September 15, 2021

Roberto Clemente Deserves to Have His No. 21 Jersey Retired

It is once again Roberto Clemente day.

Every year on Sept. 15, we celebrate the life of one of the greatest baseball players ever. Not only was he an all-time great, but he was also a role model to many Latino baseball players.

While today is a celebration of the legacy of Clemente, many people across the game believe that a little more recognition is in order. Today, we should really remember just how great of a person he was. 

The MLB should also use this occasion to finally retire his No. 21 jersey similar to how Jackie Robinson's No. 42 is retired. Clemente's impact on and off the field put him in a class of his own. He was just as good as a human as he was a ballplayer. 

An Inspiration

Clemente is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He holds a career slash of .317/.359/.475 with an OPS of .834. His career WAR of 94.8 ranks him 37th in MLB history and he finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits while winning four batting titles. 

He also earned 12 Gold Gloves and has a career defensive WAR of 12.2. With a JAWS score of 74.6, he is considered the sixth-best right fielder in the history of the game. Simply put, Clemente is one of the best all-around players in baseball history. 

Clemente would travel back home to Puerto Rico and surrounding areas and deliver supplies and humanitarian aid to places wrecked by travesty.

Many Latino players have had to face many obstacles and challenges to get where they are. They give up everything to come to America and pursue their dreams of playing baseball at the highest level. Clemente is an inspiration to a lot of those young players.

As many people know, Clemente tragically died in a plane crash after taking off from his native Puerto Rico. He was there doing humanitarian work following an earthquake in Nicaragua. While his death was too soon, his impact on the Latino community will live on forever.

Impact On The Game

Every year, MLB awards players with the "Roberto Clemente Award" in recognition of philanthropic efforts off the field. Players who have won the award, as well as Puerto Rican players and on-field staff, are allowed to wear Clemente's No. 21 on this day in celebration of his life. All of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team that Clemente spent his entire 18-year career with, will wear the No. 21 today as well.

Starting this year, Major League Baseball has also allowed any player to wear the number regardless of heritage, as long as the team has given proper notice. 

Clemente is not the only player that has a day of recognition like this. The first African-American player in MLB history, Jackie Robinson, has his own day on April 15. Every player in baseball wears Robinson's No. 42 in honor of his importance to the game and the civil rights movement. 

As a Latino baseball player in the 1970s, Clemente endured racism in every ballpark. The Hispanic culture was not as prevalent as it is today. This did not deter him from being one of the more passionate and charitable figures during his time on earth. 

A Proper SIgn Of Respect

There is no doubt that Roberto Clemente Day is quite an honor and a good way to celebrate the life of one of the most important figures in the history of the game. However, Clemente deserves to have his number retired across the game, much like Robinson. 

Clemente was as good as Robinson, he endured similar racist roadblocks, and he still impacted the world through humanitarian efforts despite all of that. The things that Clemente had to go through are wrong and should never be forgotten. It was, and still is a dark period in this countries history and through all of that, Clemente persevered. 

The story of Roberto Clemente will live on forever thanks to today's celebration of his life and his actions. With the amount of Latino representation in the game today, it is time to recognize that Clemente's impact on the game mirrors that of Robinson. It is time to retire Clemente's number 21 across the game. 

Photo: Getty Images