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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Undefeated hometown 'Gamers' win Roberto Clemente titleHenry Herald, July 25th
But regardless of what you call “it”, it kept the Elite Gamers baseball team undefeated in the Roberto Clemente Little League World Series at Richard Craig Park Friday night. The team overcame a late rally by the Decatur-based Georgia Yard Dawgs — who ...Read more
Farewell Celebration For Roberto Clemente Student Development Center ...WEMU, July 24th
This fall, Ann Arbor Public Schools open the new Pathways to Success Campus. It brings together the Roberto Clemente and A2 Tech programs. Credit Andrew Cluley / 89.1 WEMU. Listen. 89.1 WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor Public School's ...Read more
Islip Town residents to sue over illegal dumpingNewsday, July 23rd
Garzon lives around the corner from a contaminated, privately owned site on Islip Avenue at Sage Street and Valle's home is three blocks from town-owned Roberto Clemente Park. All three sites have confirmed toxic pesticides and heavy metals. Similar...Read more
Community to bid farewell to Roberto Clemente program with celebration eventThe Ann Arbor News, July 23rd
A farewell celebration event is planned for the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center as the program prepares to move its students and staff to the Pathways to Success Campus at the former Stone School in Ann Arbor by this fall. The celebration...Read more
Biertempfel: One man's cause to canonize Roberto ClementeTribune-Review, July 19th
As a 9-year-old Pirates fan in West View, Richard Rossi cried on that bleak New Year's morning in 1973 when he heard Roberto Clemente was dead. Decades later, Rossi sat with his son in their home in Los Angeles and watched footage of a long-ago ...Read more
Great Outdoors Month: Remembering Roberto Clemente's LegacyFox News Latino, July 15th
In that spirit, this year I decided to commemorate Great Outdoors Month by taking my daughters to the Roberto Clemente State Park in New York City. Located along the Harlem River in the Bronx, this extremely popular and well-loved park offers a variety...Read more
Clemente name, legacy inspiration for new brain monitoring toolWTAE Pittsburgh, July 7th
Roberto Clemente Jr. told Pittsburgh's Action News 4 his father would have been proud to have his name attached to such an effort to promote brain health. “It's an unbelievable tool that we can actually identify different things that may happen,” said...Read more
Roberto Clemente Charter School gets Allentown zoning board OK to expandAllentown Morning Call, June 30th
With a tenant dispute now settled, Allentown's Roberto Clemente Charter School can expand onto former Allentown School District property, the city's Zoning Hearing Board ruled Monday. The school, which serves grades 6-12 at 136 S. Fourth St., has ...Read more