Thursday, March 13, 2014

#478 Roberto Clemente

This is the last card to be posted from my 1959 Topps set. And this Roberto Clemente is one of my favorites. It doesn't show him an any sort of action pose which might reflect his skills but maybe more fittingly it's a portrait that has him with a half-smile focused off-camera. It's in 'fair' condition at best but given what they go for I think I'll pass up a chance to upgrade it. Hard to say where the shot was taken. Many Pirate cards have pictures from Seals Stadium in San Francisco but I get a vague 'L.A. Memorial Coliseum vibe' with this one.

You may have noticed that the card shows Roberto Clemente's first name as 'Bob'. I've always referred to as 'Roberto' so I'll go against my 'use what the card uses' convention and call him 'Roberto' here. I know Bob Prince called him 'Bobby' but... Bob Prince, well.... the less said the better. I understand that early in his career he was frequently referred to as 'Bob' but I have read that he didn't like it.

Just about anything I can say about the career and life of Roberto Clemente has been said in many places already by far, far better writers than me. Here are just a few highlights and a few memories of him.

From Clemente's Baseball Reference Bullpen page:

Notable Achievements

  • 12-time NL All-Star (1960-1967 & 1969-1972)
  • NL MVP (1966)
  • 1971 World Series MVP
  • 12-time NL Gold Glove Winner (1961-1972)
  • 4-time NL Batting Average Leader (1961, 1964, 1965 & 1967)
  • 2-time NL Hits Leader (1964 & 1967)
  • NL Triples Leader (1969)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1961, 1966 & 1967)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (1966 & 1967)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 3 (1961, 1966 & 1967)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 4 (1961, 1964, 1966 & 1967)
  • Won two World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1960 & 1971)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1973
I'm not sure what else there is to say after reading that list. I won't try to sing Clemente's praises but rather I'll recall my three most powerful memories of him.

In the summer I moved to Houston I saw the Pirates in the Astrodome a few times. One night (and I can't find the exact game) Clemente grabbed a fly with a runner on second and threw the ball on an absolute rope to third to keep the runner from moving up. Sounds routine but to see that throw and hear the crowd buzz, well, you knew that Clemente was just special.

Next is a catch he made in 1969 at Shea Stadium. In a game that was to be the only no-hitter I've ever witnessed in person he went full speed across the right-field line as he grabbed a shot by the Met's Wayne Garrett in the 6th inning. I remember him hitting the railing along the stands after the catch.

And finally I remember how he just whipped the Orioles in the 1971 World Series. I was so happy when the O's came back to tie the Series up in Game Six in Baltimore. I figured my Birds had it won with ace Mike Cuellar starting on Sunday at home. But when Clemente homered to put the Bucs ahead I got a bad feeling that he was destined to have another World Series ring. And I was right.

Here is his Hall of Fame bio:
Roberto Clemente Walker's pride and humanitarianism won him universal admiration. Despite an unorthodox batting style, the Pirates great won four batting crowns and amassed 3,000 hits. He was equally brilliant in right field, where he displayed a precise and powerful arm. Clemente earned National League MVP honors in 1966, but achieved his greatest fame in the 1971 World Series, in which he batted .414. Tragically, Clemente's life ended at age 38 -- the victim of a plane crash while flying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.
Some other Clemente related links of interest:
Some Clemente pics from Corbis' Clemente page:

That's the last card, but not the last post on this blog. I'll have a wrap-up tomorrow and maybe a few things brewing down the road. As always, thanks for reading!


  1. Great job on the blog! I've enjoyed reading about players from a bygone era.

    1. Thanks! btw....I've tried several times to 'join' or follow or whatever they call it your '78 Topps blog. Google or maybe Blogger is making me crazy and won't send the request through. I'll keep trying. I wanted to make sure you knew I read them all.

  2. Thanks for this blog. It's a great way to learn about players from the past, as well as commemorate one of Topps' greatest sets.

    BTW, if you haven't seen/don't have it, check out Ronnie Joyner's "Hardball Legends: 333 Illustrated Baseball Biographies". It's available on Amazon and seems like something right up your alley.

    1. Thanks, Eric... for the input and recommendations.

  3. Tipping my cap to you for all your effort putting this together and sharing it with all of us.

    1. Thanks, I got more out of it than I put in. I had these last few posts done a few weeks back so I haven't done any digging in awhile. I miss it already.

  4. Nicely done, Roberto!

    (Funny how Topps gave Clemente a very pedestrian card #478. Not even ending in a 5!)

    1. Topps was very consistent in their inconsistencies.

  5. Thank you for the trip down memory lane. Learned a few things as well. Good luck to you.