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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UConn, Dayton Meet In Tip-Off After Just Missing In Spring
Hartford Courant, November 20th

UConn guard Ryan Boatright and head coach Kevin Ollie speak to the media in a post-game interview at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In its first-round game on Thursday, UConn defeated the ...Read more

More MoCo students allege inappropriate behavior by arrested substitute teacher
Washington Post, November 13th

Last week, the school district first told parents at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown that a substitute teacher had been arrested on allegations of inappropriately touching a student at the school in late September. “We should have informed...Read more

MCPS substitute teacher accused of sexually assaulting 12-year-old girl ...
WJLA, November 10th

Jose Pineda, a 50-year-old substitute teacher, reportedly touched a 12-year-old girl inappropriately at Roberto W. Clemente Middle School on Sept. 30. Court documents allege Pineda first reached around the girl and touched her behind, then walked by...Read more

Photo of the Day: Roberto Clemente, possibly about to crush this pitch
CBSSports.com, November 9th

Via @Dugout Legends (a must-follow on the Twitter machine) comes the following objectively terrific photo of the luminous Roberto Clemente, coiled at the plate and possibly ready to bang an opposite-field triple off the wall ... Championship sports ...Read more

"1954": A glimpse of baseball's dramatic changes
Ocala, November 9th

Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs was just coming on the scene at about that time, and Roberto Clemente would make his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates the following year. It was seven years after Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and ...Read more

Weeks Pass Before Parents Alerted of Montgomery Co. School Sex Assault
NBC4 Washington, November 7th

Officials admit an error was made in waiting several weeks to inform parents about sex abuse allegations involving a substitute teacher at a Germantown middle school. According to a letter sent to parents of Roberto Clemente Middle School students...Read more

Testing shows no pollutants have reached groundwater under Brentwood's ...
Newsday, October 30th

The first round of groundwater sampling at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood -- where an estimated 50,000 tons of debris laced with contaminants was illegally dumped -- did not yield any signs of the pollutants, Islip Town officials said. In late...Read more

Roberto Clemente: "You are wasting your time on Earth" when you refuse to ...
Big Think, October 29th

With the World Series ending tonight and the death of Oscar Taveras still on our minds, Big Think remembers another fantastic ballplayer taken away much too soon. More than just a beloved baseball player, Roberto Clemente (1934-1972) was a man ...Read more