Sunday, March 13, 2011

1955 Topps #164 - Roberto Clemente

It's here. That is what the post title said when this card arrived in the mail. An absolute holy grail for baseball card collectors, and I owned it. This card is probably the jewel of the 1955 set, and here it is, being posted on my blog for, I think, the 4th time. The Roberto Clemente rookie card. As you can see, the card isn't in mint condition. No big deal. It is still a 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Card. Rookie Card should be capitalized in this instance. This is what collecting baseball cards is all about boys and girls. This is what set building is all about. Most sets have that one big rookie card. Some sets have two. God forbid you have one of those classic sets that has 3 or more.... 1955 Topps boasts an impressive rookie card lineup of: Clemente, Koufax, Killebrew, Boyer, Zimmer, etc. However, it is the Clemente that would be the Big Gold Belt of this set.
I remember looking at the auction on ebay one Saturday at the card shop, daring myself to bid. My good friend P.A. tellinh me I should go for it. Max texting me that I should do it. I placed a bid on the card, and it had about 15 minutes to go. I had to close the shop, so I did in record time and drove the 5 minutes to my parents' house. I asked my mom if I could get on her commputer, and she agreed, so I went in my parents' bedroom and put the auction on, thinking that I'd get outbid any second. Surprisingly, I was still in the lead with something like 30 seconds to go, and my dad comes in his room and says 'What are you doing on my computer?' 'Watching an auction end, Dad, 25 seconds to go...' 'Oh? You getting off after that?' 'Yeah Dad... hold on... HOLY CRAP I won it!!!' 'What'd you win?' 'I won a baseball card.' 'How much did you spend?'
I had won the auction for $238.75. The most I had ever spent on a single baseball card in my life.... Fearing my father's ridicule on how ridiculous it would be that I would spend that much on a single card, I sheepishly told him $238.75. He asked 'Was it worth it?' I said 'Oh, yeah, far more than that...' He chuckled and said 'Well, damn, it looks like we have an addiction to our hobbies don't we?' with which he then told me how much he had dropped on a racing engine earlier that day. Kind of made my $238.75 look like pennies. It made me happy, though, that my did didn't care a thing about baseball, and baseball cards, but he understood the feeling of finally getting that big thing you want for your collection.
Roberto Clemente (b. 1934 - d. 1972) played from 1955 to 1972 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. During a career that would be cut short one fateful night in December 1972, he amassed 3,000 hits, 240 home runs and a career batting average of .317. Known for his cannon of an arm, he had 276 assists in his career as a right fielder (1st all-time). Let's take a look at some of his accomplishments:
  • 3,000 career hits
  • .317 career batting average
  • 4-time batting champion (1961 - .351, 1964 - .339, 1965 - .329 and 1967 - .357)
  • Hit over .300 in 13 different seasons
  • 1966 NL MVP
  • 1971 World Series MVP
  • Won the World Series in 1960 and 1971 with the Pirates
  • Led the league in hits in 1964 (211) and 1967(209)
  • Had 200+ hits in 4 seasons
  • 12-time All Star
  • 12-time gold glove winner
  • Only player in history to hit an inside the park grand slam

Originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers (sorry Max), Clemente would later be drafted by the Pirates in what is now known as the Rule V draft.

Clemente was heavily involved in charity work. When the country of Nicaragua suffered a devastating earthquake on December 23, 1972, Clemente rushed to be of aid. The plane that Clemente had chartered on December 31, 1972 crashed almost immediately after takeoff, killing everyone on board. A few days later, the fuselage of the plane, and the body of the pilot were recovered. Manny Sanguillen, Clemente's close friend and teammate was the only Pirates player who did not attend Clemente's memorial service. He, instead, chose to dive into the waters off the coast of Puerto Rico in an attempt to find his fallen teammate. Clemente's body was never found. He was 38.



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