Roberto Clemente Day: MLB expands list of who can wear No. 21 to Pirates, Puerto Rican players, award nominees


On Wednesday, Major League Baseball will celebrate its 20th annual Roberto Clemente Day. MLB has honored the late Hall of Famer’s philanthropic efforts in mid September every year in the last two decades, and according to ESPN’s Marly Rivera, the league has expanded the list of personnel who can wear No. 21 in Clemente’s honor.

Last season MLB allowed all Puerto Rican players to wear No. 21 on Roberto Clemente Day, though there were no fans in attendance during the pandemic. This year all uniformed personnel (including coaches and managers, etc.) from Puerto Rico can wear No. 21, as well as all past Roberto Clemente Award winners and this year’s Roberto Clemente Award nominees.

All players, coaches, and managers will wear a Roberto Clemente Day patch on their jersey Wednesday. Here are more details from Rivera:

It also was the first time the Pirates, the team for which Clemente played his entire Hall of Fame career, honored the life and legacy of “The Great One,” with every member of the team wearing No. 21 on their uniforms.

This year, it will also be possible for any player, regardless of heritage or place of birth, to request to wear No. 21, as long as the club is given enough notice to create the uniform.

Clemente was killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972. The plane was carrying relief aid from his native Puerto Rico to Nicaragua following a massive earthquake. The Pirates retired No. 21 immediately following Clemente’s death, and the Hall of Fame waived its mandatory five-year waiting period for his induction.

Every year since 1971, the Roberto Clemente Award has been given to the player who best represents baseball through “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” Carlos Carrasco, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen, Albert Pujols, Anthony Rizzo, and Adam Wainwright are the six active Roberto Clemente Award winners.

MLB announced each club’s nominee for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award nominees on Tuesday. Among the nominees are Miguel CabreraNelson Cruz, Trey Mancini, Salvador Perez, Max Scherzer, Mike Trout, and Joey Votto. This year’s Roberto Clemente Award winner will be announced in the offseason.

There were 18 Puerto Rican-born players on Opening Day rosters this season, including Javier Báez, José Berríos, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor. There are three Puerto Rican-born managers in MLB: Alex Cora (Red Sox), Dave Martinez (Nationals), and Charlie Montoyo (Blue Jays).

Clemente played 18 season in the big leagues, all with the Pirates, from 1955-72. He was a career .317/.359/.475 hitter with 240 home runs and exactly 3,000 hits, and he was a splendid defensive right fielder with one of the strongest arms the game has ever seen. Clemente was 38 when he died.

MLB announced on Wednesday that Sept. 15 will become Roberto Clemente Day on a permanent basis.





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