He was 37 years old, a time when most players were either retired or on the downside of their careers.
Not Roberto Clemente.
He led the Pittsburgh Pirates to the World Series in 1971, and then led them to a title by hitting safely in all seven games, including a home run off Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar in the deciding game.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day is from that October 45 years ago when Clemente took a break to sign a new box of baseballs. The 8×9 horizontal wirephoto shows Clemente in the Pittsburgh clubhouse, adding his signature. It’s one of hundreds of photos being offered in the company’s September auction, which concludes Saturday.
If they remained single signed Clemente baseballs, the current value of the box of 12 new baseballs with a clear ink signature would easily surpass $200,000.
The photo includes a clipping of the caption from the newspaper in which it appeared. Philip Wellington Dorsey III, who is holding the box, was Clemente’s friend and valet from the time the great outfielder joined the Pirates in 1955. Dorsey handled Clemente’s fan mail, served as a business manager, drove him wherever he needed to go and even babysat for the family as Clemente and his wife Vera raised their children.
The final game of the World Series took place October 17 and the caption attached to the back bears a file stamp of October 19, 1971. Steve Blass outdueled Cuellar that day, tossing a complete game four-hitter as the Pirates won their first World Series since 1960 with a 2-1 victory in Game 7 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.