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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PEOPLE: Roger Ailes, Roberto Clemente, Alison Sweeney and more!Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 25th
Fox News chief Roger Ailes said Tuesday that Donald Trump owes the network's Megyn Kelly an apology for an unprovoked Twitter attack that “is as unacceptable as it is disturbing,” but Trump isn't backing down, The Associated Press reports...Read more
Roberto Clemente beats out Babe Ruth at National Portrait GalleryTribune-Review, August 25th
The people have spoken, and a photo portrait of the late Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente will be featured at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, starting Aug. 25. The image is a 1960 photograph by Pittsburgh photographer...Read more
Roberto Clemente v. Babe Ruth at the National Portrait Gallery: Not even closeWashington Post (blog), August 25th
The people have spoken and a photo portrait of the late rightfielder Roberto Clemente will be featured at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, starting Tuesday. The honored image could have been that of Babe Ruth or Sandy Koufax, but neither...Read more
Pirates' Starling Marte robs Giants' Brandon Crawford of home runSportingNews.com, August 22nd
Roberto Clemente, a fast man in the field, squeezed in a quick shave in the Pittsburgh Pirate dressing room, June 2, 1965, during a rain spell that interrupted the Pirates 4-0 victory over Philadelphia. It was the Pirates 12th straight victory, but at...Read more
Green: Clemente, not Mays, deserves title of greatestThe Detroit News, August 22nd
Roberto Clemente might not have been the perfect baseball player. But no other player in the game's 140 seasons has been closer to perfection. Not Ty Cobb. Not Babe Ruth. Not Willie Mays. Not even Mike Trout, the Irreplaceable. It is a personal opinion...Read more
Pittsburgh Pirates icon Roberto Clemente to be honored by SmithsonianUPI.com, August 19th
19 (UPI) -- A photo of baseball legend and Pittsburgh's own Roberto Clemente will grace the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian announced. Clemente, who tallied 3,000 hits in his 18-year career, was the first Latino to win a World...Read more
Roberto Clemente Bests the Babe, Koufax for Smithsonian HonorNBCNews.com, August 18th
Baseball legend Roberto Clemente was the fan favorite in a three-way contest held by the Smithsonian, besting two of the sport's other greats, Babe Ruth and Brooklyn/LA Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax. As a result, Clemente's photo will hang in the ...Read more
Costs to rehabilitate the public pool in Roberto Clemente Park will go up ...Newsday, August 10th
The discovery of the estimated 50,000 tons of contaminated materials at Roberto Clemente Park pushed back Islip's plans to rehabilitate the pool there by at least two summers -- and potentially will raise costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars. The...Read more