Roberto Clemente's bat from game seven of the 1960 World Series was auctioned last Thursday at the National Sports Collectors Convention held at Baltimore Oriole's Camden Yards ballpark. The bat used by the legendary right fielder slugger sold for $41,825, but that is the least interesting thing about it.
Clemente's bat was not pulled from any hall of fame archive or museum, no. It turned up in the attic of a Pittsburgh family, the late father of which Clemente personally bestowed his autographed lumber during the aftermath and fan-filled chaos following the Pirates' World Series win over the New York Yankees.
Clifford Baxter, a Pittsburgh policeman assigned to crowd control duty at the Pirates' then home turf, Forbes Field, came into the Baxter-family kitchen saying, "Hey, guys look what I have. I got this bat at the game and the Pirates won. I got the bat from Clemente," recalls Andrew Baxter, son, who was 11 at the time.
A once prized, spur of the moment possesion, Clemente's bat eventually wound up in the Baxter family's attic among years of neglected family treasures. Not having grown up as baseball fans, the brothers never thought twice about the bat's potential worth.
Clifford Baxter died in 1972 -- eerily enough, the same year as Clemente -- and only after their mother's passing in 2012 did Andrew and his two younger brothers, Denny and Clifford Jr., come across the bat while cleaning out the attic of their parents' home.
What was unusual about the bat was the name stamped on it. It read "Momen Clemente," which the brothers later learned was a childhood nickname of the right field slugger. Always pensive and deep within his own thoughts, Clemente would respond to others' questions or remarks with "Momentito," which translates to "Hold on a second."
It was this unique stamp that allowed Jonathan Sheier, lead cataloger for Heritage Sports Collectibles in Dallas, to identify the Baxter's Clemente bat as a genuine piece of sports memorabilia. Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the makers of the Louisville Slugger who keep detailed records of players' bats each season, reinforced the bat's authenticity. Length, weight, handle taper, wood type, knob type and barrel stamp confirmed the bat actually did belong to Clemente during the 1960 season, though it is unknown whether or not the Baxter bat was used by Clemente to hit an RBI single in the eighth inning of the World Series' game seven.
Despite the bat's newly acquired value, the Baxters feel no attachment to their father's gift and put Clemente's bat up for auction with an internet bid starting at $22,000.
When asked about their father's reaction to the bat's value if he were alive today, Andrew Baxter said, "My father would have been tickled to find out that this thing is worth what it's worth. I could see him jumping up and down."