Saturday, November 28, 2009

Card a Day Post-1994 Action Packed Roberto Clemente

Well, this is my first random card of the day post. It came from Alfredo “Wicked” Ortega and features my favorite player of all-time, Roberto Clemente. It comes from the 1994 Action Packed set, the 3D cards. Not 3D like Sportsflics, but actually 3 dimensional, like a map… Thanks to Wicked, this is the 5th Clemente I have from the Action Packed set; I don’t know how many cards he has in there. I was actually collecting in ’94 and I ripped some Action Packed, but I don’t think I ever pulled this one. Anyway, I chose this as the first Card O the Day card because it shows Clemente in black and white as a teenager, playing for the Santurce Crabbers in the Puerto Rican Winter League. The Crabbers have been a team since the 1930’s and many legendary ball players have played there, most notably Hall of Famers Ray Dandridge, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson, Robin Yount, Reggie Jackson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Leon Day, Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente. In Espanol, llaman el equipo Cangrejeros de Santurce…
Roberto Clemente played for Santurce in 1954 as a teenager, prior to his joining the Pittsburgh Pirates. He teamed with Willie Mays, Buster Clarkson, Bob Thurman and George Crowe on the Crabbers squad who were known as Escuadrón Del Pánico, which translates to Panic Squad. That team won the Crabbers their 4th Caribbean World Series, but Crabbers teams would go on to win a total of 12 Caribbean crowns-the most of any team in baseball history. The front of the card shows a young Bobby Clemente in the Santurce jersey, wearing his trademark #21. The card celebrates the 40th anniversary of Clemente’s US MLB debut in 1954. The back of the card is titled “Hidden Talent” and gives mention to the fact that Clemente was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers organization as a 17-year-old free agent in 1952 while he was still playing for Santurce. As a 19-year-old Clemente played for the Montreal Royals (AAA) in 1954-he batted .257 with 2 homers in 148 at-bats for the AAA team. The Pirates drafted him from the Royals and made him a big leaguer and as a 20-year-old in 1955 he took over as the Pirates starting right fielder. His rookie year stats-.255/5/47 weren’t too impressive, but the Pirates could see his talent and in his second year he topped the 300 mark (.311) and by 1960 he would lead the Bucs to a World Series title and in 1961 he won his first of four batting titles with a .355 mark. Roberto Clemente would go on to play for 18 seasons in the big leagues and put up some HUGE career numbers. He played what would be his final season in 1972 for Pittsburgh. He batted .312 with 10 home runs and led Pittsburgh to another NL East title, but they would fall to Cincinnati in the NLCS that year. During that offseason Clemente died tragically at age 37 on December 31, 1972 in a plane crash at sea. He was en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. His stellar career was cut short, but he died doing what he loved, doing what he always did-helping those in need. Had he not perished in that crash there is no telling what he could have accomplished career wise. As is, he retired a 12-time All Star and a 12-time Gold Glover. He won 4 batting titles and two World Series Championships. He owned a .362 career WS batting average and he was elected the 1971 World Series MVP when he hit .414 with 2 homers to power the Pirates over the Orioles that year. Clemente had showed no signs of slowing down prior to his untimely death-he batted over 300 for the 13th time in his career and many (including me) believe that he would have amassed over 3,500 hits and 1,500 RBIs. His final numbers include a .317 career batting average with 3000 hits, 240 homeruns and 1305 RBIs. He was elected (posthumously) into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, the year after his death. Clemente was the first Latin born player inducted into the Hall and he was also the first Latin American player to start for a World Series winning team, to win the MVP and to win the WS MVP. Thanks to Alfredo for all of the awesome Action Packed cards of my favorite player of all-time, whom I consider the greatest ballplayer ever and one of the finest human beings ever. Clemente’s career stats can be found here. As a Latin-American baseball fan, it was natural to idolize Clemente as a kid for me, even though he died on the day I was born and I never got to see him play the game-the stories, books and footage that I have seen of him blows me away. When I got back into card collecting this year I decided that collecting his cards would be one of my top priorities. I currently have 8 different Clemente cards from the 1990’s and beyond. I do not presently own any of his original Topps cards. Am I alone in loving this card? This is not up for trade by the way, but most cards in future posts will be. Thanks again to Wicked Ortega for hooking me up with this card! Go Rays! Don't forget to check out my contest here, vote for the most iconic rookie baseball card of the 1980's and WIN IT! I love this hobby! Troll out.

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