What about No. 21? It’s time

As Major League Baseball — nay, the entire country — approaches another observance of Jackie  Robinson Day, we must again raise the question: What about The Great One?

The annual April 15 celebration of Robinson’s baseball and human heroics will be more impactful than ever, with the concurrent release of “42,” the film adaptation of his journey across the color line.

All good and extremely appropriate. But another Jackie Robinson Day will also be an excuse for another debate over whether there is another uniform that should be universally retired, whether MLB owes the same debt of gratitude and honor to Roberto Clemente and No. 21.

Robinson’s impact cannot be minimized, and was far more profound beyond the foul lines.

However, as for the current landscape of Major League Baseball, who had the more enduring effect on how, and by who, the game is played?

Robinson? Due certainly to numerous demographic and competitive (pro football and pro basketball are both immeasurable bigger magnets for athletic standouts than they were in the ‘40s) factors, the participation of African-Americans in the Majors has been on a well-documented decline.

Or Clemente, who blazed a compelling path for Latin American ballplayers, who comprised more than 25 percent of the Majors’ Opening Day rosters (a total of 207 players from a dozen different countries)?

Please — not trying to lessen the incredible contributions of Robinson, whose stoic leadership influenced those other sports as well as other facets of life. Just wishing to lift Clemente’s deeds to a comparable bar.

Just saying.

5 Comments

Tom –
Your suggestion sounds like a no brainer although I admit to be terribly biased. Have you done research to determine if Clemente was the first Latino (or the earliest one who was great) in the majors? I have not done any homework and I am not familiar enough with Cepeda’s career and I cannot think of any other outstanding Latinos in the mid-50s. Let’s start a campaign! (I guess you already have, eh?)

Tom –

Just did a little looking (The web is a pretty nice thing!) The majors had a couple of Latino standouts “way back when” – they were light complected, of course – and two Latinos made an all-star team in the early 50s (Minnie Minoso was one of them) – but Clemente, Cepeda, and Apricio (sp) are Latino HOFers who got their start in the 1950s. Clemente was the earliest of the three and arguably the most successful.

Maybe we could get some of the pseudo-Pirate followers who seem to expend massive amounts of energy running every aspect of the home team down to turn their attention to something positive like your amazingly worthwhile idea and begin a publicity campaign to recognize the legendary contributions to the sport and society that Roberto Walker Clemente made during his life and get his number retired throughout the major leagues. Whadayathink???

I agree, but the general feeling is and will continue to be that only Robinson merits beings the sole retiree in the “first” category. There is a fear that sharing the spotlight will water down Robinson and will lead to a title wave of reasons to retire other numbers. . I wish it were not so.

21 Yes, Roberto. A real Pirates ballplayer. Since 1968 I have been a Pirate fan. I am from Puerto Rico, so you can understand why I am a truly fan. A Bucco.!!!I only wish that the Pirates and MLB do think whats the meaning of #21. Roberto Clemente. Only this…GREAT, ballplayer, great Latin, great human and better….great Pittsburgh City fan. He always talked about how good were the fans and the City. Pittsburgh, you had him. I am from PR, we only remember him. Wow!!! You were lucky.

As a Puerto Rican and a die hard Bucs fan, I am completly with the movement
Clemente is and was a leader of we the Latins. He was THE BEST right fielder that ever play the game. But he was a better human . He died for helping another country. We in PR love Pittsburgh

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