Debris from the plane crash that killed Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente was pulled from a memorabilia auction after his family threatened a lawsuit.
Seaford, N.Y.-based Lelands.com announced yesterday it was pulling two items -- a light metal piece of the airplane and a gray steel propeller -- from the collection of four dozen Clemente mementos.
"Lelands.com did exactly what they had to do to avoid severe legal action and salvage what is left of their damaged reputation," Roberto Clemente Jr. said in a statement. "They made a tasteless business decision by trying to make a quick buck off of my father's tragedy and they were exposed. It is a shame what some people will do for money."
Clemente died Dec. 31, 1972, when the DC-7 he was on crashed after takeoff from San Juan, Puerto Rico. The plane was headed to Nicaragua with supplies for earthquake victims.
Clemente's family two weeks ago said it was considering legal action to stop the auction house from selling the airplane parts.
"This episode has caused me and the entire Clemente family considerable pain over the last few weeks, and we are glad to finally put this behind us," the son said.
Lelands.com plans to return the light metal piece, measuring 19 inches by 14 inches at its largest point, to the collector who consigned the item into the auction. The propeller will be donated to the Puerto Rico Sports Museum.
"Just like hundreds of historical items that are on display in museums throughout the world or are sold privately or in auctions every day, these two items are of great historical significance," Lelands.com founder Josh Evans said in a statement. "We believe that they help completely tell the story of Roberto Clemente, his philanthropy and the price he paid to help people in need. We believe that they should be on display to honor his legacy.
"On the other hand, the wishes of the Clemente family need to be respected and once we found out that they objected to the sale, we realized that the right thing to do was to remove the items from the auction," Evans said.
Other items in the auction, which ends June 24, include a glove Clemente used in a game in the 1960s; an autographed photo of his 3,000th, and final, career hit; an autographed rookie baseball card; and a photograph of Clemente getting a haircut from his hometown barber.
* PINIELLA SPEAKS OUT, AGAIN: Lou Piniella wants speculation about his future with the Devil Rays to stop.
One day after the frustrated manager's agent met with a club official to discuss Piniella's concerns about the direction of the team, Piniella said he will honor the remainder of his contract, which runs through 2006.
"I signed for four years here three years ago, and I'm going to honor my contract," Piniella said before the Devil Rays opened a weekend series against the Cardinals. "That speaks for itself."
Speculation about his future increased this week after Piniella criticized the new owners of the last-place team for what he perceives as a lack of commitment to do everything possible to win now.
Piniella signed a four-year, $13 million contract in 2002 after a successful 10-year run in Seattle. He left the Mariners with one year remaining on his contract, and many felt his comments last Sunday were aimed at forcing an early exit from Tampa Bay.
* SCHILLING ON SCHEDULE: Red Sox RHP Curt Schilling threw for 20 minutes at Fenway Park and reported no problems with the right ankle that has kept him on the disabled list since April.
Schilling threw for nine minutes in the outfield before heading into the Boston bullpen to throw from the mound for 11 minutes more. He was watched by Manager Terry Francona, the team's training staff and Bill Morgan, the physician who stitched Schilling's ankle last fall to keep him in the rotation for the postseason.
Schilling said he hopes to be back with the team by the all-star break, but he expects to need two or more rehabilitation starts in the minor leagues before he is ready to pitch in the majors.
"It's just a matter of getting stronger, and getting my flexibility back," he said.
-- From News Services