ST. LOUIS (AP) – When Carlos Delgado was growing up in Puerto Rico, he learned all about the legacy of Roberto Clemente and idolized the late Hall of Fame outfielder.

That’s why it meant so much to Delgado to win the 2006 Roberto Clemente Award, given to the major league player who best combines community service with excellence on the field.

“This is a great honor for me,” the New York Mets’ first baseman said Tuesday before Game 3 of the World Series between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals. “This is something really special, just because I’m Puerto Rican – 34 years after Roberto has passed, his legacy is still very much alive.”

Delgado, who wears No. 21 as a tribute to Clemente, was chosen from 30 nominees, one from each big league team. He joins a list of previous winners that includes 11 Hall of Famers, such as the late Kirby Puckett, Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield.

Clemente, of course, grew up in Puerto Rico and became an All-Star right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. 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.

“He’s an icon,” Delgado said. “I’m a fan before anything. When they talk about Clemente, I’m a fan. I (said), “When I grow up I want to be like that.”‘

Delgado joined former Seattle star Edgar Martinez (2004) as the only players from Puerto Rico to win the Clemente Award. Players are eligible to win only once.

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