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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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PITTSBURGH PIRATE LEGEND ROBERTO CLEMENTE THIS WEEK AT LIVEAUCTIONTALK.COM

PITTSBURGH PIRATE LEGEND ROBERTO CLEMENTE THIS WEEK AT LIVEAUCTIONTALK.COM
Pittsburgh Pirate and Roberto Clemente related items; game used baseballs and souvenir poster; sold for $575. Photo courtesy of Hunt Auctions.
I grew up listening to Pittsburgh Pirate baseball on my transistor radio. I couldn’t see Roberto Clemente smack any of his homers over the fence in the deepest park in the majors, but I could hear them. Even louder was the roar of fans at Forbes Field as Clemente rounded third base on his way home.

Pittsburgh Pirate legend Roberto Clemente played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1955 through 1972. All of those games were for the Pirates.

To say Pittsburgh fans loved the man is an understatement.

Clemente won four batting titles and led the Pirates to world championships in 1960 and 1971. The right fielder was also the first Latino to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“He was always where he was supposed to be, backing up, taking balls off the most difficult fences. His arm was powerful, but it was also deadly accurate. Nobody ran on him and when they did run it was from ignorance, not knowledge,” said Bill Virdon, who played center field next to Clemente.

Clemente could run, throw, field and hit with near perfection. Seeing him play, even from the far left field stands was art in motion. The baseball diamond was his canvas, the bat his brush. Clemente could hit any pitch in any park. He was that good.

And Clemente knew as much about bats as any player on the field. He knew he had a good one when he banged two together and they sounded good. He could tell just from the sound recalled Rex Bradley, the Hillerich & Bradsby executive in charge of Louisville Slugger bat sales.

“He wanted the widest grains, always,” Bradley said. “And he knew the wide grains came in the summer growth, he was that precise.”

Clemente brought the same precision to every game he played. During his era no one was any better in right field. Clemente gave everything he had to the game. He played baseball like a man who knew he was running out of time.

He wasn’t selfish about his gift either. He was willing to mentor other Latin players coming up the ranks.

Clemente lived and died a hero.

He was on a humanitarian mission on Dec. 31, 1972, taking supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua when the DC-7 plane he was flying in went down off the coast of Puerto Rico. His wife and friends pleaded with him not to go. The weather was bad and the cargo plane was shaky. But Clemente wanted to make sure the victims received the supplies they needed since previous supplies had never reached them.

Clemente was 38 when he died.

In 2004 fans voted Clemente “Top Player” in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

On July 13, Hunt Auctions featured its Major League Baseball All-Star FanFest and auction in Anaheim, Calif. A number of Clemente items were featured in the sale. Here are some current values.

Roberto Clemente

Pittsburgh Pirate Related Items; including game used baseballs; circa 1960s; 3 souvenir premium photos, 8 inches by 10 inches; souvenir poster; $575.

Postcard; autographed; black-and-white; circa 1960s; signature rates 9 out of 10; $1,150.

Baseball bat; game used; autographed professional model; Adirondack model#302; circa 1961-67; 36 inches long; $6,900.

Baseball; autographed and single-signed; Wilson “Circuito Superior Aficionado de Puerto Rico;” signed across the sweet spot; dated 12/25/72; a few days before his death; $17,250.

Baseball Glove; game used; autographed professional model; Rawlings model TG12; Clemente lettering written in vintage black marker; rare; one of the finest Clemente examples to show up at auction; circa 1967; $115,000.

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