Roberto Clemente Deserves His Number 21 to be Retired Across the MLB

Roberto Clemente
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When Jackie Robinson‘s number 42 was retired for all MLB teams, it was an unprecedented and awesome symbol of respect for the man who broke the color barrier for the sport. Robinson’s courage was not only an important step in the advancement of the MLB, but also for the civil rights of black people. His play made him one of the best second basemen in the sport’s illustrious history. No reasonable fan had any qualms with the MLB’s decision to retire his number on April 15, 1997.

Since then, there has been talk from fans that another player deserves the same treatment: Roberto Clemente. The MLB has been pretty silent on the issue, but they have seemed to be more willing to honor him in unique ways in recent years. They should culminate that sentiment by retiring his number 21 across the league.

MLB: Roberto Clemente Deserves a League-Wide Number Retirement

Clemente’s impact on the game of baseball is as immense as anyone’s. He is a Hall of Famer on the field, and equally as renowned for his efforts off of it. As a hitter, he had a .317 career batting average, was a four-time batting champion, had 3,000 hits, and a 71.5 Offensive WAR. In the field, he was a 12-time Gold Glove winner named to the all-time Gold Glove team. Overall, his JAWS score is 74.6, good enough for the sixth-best right fielder of all-time. Comparatively, Robinson has a score of 56.6 and is the 12th-best second baseman.

As a Latino, Clemente endured a bevy of racism, both because of his dark skin and rudimentary English speaking skills. His name would often get messed up by fans and announcers alike, leading to him simply being called “Bob Clemente” for a time. The Hispanic community was not nearly as developed in the United States as it is today, so he experienced intense loneliness from time to time. He handled all of this in stride, maintaining strength through all of the negativity.

Not only that, but he proved to have a passion for serving others. Much of his offseasons were spent doing charity work. This would lead to his death on New Year’s Eve in 1972, when he was killed in a plane crash delivering supplies and goods to an earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. The MLB has honored his efforts in this regard by naming the award for the league’s top humanitarian the Roberto Clemente Award. There are also nine schools and academies in the United States that honor him with their namesake. Those schools’ students carry on his legacy while asking “Can you help me with my math homework?” and visiting for essay help.

Clemente was as good of a player as Jackie Robinson, while enduring similar levels of racism and positively impacting the world through his humanitarian efforts. His impact on the Hispanic community is as great as Robinson’s on the black community. With the number of Latino players in the MLB today, it is high time that Clemente receive reciprocal honors as Robinson by retiring his number 21 across the league.

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