning runs on base.
April 20, 1912
April 10, 1981