To Honor Roberto Clemente, MLB Expands List of Who Can Wear No. 21

Lead Photo: Credit: Bettmann
Credit: Bettmann
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Roberto Clemente is more than a Hall-of-Fame baseball player. And as Our Heritage Month gets underway, MLB is honoring him by allowing any Puerto-Rican player and on-field staff, as well as this year’s nominees for the Roberto Clemente Award, and all players who have previously won it, to wear his number. The entire Pittsburgh Pirates team will also sport No. 21 today, in honor of Clemente, who played his entire career with the Pirates. 

MLB has announced it will celebrate Roberto Clemente Day on September 15th of every year, starting in 2021. In the past, this celebration had taken place in the first half of the month. All players, managers, and coaches are also set to wear a No. 21 patch to commemorate Clemente’s legacy, with the Clemente Day logo also featured on the bases and official lineup cards.  

Clemente was a 15-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner, a member of the 3,000-hit club, a four-time batting champion, and both a National League and World Series MVP during his storied career. The star, who died in a plane crash in 1972, is also a hero for the generation who came after him, and not just for his prowess on the field.

He is as well known for his charitable enterprises – he was accompanying a cargo plane attempting to bring humanitarian aid to Nicaragua after an earthquake when he passed – as for his work to support the civil rights movement. Specifically, Clemente, an Afro-Latine, focused on helping fight against the prejudice his fellow people suffered. 

After his death, Clemente became only the second player in MLB history to have the mandatory five-year waiting period for Hall of Fame induction waived. And today, MLB is taking yet another step towards celebrating a player who brought glory not just to the game, but to the idea of the kind of change its players can affect. 

“For all us Latinos who have played Major League Baseball, and have had to deal with so many obstacles, difficulties, and challenges, Clemente is the source of inspiration we need to move forward and pursue our dreams and be an example to others on and off the field,” St. Louis Cardinals All-Star catcher Yadier Molina told ESPN. “We hope this day continues to perpetuate the remarkable legacy of No. 21.”