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1961-1964 Roberto Clemente Pro-Model Bat with Outstanding Provenance!
Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $7,800
Roberto Clemente H&B signature-model ("U1") bat dating from the 1961-1964 manufacturing period. Of all the Roberto Clemente pro-model bats REA has handled over the years, this bat is, without a doubt, one the finest examples we have ever offered, both with respect to the amount of use displayed and its remarkable provenance. Our consignor received this bat directly from Clemente at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh in the early 1960s while attending a game with his dad! The details concerning the history of the bat are conveyed in his accompanying typed-signed letter. In full:
To Whom It May Concern: I was seated next to the Pirate dugout with my dad. This was in the old Forbes Field and my dad’s company had box seats next to the Pirate dugout. I was either 8 or 9 years old at the time and I remember seeing all of the great Pirate players coming in and out of the dugout. And when the Great One Roberto Clemente came to the on deck circle he had his bat in his hands. He hit the bat against his cleats turned and handed the bat to me. It was then and still is one of my most treasured possessions. To whoever is lucky enough to get this bat, I hope they will treasure it as much as I did.
The bat, which measures 36 inches in length and weighs 32.2 ounces, is not cracked, and displays heavy use along its entire length, including a plethora of ball marks, grain checking, bluish-green rack marks, and a few cleat marks. There is a smudge of green marker on the knob which is neither a letter nor a numeral (meaning unknown). According to the H&B factory records as presented in Vince Malta’s definitive resource guide, A Complete Reference Guide Louisville Slugger Professional Player Bats (Black Diamond Publications, LLC, Concord, California, 2007), Clemente ordered 36-inch model U1 bats every season during the four year span 1961-1964. However, the only year in which he ordered bats that correspond to the offered bat’s weight were in 1963. The records show that Clemente ordered 36-inch model U1 bats weighing both 32 and 33 ounces that season. (In each of the other three seasons between 1961 and 1964 the lightest bats Clemente ordered were 34 ounces.) Our consignor recalled that he was either eight or nine years old at the time he received this bat, which, given his age (61), fits perfectly with the 1963 dating of this bat. Clemente enjoyed another banner season in 1963, finishing the season with a .320 average, 17 home runs, and 76 RBI.
It is interesting to note that this is not the first time we have heard of Clemente offering one of his bats to a fan at a game. In our April 2014 auction we sold a 1972 Clemente bat (Lot 25) with a similar first-person narrative from our consignor recounting how he obtained the bat personally from the Hall of Fame outfielder while attending a Pirates game. The fact that Clemente sometimes gave away his game bats to fans is not surprising given his charitable nature. A great humanitarian as well as an accomplished ballplayer, Clemente was known for helping others and he once said “If you have the opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on this earth.” Tragically, Clemente ultimately gave his life helping others. On December 31, 1972, Clemente died in a plane crash 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 an outstanding Roberto Clemente bat in all respects, dating from the prime of his career, 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. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $5,000/$10,000+. SOLD FOR $7,800
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