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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Pittsburgh Pirates: Roberto Clemente's Major-League Debut Turns 60City of Champions, April 19th
When Roberto Walker Clemente trotted out to right field on April 17, 1955, he was making his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates. No one knew for sure what his future held, but perhaps no one could have predicted he would lose his life just...Read more
It's Time for MLB to Celebrate Roberto Clemente DayHuffington Post, April 17th
MLB retired Robinson's 42 back in 1997 and it was a great move that continues to highlight the importance of a legend who made his presence felt on and off the field, but it's time for MLB to honor another legend: Pittsburgh Pirates great, Roberto...Read more
60th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's MLB debutESPN, April 16th
CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose had 23 points and seven assists in his first postseason game in three years, Jimmy Butler scored 25 points, and the Chicago Bulls opened the playoffs with a 103-91 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. Rose was at ...Read more
Roberto Clemente bridge to reopenWTAE Pittsburgh, April 11th
PITTSBURGH, Pa. —The Roberto Clemente Bridge will reopen to traffic at 8 a.m. Sunday, the Allegheny County Department of Public Works announced Saturday. Parking and security info for Pirates Home Opener on Monday. On Monday, April 13, the ...Read more
Roberto Clemente Middle School boys take science to the topGazette.Net: Maryland Community News Online, April 6th
Members of the Roberto Clemente Middle School Science Bowl team show off the trophy they received for winning the Maryland Regional Science Bowl on March 21. The team will compete in the national finals April 30 to May 4 in Washington, D.C...Read more
$1 million secured for Roberto Clemente Park cleanupNewsday, April 1st
At a news conference at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood on April 1, 2015, Sen. Tom Croci announced that he was able to help secure $1 million in this year's state budget to help clean up contaminated debris that was dumped illegally at the park...Read more
Roberto Clemente MS students spend day “in” ChinaGazette.Net: Maryland Community News Online, March 31st
Lauren Gower, 12, a sixth-grader at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown thinks its cool to learn about new cultures. She, along with almost 460 other sixth-graders at Clemente spent Thursday participating in Passport Through China, an in...Read more
Islip narrows Roberto Clemente Park cleanup bids down to 6Newsday, March 26th
The Town of Islip received dozens of inquiries on its public bid to clean up an estimated 50,000 tons of contaminated debris illegally dumped at a Brentwood park and now has six official bids -- ranging from $3 million to $5.68 million -- to choose from...Read more