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Lot # 25 (of 1866)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1972 Roberto Clemente Signed Game-Used Bat - With Original-Owner Provenance!

Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $10,073

Roberto Clemente H&B signature-model ("U1") bat dating from the the 1968-1972 manufacturing period. Of all the Roberto Clemente pro-model bats REA has handled over the years, this bat is, without doubt, the finest example we have ever offered. The reason for that is the bat's remarkable provenance, which is corroborated by Clemente's blue-ink signature on the barrel. Our consignor, who was a personal friend of Clemente, received this bat directly from the Pirates star outfielder in 1972, which, unfortunately, turned out to be the final season of his career. The story of how he obtained it, which is recorded in an accompanying one-page, typed-signed, notarized letter, is such a wonderful narrative that we feel compelled to include it here in full.

In the late 1960's, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Don Sutton and Manny Mota occasionally stopped in where I worked ("I was known as "Donny the Shirt Guy") to buy shirts. During one of their visits, I mentioned my lifelong support of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Soon after, Don and Manny were kind enough to introduce me to Roberto Clemente the next time the Pirates played the Dodgers at home in Los Angeles.

Roberto and I quickly became friends and kept contact over the next few years, making sure to get together for dinner whenever he came to Los Angeles. Towards the end of the Pirates regular season in 1972, I attended one of the Dodgers/Pirates series games. Roberto knew where I was sitting in the stands and once he finished at bat, he came off the field and went to the dugout. Roberto then emerged from the dugout a minute later and knowing where I was sitting, he approached the fence and motioned for me to come down. As Roberto handed me his game bat, I could see that it was now autographed. The reaction from the crowd in the stands was incredulous and was something along the lines of,
"Who the heck is that guy and why did Clemente just give him his game bat?"

I can say with certainty that this bat, which was personally used in at least one game (possibly many more) and signed by Clemente in 1972, is 100% authentic. The bat has been in my possession since 1972 and the autograph of Roberto can clearly be seen on this bat.

The bat itself (measuring 36.5 inches in length and weighing 37.4 ounces), which is not cracked, is a simply perfect Clemente bat from the period. Heavy use is displayed along its entire length, including ball marks, light grain checking, and a long, red rack mark. Clemente has signed the bat in blue ink on the sweet spot of the barrel. Although the signature is somewhat faded, it is still clearly legible and grades "4." Unfortunately, only vestiges of Clemente's salutation remain (due to fading and minor flaking to the finish); however, from the few letters we can make out, we believe it read "With Best Wishes." (Of the few other Clemente signed bats we have seen, all from this same era, each had either that salutation or simply "Best Wishes.")

Based upon our consignor's account, this bat must have been used on either Tuesday, August 15, 1972, or Thursday, August 17, 1972. The Pirates' last road trip to Los Angeles in 1972, for a three-game series, took place between August 15th and August 17th; however, Clemente did not play in the second game of the series, on August 16th. Clemente pinch-hit in both the first and last games of the series (on August 15th and on August 17th, respectively), failing to get a hit in either at bat. Obviously, this bat was used in one of those two plate appearances. Documented Clemente game-used bats, let alone autographed examples, are exceedingly rare. The fact that this bat was one of the last ones he ever used (the Pirates only played forty-four more games that year; Clemente did not appear in all of them) only adds to its significance. A great humanitarian as well as an accomplished ballplayer, Clemente died tragically in a plane crash on December 31, 1972, while flying relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The following year he became the first Hispanic ballplayer elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (the Hall waived its normal five-year waiting period in his honor). This is a most extraordinary Roberto Clemente bat in all respects, dating from his final season, autographed, and with a rare and ideal provenance of being presented (in the middle of a game, no less!) directly from Clemente's hands to our consignor as a personal gift. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $10,000+. SOLD FOR $10,073

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