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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A three rivers return: Capitals' Orpik, Niskanen, Reirden go back to PittsburghWashington Post, December 26th
He'll see the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the iconic backdrop for PNC Park, where the Pirates play, and Heinz Field, the home stadium for the Steelers. The downtown skyline will be so familiar. The next step, however, will be entirely new. Rather than...Read more
Local Police Need Public Support To Complete Memorial To Rocco And Other K9sCBS Local, December 26th
Wagner, known for the PNC Park statues of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, worked with the Fraternal Order of Police's Law Enforcement Memorial Committee to create a statue to honor all K9s. Rocco inspired this, but everyone decided it was for all...Read more
Dodgers Finalize Deal For RollinsCulver City Observer, December 26th
Rollins was also named co-winner of the 2014 Roberto Clemente Award, along with Paul Konerko, for his positive contributions to the game of baseball, both on and off the field. Rollins was originally selected by Philadelphia in the second round of the...Read more
Here's a simple testHenry Herald, December 25th
##Roberto Clemente, the great baseball star for the Pittsburg Pirates, was killed in a plane crash while involved in a moment of loving service. He put it this way: “If you have the opportunity to help others and don't do it, you are wasting your time...Read more
Islip officials frustrated with pace of Clemente Park cleanup approval by stateNewsday, December 16th
Town of Islip officials yesterday questioned what they called a lack of progress in getting state Department of Environmental Conservation approval for plans to clean up the estimated 50,000 tons of contaminated construction debris from Roberto...Read more
The search for why illegal dumping was allowed in Roberto Clemente ParkNewsday, December 8th
Two Islip Town parks department officials, over a period of eight months beginning in August 2013, facilitated and later tried to cover up illegal dumping in Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood. These charges were aired in a Central Islip courtroom...Read more
6 Charged, Including 2 Former Islip Town Officials, In Illegal-Dumping Probe ...CBS Local, December 8th
Prosecutors began investigating last spring after investigators discovered about 50,000 tons of debris laced with asbestos, pesticides and other material at Islip-owned Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood. Illegal dumping was later found at a housing ...Read more
Roberto Clemente: The day the game diedLos Angeles Post-Examiner, December 8th
Photo above: Roberto Clemente in Game 6 of the 1971 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. (YouTube). Don McLean's “American Pie” is a musical classic that tells the tale of the day music died when singer Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash...Read more