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.