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Braves’ Smoltz thrilled to receive Clemente Award

Associated Press

HOUSTON – John Smoltz won the Roberto Clemente Award for excellence on the field and in the community Tuesday.

The Atlanta Braves pitcher was given the award by baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Roberto Clemente Jr. before Game 3 of the World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros.

Smoltz called it the premier honor of his career.

“This truly is the greatest award,” he said, “that a player can achieve.”

The return to Houston was somewhat bittersweet for Smoltz. He helped the Braves win their record 14th consecutive division title this season, but Atlanta was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs with an 18-inning loss at Minute Maid Park, the longest game in postseason history.

“Truly a little bit of irony here, coming back to this stadium. I’d seen enough in 18 innings, but this is the greatest trip of my life,” Smoltz said. “This is going to be the first World Series game I ever attended that I didn’t play in.”

Clemente’s Hall of Fame career with the Pittsburgh Pirates ended suddenly when he died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while trying to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits.

Each major league team nominates one player for the honor, and the winner is selected by a committee that includes Selig and Vera Clemente, Roberto’s widow.

“John has had an outstanding career on the field of play, but equally outstanding is the work, support and dedication he and his wife, Dyan, have contributed to the Atlanta community,” Selig said.

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