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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Robin Ventura recalls impact of meeting Roberto ClementeComcast SportsNet Chicago, January 23rd
That included the time he met Roberto Clemente at the very first game he attended. "It was Pirates and Dodgers, went to Dodger Stadium," he recalled. "My dad took me and my brothers, they were big Pittsburgh fans and I was a home kid so I liked the ...Read more
NY State approves cleanup plan for Roberto Clemente ParkWABC-TV, January 14th
New York conservation officials have approved a cleanup plan for the Roberto Clemente Park in Suffolk County allowing for removal of contaminated construction fill. (WABC). AP. Wednesday, January 14, 2015. ALBANY, N.Y. --. New York conservation ...Read more
Roberto Clemente Park toxic debris cleanup plan approved by stateNewsday, January 13th
The state Department of Environmental Conservation Tuesday approved the Town of Islip's plan to clean up an estimated 50,000 tons of illegally dumped contaminated debris at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood. The revised and "streamlined" plan sent to ...Read more
Canonisation bid for star baseballer Roberto Clemente tragically killed in ...ChristianToday, January 13th
Decades after Roberto Clemente became the first Latino to win the a World Series as a starter and receive a World Series MVP Award, it seems that fans are not yet done charting his legacy as the recent move to make him a saint gained fresh ground...Read more
Roberto Clemente Park cleanup plan sent back to state for approvalNewsday, January 12th
The new proposal, which comes after months of discussions and changes to the original document submitted in September, includes the three new groundwater monitoring wells installed at Roberto Clemente Park last week after the state Department...Read more
Saint Roberto? There's a canonization movement for ClementeCBSSports.com, January 12th
Former pastor and Pittsburgh native Richard Rossi is leading the charge to have the late, great Roberto Clemente canonized as a saint and he's actually gotten support in starting the process from the Pope (Catholic News Wire, via CBS Pittsburgh). The...Read more
Saint Roberto Clemente?: Former Pittsburgh pastor seeks sainthood for the ...Pittsburgh Post Gazette, January 10th
Richard Rossi thinks a case can be made on behalf of the Pirates' late right fielder, Roberto Clemente. Mr. Rossi, who directed and played a scout in the recent movie “Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories,” is seeking to document miracles in his...Read more
The hidden history of Roberto ClementeThe News-Press, December 31st
The photograph shows Roberto Clemente jumping for a fly ball at Terry Park, an act he completed countless times between 1955, his rookie season, and 1968, the Pittsburgh Pirates' final spring training in Fort Myers. Clouds shaped like wings of an angel ...Read more