Racanelli: The untold story of Roberto Clemente’s plane crash litigation

From John Racanelli at FanGraphs on January 7, 2014:

Roberto Clemente was both a remarkable ballplayer and genuine folk hero. As an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clemente was a perennial All-Star and Gold Glove recipient. He won four batting titles, was the National League’s MVP in 1966 and the World Series MVP in 1971.

On September 30, 1972, Clemente stroked a double off of Mets pitcher Jon Matlack to reach the 3000 hit milestone in his final regular season at bat. After closing out the 1972 season with a playoff series loss to the Cincinnati Reds, Clemente traveled to Nicaragua in November to manage the Puerto Rican All-Stars in the Amateur Baseball World Series.

A 6.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Managua, Nicaragua on December 23, 1972. Some 5,000 people lost their lives, another 20,000 were injured and over 250,000 were displaced from their homes. Swayed by the time he had just spent in Nicaragua, Clemente coordinated a extraordinary effort to provide emergency supplies to the victims. Even after sending three airplane loads to Managua, there were still supplies that needed to be flown to Nicaragua.

Clemente was approached by Arthur Rivera, who offered the services of his DC-7 cargo plane to airlift the remaining relief supplies. Clemente inspected the plane and agreed to pay Rivera $4000 (approximately $22,000 today) upon his return to Puerto Rico.

By law, Rivera was to provide a pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer. Rivera hired a pilot, Jerry Hill, and appointed himself as the co-pilot, despite his lack of certification to co-pilot the DC-7. He was unable to hire a flight engineer for the flight.

Unbeknownst to Clemente, the DC-7 had been involved in an accident on December 2, 1972 when a loss of hydraulic power caused the aircraft to leave the taxiway and crash into a water-filled concrete ditch.

Read the full article here: http://www.fangraphs.com/community/the-untold-story-of-roberto-clementes-plane-crash-litigation/

Originally published: January 7, 2014. Last Updated: January 7, 2014.