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 ...
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 another overwhelmingly collectible Clemente card was released. That year, Topps ran a test set of 3-D cards that was not supposed to be released to the population at large. Somehow some sets got into the hands of the public, though they are extremely rare. Clemente was by far the set's biggest star, so his ’68 3-D is extremely collectible.
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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36 New Officers Added To New York State Park Police ForceCBS Local, May 18th
The New York City state parks include Riverbank State Park in Manhattan, East River State Park in Brooklyn, Bayswater and Gantry Plaza state parks in Queens, Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx, and Clay Pit Ponds Preserve on Staten Island...Read more
Brentwood pool to be closed for repairs - NewsdayNewsday, May 16th
Roberto Clemente Park pool in Brentwood will be closed this summer while the town repairs and rehabilitates the aging pool's filtration system, town officials announced Wednesday. Earlier this year, residents from the northern Islip community objected...Read more
Duquesne establishes scholarship in Clemente's honorPittsburgh Post Gazette, May 7th
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Duquesne University Tuesday announced creation of a $1 million Roberto Clemente Endowed Scholarship in what it called the first college scholarship named for the late Pittsburgh Pirate great. The scholarship, detailed at an...Read more
Daytime closures ahead for Roberto Clemente BridgePittsburgh Post Gazette (blog), May 7th
Roberto Clemente Bridge inspections will begin on Monday, closing the bridge to pedestrians and vehicles from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the following dates, weather permitting: May 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22 and 24. The bridge will stay open on May 23, when...Read more
Clemente Musical a Hit at Gala Theatre - Washington InformerWashington Informer, May 1st
A musical that honors the baseball star, "DC-7, The Roberto Clemente Story," runs through May 26 at the Gala Theatre in Northwest. For baseball enthusiasts, the play captures some of the best moments of Clemente's career, including his epic performance...Read more
DC-7: The Roberto Clemente Story, ReviewedWashington City Paper (blog), April 29th
History seldom gives us figures of pure good or evil, but if it ever does, it's either through sports or politics. Such are the circumstances surrounding the death of Roberto Clemente in 1972. The baseball legend died in a plane crash delivering...Read more
'DC-7: The Roberto Clemente Story' at GALA Hispanic TheatreWashington Post, April 24th
Choreographer Luis Salgado knows how Roberto Clemente felt about baseball. This fact reveals itself about 15 minutes into “DC-7: The Roberto Clemente Story,” the reverent, clunky bio-musical at GALA Hispanic Theatre. In the bilingual production's first...Read more
Roberto Clemente Story Told in Musical at GALA TheatreThe Georgetown Dish, April 23rd
One of baseball's all-time greats both on and off the field is exciting fans this spring – not at Nationals Park, but in Columbia Heights at the Gala Theatre. The story of Roberto Clemente is told in musical form as a retrospective from his funeral...Read more