Forty years ago this evening saw the far too premature end to the life of Roberto Clemente. I am not here to recant the heroic and tragic events of that night; far better writers have done a far better job of that than I could ever imagine. What I am going to do is run down my Roberto Clemente collection and what it means to me. Celebrating a man's life is always far more important than lamenting his death.
I am proud that I was way ahead of the curve when it comes to collecting Clemente.
This page shows card from 1998, when Topps commemorated the shit out of him for the 25th anniversary of his death. I got into Clemente more than a decade earlier when I saw a TWIB report on him. This was when I was around 10-11 and pre internet, so I (gasp!) had to go to the library to look up the stats and story of the man. Even at that jaded age, I was impressed.
Some of these cards are from that late 80's bygone era, some of them are more recent. I always enjoyed getting a retro card of Clemente - 1987 was a good year for that.
On this page you will see Edgard Clemente, the nephew of Roberto. His major league career didn't amount to much, but he did do a lot in the minor and Mexican leagues. He adapted/adopted the name Clemente before the 1998 as a tribute (and some would say publicity stunt).
OK, so those are the pages I have of Clemente, they are nice but nothing spectacular. Well, Let's go a little deeper into the shoe boxes and see what else awaits us.
First thing you see is the one game used Roberto I own:
This card is very very shiny (the scan does it no justice) it is also from his game used pants. Sassy.
There are 40+ cards in my faux-vintage hall of famer box, and I am gonna show you every last one:
I love that Stadium Club card, I believe the ladies over at Dinged Corners were nice enough to send me that a few years back. You also can see my Triple Threads addiction well represented. That sepia Clemente in the upper right corner looks tremendous. That lower right picture is from his 1971 Topps card (or from the same
group of pictures) The lower left from his 1969. I didn't have to look that up.
I'd like to get that Upper Deck Masterpiece in a better color than the Green, I think the black might be a good choice, since I don't think they make a gaudy yellow. His very upright batting stance is on full display in this group. Those bottom three are quite a handsome triumvirate.
A couple of paintings in this group, also a shot of him showing off his arm - you would think there would be more pictures like this to represent his legendary cannon. I picked up that 1954 Topps Archives card in a dime box years and years
ago. That is a $5 card now all day long, if you can find one. Oh, and I do love
those mini Diamond King puzzles; I believe that came out of the 1987 The Rookies set.
Some cards from 2000-01, when Upper Deck went nuts with their faux-vintage phase. I have never seen that picture of him holding up a page with "3,000" on it; it certainly echoes another famous picture. And you see some of the Topps reprints they did, here in Finest form. That 1956 reprint is a refractor...more on the '56 later.
Look! More reprints. The 1973 card is seminal, and I have both the Archives and insert reprint of that one. I also have the rookie reprint from the Archives and the Rookie of the Week card from a few years back that is similar but very different.
Wait? Are you tired of the fake retro stuff? OK, lets dive into the true vintage shoebox and see what there is to see.
Here we have a real copy of that 1973 Topps. I once built the 1972 Topps set, so these are the second copies of these cards I have owned. I was always fond of his 1972 card because of that 1987 Turn back the Clock card.
What else? How about 1965?
Or a handsome 1964?
I got this 1962 Topps card for a song years ago.
I never understood why, in 1957, Topps started calling Roberto "Bob" - was this a colloquial choice? He was called Bob and Bobby by his teammates and the announcers. Was it xenophobic? The 50's were not a good decade to be a person of color in America. I have never gotten a good answer to this question. So anyway, from 1957 to 1969, he was known as Bob, which I always thought was dumb since Roberto Clemente is such a lyrical name.
What is the oldest Clemente I own? I have his 1956 Topps, which is just a fantastic card. I gushed about it here a while back. Let's look at it again.
I never get tired of this card.
I once owned this card:
I had to sell it years ago to pay the bills. So sad.
Last but not least, I own a good dozen baseball jerseys. Only one of them does not depict a Mets or Red Sox player:
I bought this jersey in 1996 in the Bergen Mall. It has a mustard stain on the front from a Kahn's hot dog in Shea Stadium (not shown). I like to wear this jersey whenever I am at a 'neutral' baseball situation. I also wore it to a pirate themed party once when I didn't have time to make a costume - most people found that quite amusing.
Anyway, that is my Roberto Clemente player collection. Clemente the Man often overshadows Clemente the Player. He has been deified in some circles, perhaps a little too much, but in a way, his deeds both on and off the field cannot be overstated. He was a great player and he was a great humanitarian. That he was taken from us too soon is a loss to us all. Godspeed Roberto.
I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year. I am still getting over a cold and I don't particularly like to go out on what I consider "amateur night" so I will be home tonight watching bad movies. But if you do go out and have a good time, please get home safe and do not, under any circumstances, drive drunk. I want to see you all in 2013!