Despite not having comparable statistics to some of his contemporary outfielders, Roberto Clemente is still widely considered one of the most popular and talented baseball players ever. Clemente is also a great lesson for collectors. Sometimes it is not the best players who are widely collected, but the ones who are most beloved. Roberto Clemente was a fan favorite, and consequently his memorabilia is some of the most collected in all of baseball.

Had Clemente lived longer, he may have gone down as one of the most accomplished players ever, statistics and all. Instead, his life and baseball career were tragically cut short when a plane he chartered on New Years Eve 1972 to bring earthquake aid to Nicaragua crashed right after takeoff. This selfless act of charity typified Roberto Clemente.

A native of Puerto Rico, Clemente helped usher in a new era of Latin American stars in baseball. Many of today’s brightest baseball stars owe a debt of gratitude to Clemente for paving the way for them.

Clemente debuted for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955—he played for the team his entire career. There is only one recognized rookie card for Clemente, a 1955 Topps, which is in a set that also included rookie cards for fellow Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Harmon Killebrew.

The Clemente card, which shows him in two poses against a green background—a headshot, plus Clemente at bat—is considered more difficult to find in good condition than the Koufax or Killebrew cards. The biggest problem for the card was poor centering, which tends to be accentuated by the green background.

Early in his career Clemente was by no means a star. He struggled to hit for power, though his defense—which led him to 12 consecutive Gold Glove awards to end his career—was outstanding. In addition to being fast and athletic in the outfield, Clemente had an absolute missile of an arm, which scared the daylights out of base runners—few tested him.

Though Clemente would have other popular and valuable cards after his rookie year, such as his 1963 Topps card, it was not until 1968, when he was a full-fledged star, that anoth...

That card, which shows a stoically suave Clemente gazing to the left of the camera, is unequivocally the card that gives Clemente collectors the biggest fits. Not only is it rare, it also has many flaws, which is not surprising since the set was not released publicly. The plastic coating on the card is prone to cracking, and the print on the backside of the card is often out of focus, to name a few of the card’s numerous problems.

By 1968 Clemente had already won four batting titles, an MVP award, and a World Series. Three years later, in 1971, he would win his second world title.

The following year, 1972, Clemente was plagued by injuries. He only managed to play in 102 games, but in his very last regular season at-bat he hit a double for his 3,000th career hit. No one knew it at the time, but Clemente would never step to the plate in a regular season game again.

Clemente’s death shocked the baseball world—in his usual selfless manner, he had felt compelled to accompany relief rations to Nicaragua himself. But his premature death also makes his collectibles even more sought after because his signature, for example, is very scarce. In fact, finding a Clemente autograph today is difficult. Many of his autographs are simply “cuts” (autographs on pieces of paper).

In 1973, the Baseball Hall of Fame decided to waive its five-year waiting period for entry for the deceased Clemente, an honor that only had been bestowed once previously, for a dying Lou Gehrig. Hall of Fame busts are among the most popular Clemente collectibles, as are commemorative coins, statues, new and game-used jerseys, and newspaper clippings from around the time of his death.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Old Cardboard

Old Cardboard

Check out this well-organized collection of 500 sets of baseball cards, each over 50 years old. Browsable by type a… [read review or visit site]

The Baseball Card Blog

The Baseball Card Blog

Ben Henry's lively vintage baseball card blog, started in January 2006, offers hundreds of great posts on (and pict… [read review or visit site]

Cardboard Junkie

Cardboard Junkie

Dave Campbell's in-depth blog on old baseball (and some football) cards lives up to it's motto: 'do cards, not drug… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Roll up your socks for this Library of Congress collection showcasing hundreds of players on colorful early basebal… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

A home run for baseball collectors, this site features special online exhibits, ranging from a baseball-uniforms da… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Pirates Rc Rookie Hof Psa 5 Ex1965 Topps Baseball Near Complete (92%) Set ... Mantle, Aaron, Mays, Clemente1969 Topps Baseball Complete Set Vg+ Ex/ex+ Nm Mantle, Mays, Clemente, Ryan 1970 Topps Baseball Complete Set Ex - Ex+ Nm Clemente, Ryan, Munson Rc Roberto Clemente Rc - 1955 Topps #164 - Bgs Bvg 5.5 Excellent+ - Pirates1970 Topps High Grade Lot Of 5 Ryan Bench Psa 8 Nm-mt Mays Aaron Clemente Psa 71955 55 Topps #164 Roberto Bob Clemente Hof Rookie Rc Psa 4.5 But Looks Better!1956 Topps Setbreak Roberto Clemente White Back #33 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)Roberto Clemente Signed Autographed Portrait Photo Auto, Jsa Auth Loa (pwcc)1957 Topps Setbreak Roberto Clemente #76 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1971 Topps Baseball Complete Set Ex - Ex+ Nm Clemente, Ryan, Mays, Rose 1962 Topps #10 Bob Clemente Pirates Hof Psa 7 Nm1955 Topps Rookies Graded: Koufax Vg3 And Clemente Vg-ex - Original Cards∎ 1957 Topps Baseball Card Roberto Clemente #76 **sharp**1950's-1970s Baseball Cards Lot (966) Loaded Stars Hof Rc Fisk Rc Clemente Rose1958 Topps Setbreak Roberto Clemente #52 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)Topps 1955 #164 – Bob ‘roberto’ Clemente Rookie Card!! Book Value = $2,200! HofRoberto Clemente 1956 Topps #33 - Pittsburgh Pirates - Spectacular!!! Sharp!!!1962 Topps Set Break # 10 Roberto Clemente Psa 6 Ex-mt H30250Roberto Clemente 2007 Upper Deck Ud Premier Remnants Quad Game Used Jersey #/552015 Tier One Baseball Roberto Clemente Legends Game Used Bat Relic #76/991966 Topps Baseball Card Lot: 56 Cards With Roberto Clemente #300 No Creases!1963 Topps #540 Bob Roberto Clemente Pirates Hof Psa 8 Nm-mtRoberto Clemente 1963 Topps #540 - Hi # - Pirates - Nrmint-mint!! Breathtaking!!1956 56 Topps #33 Roberto Bob Clemente Psa 7 Nm Well Centered White Back! Nice1964 Topps Venezuelan Leaders Complete Set (dist In Venezuela) Clemente AaronPsa 6 Ex-mt 1971 Topps #630 Roberto Clemente * Centered*Roberto Clemente 2007 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic Game Used Pirates Jersey1998 Topps Roberto Clemente Insert Set Complete #1-19Rookie Rc Hof Star Lot Of (72) Assorted W/ Mantle Clemente Yas Plus2015 Topps Museum Collection Quad Bat Relic Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh PiratesPittsburgh Pirates Roberto Clemente Gold Glove Bobblehead FigurineRoberto Clemente Pirates 1968 Topps Baseball Action All-stars Sticker #12Old 1950's 60's 70's Topps Baseball Card Set Lot Roberto Clemente Sandy Koufax1964 Topps Giant Set Nrmt To Mt Roberto Clemente Sandy Koufax Mickey MantleHall Of Famer:1959 Topps #478 Roberto Clemente - Sgc 84 Nm 7 - Pirates1973 Topps Baseball Lot Of 200+ Nm/mt+ Mint W/ Stars Clemente / Aaron1968 Topps Hof Lot, Pete Rose, Carl Yastrzemski, Roberto Clemente1970 Topps Baseball Complete Set Munson, Ryan, Clemente, Mays Ex-mint 720 Cards1958 Topps Sgc Lot W/ #52 Roberto Clemente - #52 W.s, Batting Foes 1957 Topps Roberto Clemente #76 Psa 2 (gd) Hof Pirates Undergraded Bob Nr!2012 Prime Cuts Roberto Clemente Relic /49 Gu Game Used Jersey Swatch Old 1972 Topps Baseball Card Set #309 Roberto Clemente Exmint $50 *pittsburgh* 1963 Topps #540 Bob Clemente Pirates Hof Psa 8 Nm-mt 1960 Topps Setbreak Roberto Clemente #326 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1960 Topps Baseball #326 Roberto Clemente Ex Pirates Nice*clean*centered Bv:$2001973 Topps Set Break # 50 Roberto Clemente Psa 7 Nm I222041959 Topps Roberto Clemente #478 Baseball Card "sweet Vintage Card"1956 Topps Roberto Clemente - Pittsburgh Pirates #33 Baseball Card All Star Hof1959 Topps Setbreak #543 Corsair Outfield Trio Skinner Virdon Clemente Psa 81962 Topps #10 Bob Clemente Psa 7.5 Nm+ Pittsburgh Pirates1958 Topps Set Break # 52 Roberto Clemente Ex-exmint I233481960 Topps Roberto Clemente #326 Baseball Card "amazing Vintage Card"2015 Topps Tier One Legends Roberto Clemente Dual Bat #6/251957 Topps Bob Clemente #76 Pittsburg Pirates Baseball Card. Nmt1998 Topps Roberto Clemente Commemorative Complete Set 1-191970 Topps Set Break #350 Roberto Clemente Hof - Sharp Historic Card! Amazing!1961 Topps Roberto Clemente (#388) Original Production Photo (w/topps Coa)!1972 Topps #309 Bob Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh Pirates Hof Bvg 7.51968 Topps #150 Bob Clemente Nrmt

Recent News: Roberto Clemente Memorabilia

Source: Google News

Surgery brings Jim Barr's pitching arm back in the game
Sacramento Bee (blog), May 22nd

Jim Barr had a rubber arm, and it's reborn. The Granite Bay High School assistant baseball coach helped USC win national championships in 1968 and 1970 before pitching 12 major-league seasons – 10 with the Giants. In 1972, Barr struck out Pittsburgh ...Read more

Paul White: For baseball lifer, game goes on
USA TODAY, May 22nd

I can claim that, as a kid, I saw a veteran Roberto Clemente and a young Rusty Staub spend an afternoon at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field trying to outdo each other with ridiculous laser throws from the outfield. The details are muddy, I'll admit, but try...Read more

A 6-Pack of Questions With Former Boston Red Sox Nutritionist, Tara Mardigan
BostInno, May 22nd

One of my favorite workouts is MMA fitness with Kevin Kearns of Burn with Kearns. He trains me outside on the basketball courts by Roberto Clemente field in the Fens with agility ladders, pads, gloves, bands, a Bosu and my very favorite, a mini trampoline...Read more

Touching all bases, May 21st

Roberto Clemente RBI registration. The Roberto Clemente RBI program is holding registration at $25 per player Mondays-Fridays from 6-8 p.m, and Saturdays and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2, at the Roberto Clemente Sports Complex, 384 8th St. in Jersey City...Read more

#TBT: When Babe Ruth hit right-handed
ESPN (blog), May 21st

"Look at [Hank] Aaron, who was very successful hitting off his front foot. Look at [Roberto] Clemente. Same thing." One thing to note, as Klapisch points out, is that Ruth wouldn't be swinging a 42-ounce bat against today's fireballers. My guess is...Read more

Roberto Clemente Charter School celebrates anniversary
WFMZ Allentown, May 20th

A local charter school celebrated its first year of operations with a special ceremony Wednesday. Local and community leaders were on hand at the Roberto Clemente Elementary Charter School in Allentown. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held to mark the ...Read more

Clemente rock stars now movie stars, too
Gazette.Net: Maryland Community News Online, May 20th

There will be a movie premiere in Germantown on May 26 starring Roberto Clemente Middle School's own rock stars. “Best Day of My Life: The Rock in School Story,” a 48-minute documentary on the school's Rock Band Class will have its first public showing ...Read more

Tramo de la Buenaventura Blvd. en honor a Roberto Clemente
El Sentinel, May 11th

La designación como Roberto Clemente Memorial Highway será en la Buenaventura Boulevard, entre la E. Osceola Parkway y la C.R. 530/Simpson Road, en el condado de Osceola, según se lee en un documento del Senado de Florida. cComments...Read more