The Great One's final years saw many milestones—among them, a new stadium in 1970 (Three Rivers); a cutting-edge new uniform style that same season (mustard-gold synthetic); an even more groundbreaking, first-ever all-black lineup in the 1971 championship campaign; his 3,000th career hit in 1972; and, of course, the tragic plane crash on New Year's Eve in '72.
That's the historic milieu in which Roberto Clemente is believed to have donned this very cap, which matches the era, the manufacturer and the iconic uniform number, "21." As of July 16, 1970, the Pirates made the revolutionary leap from breathable, vulnerable wool/flannel (in Pittsburgh's trademark vested style) to a stretchy, durable, synthetic mix of nylon and cotton (in a pullover jersey style with beltless, drawstring pants). By 1973, every single MLB team had made the same transition to a synthetic polyester material or a polyester equivalent.
Attributed to Clemente and vouched for by both Sports Investors Authentication (SIA) and expert Phil Wood, the New Era, size 7-1/8 cap showcases that trailblazing style change and boasts that prominent black-marker notation of the all-important number 21. Phenomenal overall preservation with light wear to the leather sweatband, as well as to the manufacturer's label and size label.
Phil Wood sums up his analysis this way: "The Pirates received a great deal of publicity when they introduced new uniforms and caps along with their new ballpark in 1970. This cap is consistent with other Pittsburgh caps of the same era I've examined over the years. It's the correct manufacturer for 1971-72, and the size corresponds to other Clemente caps in private collections. Without a DNA sample or some kind of forensic evidence, it's impossible to trace the lineage of this cap to Clemente specifically. That the #21 is inked into the haircloth area of the cap is not unusual; many players do that routinely, rather than use the underside of the visor."