Clemente’s iconic No. 21 still common
Much of the world, sporting and otherwise, paused the past few days to reverently remember Roberto Clemente on the 40th anniversary of his death.
But is Major League Baseball any closer to offering the ultimate tribute, universal retirement of Clemente’s iconic No. 21?
Despite growing sentiment that Clemente was a bona fide Latin American version of Jackie Robinson, whose No. 42 remains the only uniform accorded that honor — no.
One apparent step toward the retirement of No. 21 would be a grassroots movement in which teams would simply curtail assigning the number to their current players. But a perusal of 2012 rosters shows No. 21 is in widespread use.
Only seven teams — perhaps significantly all among the original 16 franchises — did not field a No. 21: Red Sox, White Sox, Indians and Yankees in the American League, and Braves, Phillies and Giants in the National.
Interestingly, a couple of players with ties to the Pirates briefly wore No. 21 last season: Outfielder Xavier Nady, when he was with the Nationals (he switched to No. 68 after moving on to the Giants), and left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, who had No. 21 with the Angels then went to No. 41 after being claimed on waivers by the Bucs.
The Majors’ best Nos. 21? It’s a motley list overall, but I’ll go with:
- Nick Markakis, Orioles
- Todd Frazier, Reds
- Allen Craig, Cardinals