Fresh to the hobby and headlining the Mile High Card Company March auction is a 1972 Major League Baseball All-Star ring presented to Hall of Fame legend Roberto Clemente. “He was one of the most beloved players in the game’s history” said MHCC President and CEO Brian Drent, “and probably had many more accolades headed his way, but the ring we are offering in our auction is, unfortunately, the last reward that Clemente received. His untimely passing was devastating to the entire baseball community but particularly to the citizens of his native Puerto Rico.”
Competing in his 18th major league campaign, the 37-year old Clemente was still one of the best hitters in the National League, selected to play in his 12th all-star game while entering the break with 8 homers, 42 RBI and a .310 batting average. Having missed two weeks of the season due to injury, Clemente returned to the Pirates lineup on July 23rd and drove in the winning run in a 3-2 victory over Cincinnati. Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh was selected as the skipper to represent the National League in the midsummer classic that took place two days later and decided to hold his star outfielder in reserve to allow him to rest, so Clemente never entered the game.
As for the ring, presented to Clemente by commissioner Bowie Kuhn, a Claret Red Linde Star ruby is set in the center with “All Star 1972” engraved on the left side and the word “Baseball” with an MLB insignia on the right. Matching 1972 All-Star rings of Tony Kubek and Luis Aparicio that have been sold in the past, the Clemente ring has a stamped “14K” and engraved “7-25-72 R. C.” in the interior of the band. It was only 5 months later that Clemente was tragically killed in a New Year’s Eve plane crash while delivering emergency food and medical supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. A truly stunning piece of baseball history and the last honor to be bestowed upon an amazing baseball player but an ever greater humanitarian.
With the possible exception of Mickey Mantle, there is no other player in the post-war era more in demand among collectors than Roberto Clemente, but game-used material and league awards given to the Latin sensation come around very sporadically. A recent auction of material consigned by the family of Clemente netted the following results: a 1967 National League silver batting championship award that sold for $493,500 ($180,000 more than Mickey Mantle’s 1956 award from his Triple Crown season), 1960 World Series jersey that sold for $411,450, 1960 Pirates World Series ring that netted $352,500 and 1971 Pirates World Series ring that auctioned for $381,875. No all-star rings were featured, and other than the 1972 ring in the MHCC March auction, there are no documented sales of any other Roberto Clemente All-Star rings. The auction begins on Monday, March 4th and concludes on Thursday, March 21st.