From passion to profession: how Duane Rieder went from die-hard fan to founder of the Clemente Museum


PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – In Pittsburgh, it’s not hard to find Roberto Clemente fans, in fact, many would say they are his biggest fan.

But that title belongs to one person – Duane Rieder.

“People come here and they say, ‘Hey, I’m the biggest Clemente guy in the world’ and I say, ‘No, I’m sorry to have to take that title away from you, I’m the number one Clemente guy in the world, I built a museum for this guy,'” he laughed.

It’s true.

Rieder is not only a fan of Roberto Clemente, he is the founder of the Clemente Museum.

Here in Pittsburgh is the largest collection of artifacts and memorabilia dedicated to Clemente, his humanitarian efforts and, of course, his baseball career.

A native of St. Marys, Pennsylvania, he was raised by a single mother and said all he and his four siblings could do as kids was play baseball.

“We got into the Pirates,” he recalled. “We were pirate junkies, we loved the Pittsburgh Pirates of the 60s and early 70s and Roberto was the star of it.”

Rieder’s background is unique, he didn’t go to high school, he got into welding because he is dyslexic.

He was called on an adventure, moving to California to work for a company just outside Los Angeles – it was there that his roommate, an actor, invited him to watch a play.

But not just any game.

“He said, ‘hey, come to the play tonight, I got the lead in The Pirates of Penzance, and take pictures of me on stage,'” he recalled.

That night would change Rieder’s life forever.

Although he told his roommate he didn’t know how to take pictures, a 14-year-old on the baseball team he was coaching at the time tells him he has a camera and a room to develop photos and that he will help her.

It was then that he found his true calling.

“I’m in developer, and that feeling comes out, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I want to do this,’” Rieder said, beaming with pride. “That’s how I fell into photography. ”

From there, his career takes off and his childhood love for the Pirates turns from passion to profession.

He was getting a call from someone doing a Clemente calendar shoot and from there it was off to Puerto Rico and he came face to face with Vera Clemente.

Rieder recalled walking into “Mecca” and seeing Clemente’s 12 Gold Glove Awards and being where he belonged.

“I’m freaking out, it’s true, it’s like a moment in time and I felt when she [Vera] hugged me, it was like I was hugged by an angel,” he said.

That day he began archiving family artifacts, photos, and more from Clemente’s history and career.

Rieder spent the next few years searching for memorabilia, photos, films, and anything else he could get his hands on.

Then, in 2006, PNC Park hosted the MLB All-Star Game, and the league honored Roberto with 26 family members in attendance.

Right from the game, the family stops by Duane’s studio and an idea is born.

“Vera says, ‘Duane, it’s like a museum here now,'” he recalled.

The rest is history – the Roberto Clemente Museum begins.

“We don’t need to tell the baseball story so much, his baseball story is pretty perfect, we touched on a few things but we talk about the man he was, the amazing humanitarian, and how he died , and how he lived,” Duane said of the daily visits.

And these tours? Well, they usually end with an apology.

“At the end of the tour, the women are all crying, the guys are clapping their hands, and they’re all apologizing for saying they’re the number one fan,” Duane laughed. “They’ll say, ‘We’ll take number two, or three, or five.'”


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