Roberto Clemente was the archetypal five-tool player. He could hit for power, average, run the bases, had a cannon arm and was as dependable as any outfielder the game has ever seen. He led the Pirates over the Baltimore Orioles in the 1971 World Series. On the final day of the 1972 season, he knocked his 3,000th hit, and there was no doubt that many more would be added to his record. Fate, however, dealt a cruel blow when, that following New Years Eve, he tragically perished in the service of delivering relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. In nearly every consideration, worthy baseball players must wait five years beyond retirement before their Hall of Fame induction. The rules were, of course, waived for Clemente, who was enshrined the very following year.
Presented is a Louisville Slugger Hillerich & Bradsby model U1M. Authenticated by PSA/DNA bats, it was graded a GU 9. Boosting this bats significance is the provenance letter that puts this very bat in the dugout of the 1971 Playoffs.
The provenance story:
This Roberto Clemente game used bat was originally acquired by my father, Charles Haley while working for WIIC-TV NBC in Pittsburgh. Andy Sohngen was the field stage manager at the station and a friend of the family at the time. He asked my father to volunteer as a runner for a few games during the playoffs in 1971. It was during one of these games that the Pirates equipment manager John Hallahan gave this bat along with several other game used items (bats, hats and jerseys) to my father.
Through our family’s relationship and conversations with Andy Sohngen we believe it was from the 1971 playoff home series against the Giants. This was the same time period our father needed to worked for Andy (as a runner for the games) and also developed a relationship with John Hallahan.
According to the Letter of Grading & Authenticity:
The Hillerich & Bradsby model U1M Roberto Clemente professional model bat exhibits evidence of outstanding use with a handle crack (central portion). There are many ball marks and stitch impressions are visible on all sides of the barrel. The ball marks include black ink transfers on the left barrel. Scoring can be seen on the left and back barrel. There are cleat impressions visible on all sides of the barrel. There’s a heavy coat of pine tar on the upper handle. The model number (U1M) is stamped into the knob. Clemente’s number (21) is written on the knob and barrel in black marker.
The scoring on the left and back barrel is a notable player characteristic. Barrel scoring was cataloged in the PSA database on several high graded Clemente game used bats. The scoring was executed in an effort to replicate the face of a golf club and add bottom spin and lift to the baseball. The “21” on the knob and top of the barrel is a Clemente characteristic as well. The style of the “21” is seen on many Clemente professional model game used bats from the 1960s and early 1970s.
The knob features the stamping “U1M”. The U1 model was a favorite of Clemente’s, first ordered by him in 1958. From 1963 until the end of his career, the model was one of three ordered by him. The U1, G105 and O16 each shared a large barrel and knobless handle. This “M” variation features a slightly modified barrel. The “M” variation is 1/16 of an inch smaller than the standard U1. The “M” notation doesn’t appear in the PBOR at the Louisville Slugger Museum. In all likelihood, the bat was a special order by Clemente and the “M” notation was overlooked. Often special requests by players, for slight modifications to models they were using, were provided by Louisville Slugger at no charge to the player or team. Prior to 1981, these special orders were not recorded on the players PBOR.
Authentication: Provenance Letter and PSA/DNA Game Used Bats Letter of Authentication & Grading. GU 9.