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.
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Recent News: Roberto Clemente Memorabilia
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Ballpark Quirks: PNC Park honors a Pittsburgh legend in ClementeSI.com, August 29th
Pittsburgh loved Roberto Clemente, and PNC Park makes that clear, with everything from outfield walls built in his tribute to a stadium oriented and designed to show off the bridge crossing the Allegheny River named in his honor. MLB ...Read more
Islip gets approval to install testing wells at Roberto Clemente parkNewsday, August 27th
Islip gets approval to install testing wells at Roberto Clemente park. Updated August 27, 2014 11:51 PM By SARAH ARMAGHAN firstname.lastname@example.org. A Town of Islip tank truck sprays what appears to be water on a section of Roberto Clemente ...Read more
'Clemente' musical shows life, struggle of Roberto ClementeWLS-TV, August 20th
'Clemente' musical shows life, struggle of Roberto Clemente. 'Clemente' musical shows life of Roberto Clemente. "Clemente: The Legend of 21," a musical, tells Roberto Clemente?s tale of struggle and triumph. Embed. <iframe width="476" height="270" ...Read more
Roberto Clemente Would Have Turned 80 TodayCBS Local, August 18th
CHICAGO (CBS) — Roberto Clemente, the legendary Hall Of Famer who was killed in a plane crash in 1972, would have turned 80 years old today. Clemente was involved in charity work in Puerto Rico and Latin American countries during the off seasons...Read more
Monday Rundown: Remembering Roberto Clemente90.5 WESA, August 15th
In October a new play about Pirates legend Roberto Clemente is coming to Point Park University's Conservatory Theater Company. The musical, “21,” is written and composed by Alki Steriopoulos, who grew up in Pittsburgh. Steriopoulos began working on ...Read more
FEATURE: Roberto Clemente Biopic a Dream Come TrueGazette Newspapers, August 15th
21 Clemente Stories (representing his jersey number, and each letter in his full Roberto Clemente Walker name) has already held screenings in ten cities across the country, from San Francisco to Chicago to New York, and even an emotional screening that ...Read more
Completed Roberto Clemente Biopic, Filmed in Long Beach, Set for First Public ...Long Beach Post, August 13th
Richard Rossi grew up in Pittsburgh emulating the iconic Pirates' right fielder Roberto Clemente. He'd attend home games in the dollar seats at Forbes Field where he learned the idiosyncrasies of his childhood hero before replicating them as a youth on...Read more
Film about baseball Hall of Fame's Roberto Clemente to play in Long BeachOCRegister, August 8th
Filmed almost entirely in Long Beach, “Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories,” an independent film about the life and times of baseball Hall of Famer and humanitarian Roberto Clemente will be aired at 7 p.m. Aug. 16 at Los Altos Grace Brethren...Read more