Roberto Clemente Museum: The Great One Would Be Proud

The Roberto Clemente Museum is housed in the former Engine House 25 in Lawrenceville, PA.  Trust me when I say, YOU MUST SEE IT.   Make it a New Year’s resolution,  bucket list, whatever, but you must see it.

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Duane Rieder, the humble mastermind behind it all

Duane Rieder, the humble mastermind from Dubois, PA

Duane Rieder is the owner, curator, and driving force behind the museum.  Incredible doesn’t even begin to describe it.   As you know, Pittsburgh has incredible history as a baseball town.  The fact that one man, a photographer by trade, has gone to such great lengths and expense to preserve a vital portion of the legacy is remarkable.

I was impressed by the collection, but also saddened to find that for some reason the museum is such a secret.    The memorabilia collected on the walls solidfies Clemente as an icon.  We knew that.  

But to listen to the story of how the Roberto Clemente Musuem was established is frightening….important items of Clemente’s legacy were nearly lost.  

Fear not, with our help, Clemente can fortify his legacy for all time.  And perhaps one day, MLB will realize that Clemente’s number 21 should never be worn again. 

The museum won’t be easy for you to see, it isn’t open daily, you must make an appointment.  I don’t know Duane Rieder personally, but I want to help.  If your company is having a party, or if you are entertaining clients, hell, whatever the reason, hold it in this amazing time capsule. 

You won’t be disappointed.  (Engine House No. 25 even has a wine cellar, that makes excellent wine with California grapes.)

For the Pirate fan who has everything.

For the Pirate fan who has everything.

Years ago, Rieder came upon files that were salvaged from Pirate history at an auction.  The files were labeled CLEMENTE, ROBERTO. 

The files captivated him.  Letters from Roberto to the Pirates while serving in the military, contracts and other priceless items that begged to be shared with the world.  Luckily for us, Rieder had the vision to create something an entire city can be proud of for years to come.

Rieder was hired to create the calendar for the 1994 All-Star Game.  From this opportunity, he forged a relationship with the Clemente family.  He has worked with Roberto’s wife Vera and members of the family to create an awe inspiring collection and can be considered the family’s official archivist.  Some of the photographs you will see were taken from negatives found in the basement of the Clemente home. 

I am ashamed to admit that I had forgotten so much about Clemente, but thanks to The Roberto Clemente Museum, it all came rushing back. 

The fact that Clemente served in the Marine Corpsis here.  ESPN forgot his service as well, but here is a great gallery of former athletes from Joe Louis to Ted Williams that served our country.  

When you enter Engine House No. 25 you will see the impressive Clemente Angel photograph and a letter from Clemente to the Pirates when he was in the Corps.  Roberto asked the Pirates this question, “Can you send my baseball stuff down here?  The guys asked me to be on the team.”  There is also a photo of Clemente and his fellow Marines.

The famous Clemente "Angel" photo

The famous Clemente "Angel" .

Clemente was an incredible hitter

Clemente was an incredible hitter

The upstairs of the Clemente Musuem is packed with Pirate fan goodies.  A photo of longtime voice of the Pirates,  the Gunner  is conveniently placed on the window ledge, a suit worn by Clemente, and a contract that Clemente refused to sign for the TV series  “The Odd Couple.”  Why didn’t he sign it?  He would not ground into a triple play.  Take that Oscar Madison!  

In regard to the batting title I enjoyed this quote that I found….”After I failed to win the Most Valuable Player Award in 1960, I made up my mind I’d win the batting title in 1961 for the first time,” said Clemente.  

As you can see, Clemente did exactly that, hammering out a .351 batting average with 23 home runs.  He scored 100 runs and drove in 89. He led National League outfielders with 27 assists and won a Gold Glove for his fielding excellence for the first time. Clemente would win a Gold Glove every year for the rest of his career. 

Those dents in the silver bat, shown in the photo above?  Well they came from his kids playing with it of course.  I swear if you listen close, you can still hear their laughter.

The museum is a sanctuary of coolness. (I simply can’t do it any justice with this post, but if you want to see pictures I would be happy to email them to you.)

Manny and the staff

Manny and the staff

Clemente at work Clemente at work
The Gunner
The Gunner

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From the Rawlings contract, to the last jersey worn by Clemente and even some controvery that the Baseball Hall of Fame doesn’t have the bat from Clemente’s 3,000th hit, the Roberto Clemente museum has it all. 

Well, everything except Roberto.  But it sure feels like he is there. 

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Now I beg you to do your part to spread the word.  The Roberto Clemente Museum is truly amazing.  Much like Roberto was …

roberto gglove

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The Post Gazette did a story two years ago. Here is the link to check  out the Slideshow.

The Engine House was also visited by Lou Gehrig, many many years ago.  The Oct. 5, 1927, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that while Gehrig was in town for the World Series, the Iron Horse sneaked off to Engine House No. 25 “while the rest of the Yankees hobnob[bed] with the rich of Pittsburgh.”

Interesting research on Clemente at this post.Clemente Reveals Close Call with Kidnapers,” The Sporting News, August 22, 1970, p. 24.
In 1969, he claimed something else happened–a strange and scary incident. He did not tell the story in public until a year later, but Clemente said he was kidnapped while in San Diego. According to Clemente, he was walking back to the hotel where the Pirates were staying after going out to eat. He said four men forced him into a car at gunpoint. They took him to an isolated area and took his wallet and his All-Star Game ring. “This is where I figure they are going to shoot me and throw me in the woods,” he told Pittsburgh writer Bill Christine more than a year after the incident. “They already had the pistol inside my mouth.” Two of the men spoke Spanish, and Clemente talked to one of them in Spanish. After that, the men returned Clemente’s money and ring and brought him back to his hotel. They even gave Clemente back the bag of chicken he had purchased at the restaurant. He said he did not report the incident to the police.

Bob Costas visited the Roberto Clemente Museum.  He talks briefly in an interview at this link.

Topics: Roberto Clemente Museum

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