An American Hobby: Baseball Memorabilia – Roberto Clemente’s 1955 Topps Rookie Card
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Saturday, April.27, 2013
MLB Reports: We are pleased to present you with Baseball Author Lee Edelstein as the newest writer with us at the Reports. Lee will be providing us with great stories about baseball memorabilia on a regular basis.
An American Hobby
This week’s article features a member of the 3,000 Hit Club.
Roberto Clemente is a beloved figure in baseball history, one of the greatest defensive right fielders of all time, and, in many ways, a pioneer – the Jackie Robinson of Hispanic and Latin ballplayers.
While Robinson faced the monumental hurdle of integrating baseball, Clemente’s challenges included overcoming pervasive language and cultural barriers.
Consider this – he is the first Latin American in the Hall of Fame, the first Hispanic ballplayer to win a World Series as a starter (1960), win an MVP award (1966), and win a World Series MVP Award (1971).
He played in the era of Aaron, Mays, and Mantle and, for much of his career, was under-appreciated.
Clemente played 18 seasons for the Pirates. He was a twelve time All-Star, won twelve Gold Gloves (tied with Willie Mays for most all-time), led the NL in Batting four seasons, and had a lifetime Batting Average of .317. In his last Plate Appearance of the 1972 season, he hit a Double off of Jon Matlack of the NY Mets for his 3,000th hit.
As fate would have it, it turned out to be the last regular season at-bat of his illustrious career when, later that year, he was killed in a plane crash while delivering emergency supplies to the victims of a massive earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua.
Clemente is only the second player (Gehrig) to have the mandatory five-year waiting period waived for election to the HOF. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked him #20 on the list of the 100 greatest ballplayers of all time.
Clemente is a Pittsburgh icon and considered their second greatest ballplayer in franchise history after Honus Wagner. When the Pirates built their new ballpark (PNC Park), they made the Right Field wall exactly twenty-one feet high in honor of Roberto’s uniform number.
The irony of it all is Roberto Clemente never should have worn a Pirates uniform. He should have been a Brooklyn Dodger. Here’s the story.
Clemente was originally signed by the Dodgers and sent to play for the Montreal Royals in 1954. That’s the same minor league team where Jackie Robinson started. The Dodgers knew they had a budding super-star in the young but somewhat raw Clemente.
But they had two big problems. The first was they already had a bunch of colored ballplayers on the major league roster (Joe Black, Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, Jim Gilliam and Sandy Amoros, in addition to Jackie Robinson) and the Dodger brain trust was sensitive to adding another black ballplayer who also happened to be Hispanic.
The second problem was the rules of baseball at that time left rookies on Minor League rosters unprotected. Unless put on the major league roster, a rookie could be drafted by another team. Faced with this dilemma, the Dodgers directed the Royals to play Clemente sparingly, hoping, in essence, to hide him from the competition.
Their strategy didn’t work. In November, 1954, the Pirates made Clemente the first pick of the Rookie Draft. The rest is histor.Dodger fans can only dream of what might have been – an outfield of Snider, Clemente, and Furillo.
Though gone from baseball for forty years, Roberto Clemente’s popularity continues to grow. There is no clearer evidence of this than the soaring value of Clemente memorabilia. At a record-setting auction in May, 2012, a number of the finest (PSA grade 10 – gem-mint) Topps rookie cards sold for record prices. Clemente’s card topped the list:
· Roberto Clemente (1955) – $432,000
· Hank Aaron (1954) – $357,000
· Ernie Banks (1954) – $142,000
· Al Kaline (1954) – $88,000
· Harmon Killebrew (1955) – $59,000
As a kid, I had all of these cards. As a matter of fact, I had duplicates and triplicates of them. I flipped them, traded them, practically slept with them. I did everything but keep them. Just like most everyone else. And that’s why they’re so valuable today. Got any of these cards lying around?
Do you have any Roberto Clemente memorabilia – let us know!
So, if you haven’t done so lately, check your attic, closets, and other likely places where your old cards might be lurking.
***The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com or their partners***
A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Baseball Memorabilia Enthusiast’ Lee Edelstein for preparing today’s featured article. Lee was born and raised in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York.
He inherited his love of baseball from his dad. The game has been Lee’s constant companion since he was seven years old – when his dad took him to see his first ball game at Ebbets Field. This was followed by a brief and largely unsuccessful Little League career. While he wasn’t all that good on the ball field he became an ALL-Star at collecting baseball cards.
His collection is still alive today after surviving many scares over the years. Lee was also much better at business than playing baseball. He was good enough that he was able to retire and pursue his other passion – writing about baseball!
Chin Music is his first novel. He is hard at work on his second, Mound Music. You can read a full overview and find links to purchase here and also check out a quick synopsis in the picture below. Feel Free to follow Lee on Twitter and chat about the game of baseball. Follow @chinmusicstory
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Posted on April 27, 2013, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged @chinmusicstory on twitter, al kaline, baseball hall of fame, brooklyn dodgers, chin music the novel, don newcombe, duke snider, ernie banks, hank aaron, harmon killebrew, honus wagner, jackie robinson, jim gilliam, joe black, jon matlack, lee edelstein, mickey mantle, montreal royals, new york mets, pittsburgh pirates, pnc park, roberto clemente, roy campanella, sandy amoros, willie mays, www.chinmusicstory.com. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.