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Roberto Clemente, who perished in a plane crash in 1972 while en route to Nicaragua, possessed one of the most desirable signatures in baseball. Obviously, his autograph is scarce for the above-mentioned reason but it is also tough as a result of something else.
During the final five or six seasons of his career (1967-1972), Clemente's assistant and valet (Phil Dorsey) signed a large amount of his fan mail. What is found in the marketplace today is Dorsey's signature, though once thought to be Clemente's. Discerning the difference between the two signatures can be quite difficult. In the 1950s, Clemente featured a long flowing signature on one plane, "Roberto Clemente." By 1960, Clemente started to stack his signature with his first name above his last. Clemente's signature is most commonly found on team baseballs, scorecards and 3x5s. Single-signed baseballs are found, but at a hefty price. His personal checks, most originating from the 1970s, can be found but, they too, come at a premium price.
Roberto Clemente Walker (1934-1972) is widely considered the greatest Latin player to ever put on a Major League Baseball uniform with a .317 career batting average, a .973 fielding percentage and a record 254 career assists for a right fielder. In his native Puerto Rico, Clemente played for the Santurce Cangrejeros ("Crabbers") before signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. While coming off the bench for the Montreal Royals, Brooklyn’s minor league affiliate, the Pittsburgh Pirates took Roberto in the 1954 Rule 5 Draft offering him the opportunity to play everyday and win the right field position at the 1955 spring training. Clemente never played a minor league game again as he easily won the right field job and batted .255 with 121 hits and 47 RBI as a rookie. Though he hit .311 in 1956, Roberto’s break out year came in 1960 when he earned his first of 15 All-Star Game selections after batting .314 with 16 home runs and 94 RBI. He helped lead the Pirates to their first World Series title that year as they captured MLB’s top prize in dramatic fashion with Bill Mazeroski’s Game 7 walk-off series clinching home run. Clemente hit .310 with three RBI in the 1960 World Series. In 1961, Roberto hit 23 home run and hit .351 to lead the National League for the first of four times during the 1960s.
He was a perennial vote-getter for National League MVP and in 1966, after leading the league in batting average the previous two seasons, won the award with a .317 average, 31 home runs and 119 RBI while also posting 17 outfield assists. The 12-time Rawlings Gold Glove recipient played his entire career with Pittsburgh (1955-1972) and helped lead them to a second World Series title in 1971. Roberto Clemente collected 3,000 hits, hit 240 home runs, had 1.305 RBI and batted .317 over 18-year seasons with the Buccos. Above and beyond his numbers at the plate, Bob possessed a powerful and precise arm that helped him achieve a .973 fielding percentage with 4,696 putouts. Clemente was heavily involved in humanitarian efforts in the third world Latin American countries and was killed on December 31, 1972 assisting in delivering aid to Nicaragua after an earthquake devastated the small country. Major League Baseball presents The Roberto Clemente Award to the player that best exemplifies Clemente’s humanitarian efforts. Roberto Clemente Walker was posthumously elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.