Wednesday, April 15, 2009

21 Reasons the MLB Should Retire Roberto Clemente's Number

As baseball today honors Jackie Robinson and his #42 across the league, we take a look at an idea that we feel very strongly about and should be taken into serious consideration by Major League Baseball, the retirement of the #21 that was worn by The Legendary Roberto Clemente
  1. Died trying to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
  2. After his death, The Baseball's Writer Association of America immediately waived the customary five-year wait and voted Roberto Clemente into the Hall of Fame, with 93% of the vote; one of the highest percentages of all time
  3. 1st Latino elected to the Hall of Fame
  4. 1 of 4 players to have 10+ Gold Gloves. He has 12, and was awarded one every year possible.
  5. The main Trail-Blazer for Latin Americans to play baseball in the USA
  6. Hit safely in every World Series game he appeared in
  7. Did not play winter ball in '58-'59 because he was serving in the United States Marines
  8. In his home country of Puerto Rico, no amateur baseball players are permitted to wear #21
  9. 1st Hispanic to ever wear win a World Series as a starter, win the regular season MVP, or World Series MVP
  10. To this day he is a Hero to the Latin America community
  11. Puerto Rico named their official athletic coliseum in his name
  12. Roberto Clemente High School in Chicago, IL
  13. Hit .300 13 Times, including over .350 3 Separate Times
  14. 4-Time National League Batting Champion
  15. 1st Latino to win a batting title
  16. Sporting News ranked him #20 on their list of top 100 baseball players. The highest ranked Latino player
  17. Only player in history with a walk-off inside the park grand slam
  18. Pittsburgh has honored him with a bridge, park, museum, charter school, and statue all in his name
  19. Was the most dominate player throughout the 1960's
  20. The "Roberto Clemente Award" is the highest award in baseball for sportsmanship and community activism
  21. September 18th is known in baseball as "Roberto Clemente Day"


  1. Great post! I wholeheartedly agree.

  2. 22. so a-holes like sammy sosa cannot wear #21.

  3. I am a huge fan of Roberto Clemente. My son's middle name is "Clemente". However, I disagree with retiring his number for three reasons (see below).

    Part of my problem with the attempt at having his number retired is the mythologizing of him. To wit, three of your 21 points are at least partially incorrect:

    Point #4 is incorrect. He won 12 Gold Gloves, but he did not win one in "every year possible". The award was started in 1957 (and was split to honor players in both leagues in 1958). Clemente was honored every year from 1961 to 1972.

    Point #9 is incorrect. Sandy Amoros (from Cuba) was the Dodgers primary LF in 1955. Zoilo Versalles (Cuba) won the AL MVP in 1965, one year before Clemente won his NL MVP. He was the first Latin American World Series MVP winner.

    Point #15 is incorrect. Bobby Avila (born in Mexico) won the AL batting title in 1954.

    Reasons why #21 shouldn't be retired:
    1. Retiring #21 diminishes the retiring of #42 by definition. With every hitter that hits 500 homers, the accomplishment seems less difficult. With every climber that summits Mt. Everest, the act becomes less impressive. Retiring #21 makes #42 less special.

    2. Clemente, other than becoming the first Latin American HOFer, broke no specific barrier. Not that he didn't suffer bigotry - he certainly did. Other Latinos drove in 100 runs, won a batting title, made an All-Star team, won an MVP before him. He wasn't even the first Latino to play for the Pirates (Puerto Rican Carlos Bernier in 1953). Will MLB retire Ichiro's number when he is enshrined in Cooperstown because he is the first Asian to get in?

    3. Clemente is already honored in numerous ways - see point #11, point #12, point #18, point #20 and point #21 above. It isn't as if his life and his accomplishments have been ignored by MLB or the public in general.

    The tributes to him are suitable for what he accomplished and what he stood for. There is no need to retire his number and no need to embellish his accomplishments.

    Randy Linville
    Pittsburgh Lumber Co.

  4. Were in an era that doesn't battle with racism nearly as much as previous ones. Ichiro doesn't deal with that in any way. Also, Ichiro is not the caliber player Clemente was.

  5. Not one Latino player you mentioned did 1/10th of what Clemente did for the game. The game today is littered with Latino players who if asked would say they were influenced by one man. Clemente

  6. Clementes number could be retired simply for the altruism he displayed as a superstar. To die delivering supplies to natural disaster victims should mean you can never give him to many honors

  7. Major League Baseball Officially Retires Number 21

    The public statement above has not happened to date, but the announcement is long over due. Roberto Clemente, the man most recognized by number 21 on his jersey, is a Hall of Fame baseball player who was also committed to helping the less fortunate. His career was cut tragically short by an accident December 31st, 1972 as he was delivering emergency relief aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Clemente had taken upon himself to direct personally a relief mission to earthquake torn Nicaragua. Bound to Nicaragua, Clemente and four others loaded a small DC-7 plane with food and supplies that never got past the San Juan border as the plane almost immediately crashed into 30 feet of water in the Caribbean Sea. The Baseball's Writer Association of America immediately waived the customary five-year wait and voted Roberto Clemente into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on August 8, 1973 -- making him the first Latino to be inducted’ and only the second player to be waived from the five-year requirement, Lou Gehrig was the other.

    Jackie Robinson is currently the only major leaguer to have number 42 retired by all 30 teams. Recognition well deserved, Jackie became the first black baseball player in the modern major leagues when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. In 1962 he became the first black player elected to the Baseballs Hall of Fame. After retiring from baseball, Robinson became a prominent business and political figure. Jackie Robinson is only the second player to get the Congressional Gold Medal. Guess who the first player was? The First was Roberto Clemente. Both Jackie and Roberto became Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients.

    The two men were thrilling ferocious exciting competitors who with determination and grace not only made sports history by Jackie helping to launch the civil rights era and Roberto living his life throughout his career as a true humanitarian.

    The Latin American experience was not only the same experience as the African American ball players, but in addition, they had a language barrier which in many cases was another reason to treat them badly. Latin American players were perceived to be not so intelligent because they could not be properly understood. Roberto Clemente experienced this on a regular basis. Clemente who spoke Spanish with clarity and education would be misquoted when speaking in English. The media would quote him phonetically thus resulting in some funny out take of the man.

    It is not wrong for baseball to retire number 21 throughout all the 30 Major League baseball teams. It is the Right thing to do! What is wrong is for MLB to ignore the fact that the fans are calling for this, not too mention many of the Latin American Baseball Players.

    Roberto’s influence is evident on every team and farm system in all of baseball. Every team in the majors has Latin players today representing All 30 teams and most Latin American countries because of Roberto Clemente’s influence throughout Latin America.

    In 2002, Major League Baseball's Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced that on Sept. 18 will be known as "Roberto Clemente Day."

    The celebrations will be a league-wide effort that has been initiated to honor the memory of Roberto Clemente, and coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations. As part of the tribute, the local recipients of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by John Hancock will be recognized at each club’s home game on Sept. 18.

    "It has been almost thirty years since Roberto Clemente’s untimely death," said Commissioner Selig. "He will be remembered as a great baseball player and humanitarian. To honor his legacy, we have designated this special day to not only remember Roberto, but to honor those players who have contributed so much to their communities."

    This all good to hear, but the truth is if his legacy is to be remembered and honored by MLB, then the proper thing to do is to retire Roberto Clemente’s number 21.

  8. Bowie Kuhn then the commissioner of MLB said at the 1973 Hall of Fame induction Ceremony “So very great was he as a player. So very great was he as a leader. So very great was he as a humanitarian. So very great was he as an inspiration to the young, and so very great was his devotion to young people and particularly to the young people of his native island of Puerto Rico. Having said all of those words, they are very inadequate to describe the real greatness of Roberto Clemente”.

    In another statement he said "He gave the term 'complete' a new meaning. He made the word 'superstar' seem inadequate. He had about him the touch of royalty."
    Roberto Clemente the ball player/humanitarian is deserving of this honorable distinction. Retiring number 21 is the right thing to do regardless of what Ms. Sharon Robinson (Jackie’s daughter) and a few selfish people have said that only Jackie’s number should be retired.

    Roberto Clemente will always be remembered as the Hall of Fame Baseball Player of the Pittsburg Pirates organization, He will also be remembered on a bigger global stage as the man who sacrificed himself regardless of the possible consequences to help others in time of need and this I say is bigger than the game of baseball. It’s time for baseball to step up to the plate and continue to do the right thing. Retire 21. There is plenty of room in Major League Baseball for two great men. Honor Roberto, the fans have spoken.

  9. The #21.If you ask any latino baseball player what this no. means to them 10 out of 10 would tell you he was the jackie robinson of latinos.doors that were once closed are now open because of his struggles.his strong voice was heard throughout the baseball world and beyond.even the average person who doesnt no much of baseball could tell you something of who he was.his voice ,name ,legacy lives though me.I will continue to preach the roberto clemente other player can be compared.(Retire #21)Give him the repect he well deserves.Clemente fan for ever

  10. #8 Puerto Rico is part of the US, not a separate country. Puerto Ricans are US citizens since 1917. Short on their rights still, but citizens.

  11. Shallow Throat

    I an NOT in favor of retiring #21 as it would be just another distraction to the CORE issue of what is the GREATEST cover-up in ALL of sports.They gave him a postage stamp and humanitarian award(deserving/honorable)and now want to label him as basically a HOF humanitarian;Clemente is along with Willie Mays the most complete player in MLB history.The man was voted to an all century team and then a PANEL OF EXPERTS aka bigoted white whatever decided to pull him off and replace him with another(who IMHO)should have been there in ADDITION to Clemente. The greatest defensive outfielder of all time and the greatest hitter against HALL OF FAME pitching,Greatest individual world series display was a game where good pitching beats good hitting UNTIL Clemente showed Baltimore's four 20 game pitchers what IT IS!!! IN A WORLD SERIES OF ALL PLACES. Hit in all 14 WS games he played. They called him 'the great one' and like Gretzky I want him to rank with Gretzky at the very top of the game....then if that happens you can talk of retiring his #21...'til that happens well you get my message.

  12. Retiring 21 will make 42 less special? So you're saying that Jackie Robinson deserves the honor and Roberto Clemente doesn't? Are you insane? Roberto Clemente died trying to help victims of an earthquake in a country that he wasn't even born in and had no connections to. Clemente has inspired as many if not more people than Robinson. They should have retired 21 before 42. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier but Clemente was the better person and ball player.

  13. I believe the poltical status of P.R. is the only reason why this hasn't' happened. The same reason why they are not allowed to host the Olimpics and vote for a U.S. president is the same reason why this amazing dream not to happen yet. They had to fight the way in to compete in a Miss. Universe competition.

  14. As a Puerto Rican, I couldn't agree anymore. Roberto's achievements and accomplishments on and off the field were great. However, the one person whose number should of been retired a long long time ago was number 3...Babe Ruth. He is still the king of baseball and if it were not for him, baseball may of not been around...remember the 1919 world series debacle? No player was more recognized and loved than Babe Ruth (Sorry Michael Jordan you weren't exactly Mr. Nice guy with your teammates or your the book "The Jordan Rules." Besides they haven't named a candybar after you either)Babe Ruth's number should be retired!!!

  15. David Rodriguez (boriquua21)September 24, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Roberto Clemente is the Jackie Robison Latino. He refused to eat at restaurants that did not serve African-Americans. Clemente spent much of his time during the off-season involved in charity work. When Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, was affected by a massive earthquake on Saturday December 23, 1972, Clemente (who had been visiting Managua three weeks before the quake) immediately set to work arranging emergency relief flights.He soon learned, however, that the aid packages on the first three flights had been diverted by corrupt officials of the Somoza government, never reaching victims of the quake.

    Clemente decided to accompany the fourth relief flight, hoping that his presence would ensure that the aid would be delivered to the survivors. The airplane he chartered for a New Year's Eve flight, a Douglas DC-7, had a history of mechanical problems and sub-par flight personnel, and it was overloaded by 4,200 pounds. It crashed into the ocean off the coast of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico immediately after takeoff on Sunday December 31, 1972. A few days after the crash, the body of the pilot and part of the fuselage of the plane were found. An empty flight case apparently belonging to Clemente was the only personal item recovered from the plane. Clemente's teammate and close friend Manny Sanguillén was the only member of the Pirates not to attend Roberto's memorial service. The Pirates catcher chose instead to dive into the waters where Clemente's plane had crashed in an effort to find his teammate. Clemente's body was never recovered.

    Tom Walker helped Clemente load the plane, because he wanted Walker, who was single, to go enjoy New Year's, Clemente told him not to join him on the flight. Walker's son is Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman, Neil Walker.

    Roberto Clemente Walker was more than his stats, he was a great humanitarian, he a loyal husband, a doting father, a proud Puerto Rican and a great role model to all. Latinos, Caucasians, African-Americans (watch the Bernie Mac's Mr. 3,000 movie, its some what about Clemente. Bernie always talk about home much a hero Clemente was to him and he even wore 21 in the movie. Also watch the movie Chasing 3,000 with Ray Liotta. If you want to talk stats, Clemente's are undisputable.

    Roberto Clemente's MLB Stats

    18 2433 9454 1416 3000 440 166 240 1305 83 621 1230 .359 .475 .317 .973

    15× All-Star (1960, 1960², 1961, 1961², 1962, 1962², 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972)
    2× World Series champion (1960, 1971)
    12× Gold Glove Award (1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972)
    4× NL batting champion (1961, 1964, 1965, 1967)
    NL MVP (1966)
    World Series MVP (1971)