Roberto Clemente built one of the most dignified and legendary legacies the game has ever seen, by dint of (exactly) 3000 hits and a slew of awards over an 18-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, punctuated by his death on New Year’s Eve of 1972 while flying on a cargo plane to deliver supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.

He appeared on plenty of baseball cards during his career, too — 254, in fact, according the PSA Master Set listing.

But as revered as Clemente was, and became, there was a stretch there when card companies — Topps in particular — insisted on calling him “Bob.”

Take a gander at his 1962 Topps card for an example:

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Just doesn’t seem right, at least from the perspective of a fan (me) who never saw Clemente play or even in a live interview, but who has always admired his accomplishments on and off the field.

He’s Roberto, darn it!

And you know who else properly referred to Clemente as Roberto, even way back in the Bob Days of 1962?

Well, to find the answer, you have to dig into the very dignified, very sophisticated world of … hot dogs.

That’s right, the 1962 Sugardale Wieners set managed to do what Topps could not/would not, namely maintain Roberto Clemente’s name:

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Now, Sugardale sort of had an unfair advantage, seeing as how Clemente was by far the biggest star in the 22-card set that featured members of the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Here is the complete checklist, in case you’re interested:

1 Barry Latman
2 Gary Bell
3 Dick Donovan
4 Frank Funk
5 Jim Perry
7 Johnny Romano
8 Ty Cline
9 Tito Francona
10 Bob Nieman
11 Willie Kirkland
12 Woodie Held
13 Jerry Kindall
14 Bubba Phillips
15 Mel Harder
16 Salty Parker
17 Ray Katt
18 Mel McGaha
19 Pedro Ramos
A Dick Groat
B Roberto Clemente
C Don Hoak
D Dick Stuart

So, OK the Pirates were relegated to the lettered cards, which means Clemente landed on card “number” B.

And, sure, there was no card number 6 because … wieners? I don’t know.

Finally, I’ll grant that these black-and-white beauties aren’t really beautiful in the classical sense, what with their utilitarian format and verbose prose and tiny headshots and copious advertising.

But it’s a 1962 Clemente card, and it says “Roberto.”

And it came from packages of “skinless wieners.” If that doesn’t say class, I don’t know what does!


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