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: Clemente's Legacy Lives on Through Neil WalkerBleacher Report, September 19th
Even more appropriate that Wednesday was Roberto Clemente Day in baseball and the Pirates had mowed a gigantic “21” into the grass in right field. Those are all nice correlations, and it's nice to see that Roberto Clemente's legacy is still very much...Read more
Craig Breslow nominated for Roberto Clemente AwardThe Providence Journal, September 18th
PITTSBURGH — For the second straight season, Craig Breslow was named the Red Sox nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. The award recognizes a player who best represents the sport through contributions on and off the field. “It's an incredible ...Read more
Players hold Roberto Clemente Award in highest regardMLB.com, September 17th
PITTSBURGH -- Roberto Clemente's entire family was on hand for Roberto Clemente Day festivities on temperate Wednesday night at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It was Roberto Clemente day at every ballpark on the Major League schedule but since its ...Read more
Pirates Celebrate Roberto Clemente Day At Banksville ElementaryCBS Local, September 17th
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Students at Banksville Elementary School, decked from head to toe with Pirate Parrot hats and special No. 21 Roberto Clemente shirts, cheered for the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday afternoon. They were part of a special Clemente ...Read more
Voting for Roberto Clemente Award now openBrew Crew Ball, September 17th
Voting for Roberto Clemente Award now open. 1. posted by Noah Jarosh on Sep 17, 2014. GO VOTE FOR RYAN BRAUN https://t.co/S2idwyzmPB. — Brew Crew Ball (@BrewCrewBall) September 17, 2014. VOTE VOTE VOTE. Small_brewcrewball.com...Read more
David Wright nominated for Roberto Clemente AwardAmazin' Avenue, September 17th
A star on the field, David Wright has carried himself with class off it as well, helping him earn a nomination for the 2014 Roberto Clemente Award. ? Tweet Share on Twitter ?Share Share on Facebook ? Share Share with Mets friends + Comments. The Mets' ...Read more
Paul Goldschmidt nominated for Roberto Clemente AwardArizona Sports, September 16th
Major League Baseball has announced that Paul Goldschmidt is the Arizona Diamondbacks' 2014 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. The award recognizes the MLB player who, through positive contributions to the game and society, best represents ...Read more
Paul Konerko named Roberto Clemente Award nomineeChicago Sun-Times, September 16th
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Paul Konerko was named the White Sox 2014 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award Tuesday. The award recognizes a Major League player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on ...Read more