Justin Merriman, Tribune-Review.

When it comes to Pittsburgh museums, locals and tourists alike are bound to immediately think of names such as Carnegie, Frick and Warhol. But a museum of a very different kind—which has quietly established itself as a hidden Pittsburgh gem—is now drawing national attention and visitors.

Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The one-of-kind Clemente Museum—founded by photographer and vintner Duane Rieder in 2007—is profiled in Cleveland.com, which features content from Ohio’s largest newspaper, The Plain Dealer, as well as from Northeast Ohio’s Sun News.

The coverage is perfectly timed for the start of Major League Baseball’s opening season—plus, where else can you explore the life and legacy of Roberto Clemente and enjoy a glass of great, locally-made wine?

In her article, Pittsburgh’s Clemente Museum honors the legacy of baseball’s angel in the outfield, writer Susan Glaser showcases the cultural jewel, which is housed in a restored, historic firehouse located at 3339 Penn Ave. in Lawrenceville.

Minutes from downtown, the museum—which doubles as founder Duane Rieder’s photography studio, as well as his wine cellar and a public tasting room—pays tribute to one of baseball’s greatest figures. Tragically killed at age 38 in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972, Clemente was on his way to deliver humanitarian aid to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua.

The museum’s collection features hundreds of artifacts and photographs displayed within two floors of Engine House 25, which was built in 1896.

Featured are two of Clemente’s 12 Gold Glove awards, his Silver Bat from 1961 and his 1971 World Series ring, along with a bank of seats from Forbes Field and a recreated scoreboard from the 1960 World Series—the year the underdog Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the New York Yankees.

Glaser highlights many of the rare pieces on view to the public:

“Most of the items are from a collection Rieder has amassed over the years, including a propeller from the Douglas DC-7 plane, later determined to be overloaded, that crashed just after takeoff on Dec. 31, 1972. It was given to Rieder by the son of the boat captain who retrieved it.”

Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Glaser also shares the fascinating story of how Rieder become a collector of Clemente artifacts and founded the unique museum, which happened years after the prestigious photographer “mistakenly gave away his Roberto Clemente autograph, acquired in 1971, during a move years ago.”

“Rieder never set out to open a museum dedicated to Clemente. He never set out to be a winemaker either. He’s a photographer, which is how this whole thing got started more than two decades ago. In 1993, Rieder was hired to work on a calendar honoring Clemente, in advance of an upcoming baseball All-Star Game at Three Rivers Stadium.”

Glaser explains that as part of the assignment, Rieder traveled to Puerto Rico where he befriended Clemente’s widow, Vera Clemente, and the couple’s three sons. She shared some of her treasured photos with Rieder, who offered to help preserve the photos, which were deteriorating in the Caribbean humidity.

That meeting sparked a decades-long relationship between Rieder and the Clemente family.

Fast-forward to 2006: Pittsburgh was hosting the All-Star Game, and special guest Vera Clemente asked Rieder if she could host a family party in his studio—which was decorated with Clemente memorabilia.

Soon after, the museum opened to the public.

Photo: Justin Merriman, Tribune-Review.
Photo: Justin Merriman, Tribune-Review.

Glaser also highlights Clemente’s many remarkable accomplishments off the field that continue to inspire people around the world:

“Baseball’s first Latin American superstar, Clemente tackled issues of racism and poverty as passionately as he attacked Sandy Koufax’s fastball.”

Rieder concurs:

“Everybody knows how he died—helping people. He was doing that his whole life, for a lot of people in Pittsburgh and in Puerto Rico. I’m doing this because of the person he was not because he was a great baseball player.”

Located adjacent to the Clemente Museum is Reieder’s recently opened wine tasting room. Dubbed Arriba—which is Spanish for “arise” or “lift up,”and one of Clemente’s nicknames—the space is open to the public and offers samples of a dozen or more Rieder-made wines. Rieder even makes wine for elite U.S. athletes, including former NHL superstar Mario Lemieux. The bottles’ labels feature a signed photograph of each star taken by Rieder, and are often donated to charity events.

We have to agree with Glaser, when she writes:

“It’s worth a pilgrimage to Pittsburgh for even casual fans of the sport.”

Read the entire article and see the slide show here.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.