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 Streets to open Sunday for free outdoor activitiesPittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 29th
Boulevard from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The competition, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Cycling Association, is a series of races in 10 categories held on a 0.8 mile race that starts and finishes at PNC Park, loops on the Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol...Read more
Former Montgomery County substitute teacher sentenced to 5 years for fondling ...WJLA, May 29th
Teacher Jose Pineda will spend the next five years behind bars. Back in April, Pineda pleaded guilty to fondling three 12-year-old girls. Prosecutors say the incidents happened in crowded classes at both Roberto Clemente and Ridgeview Middle Schools...Read more
No charges will be filed over anti-Semitic fliersWashington Post, May 29th
Pineda, 50, was arrested in the fall amid allegations involving a student at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown. Other students later came forward, and police filed charges involving three additional alleged victims — one of them a former...Read more
Tramo de Buenaventura Blvd. en honor a Roberto ClementeEl Sentinel, May 29th
Tramo de Buenaventura Blvd. en honor a Roberto Clemente. Designan tramo de Buenaventura en honor a Roberto Clemente. Caption Designan tramo de Buenaventura en honor a Roberto Clemente. Geisha Barazarte. En la foto la comisionada Viviana ...Read more
Dog left abandoned and paralyzed in Bronx park learning to walk againWLS-TV, May 29th
At just five months old, Jesse, believed to a Brazilian mastiff, was discovered paralyzed and abandoned on a blanket in Roberto Clemente Park. "I just think that the people weren't prepared or just gave up," said Craig Fields of New York Bully Crew, ...Read more
MLB's all-time best hitting duosESPN (blog), May 29th
With Roberto Clemente often chasing batting titles and Willie Stargell supplying the power, the Pirates had one of baseball's best duos from 1962-72. Clemente won three batting titles and an MVP award in his time playing with Stargell, who led baseball...Read more
Calle en Kissimmee llevará el nombre de Roberto ClementeCentro Tampa, May 27th
KISSIMMEE -- Un tramo de una de las principales vías de una poblada barriada hispana en la Florida Central llevará el nombre del pelotero de grandes ligas, el puertorriqueño Roberto Clemente durante una ceremonia que se llevará a cabo este viernes en ...Read more
Roberto Clemente Charter School celebrates anniversaryWFMZ Allentown, May 20th
Local and community leaders were on hand at the Roberto Clemente Elementary Charter School in Allentown. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held to mark the school's milestone. The charter school serves more than 300 students through a dual-language ...Read more