Eddie Rosario, the Minnesota Twins left fielder, can’t consider the precise 12 months, however he used to be a formative years baseball participant in his local Puerto Rico when he used to be given the collection of two jerseys: No. 21 or some other quantity.
“I’m no longer Roberto Clemente,” stated Rosario, 27, who now wears one of the crucial next-closest choices, No. 20. “I will’t put on that.”
No. 21 is sacred in baseball, specifically to Puerto Ricans, as it used to be the longtime selection of Clemente, the long-lasting participant who hailed from the island. Whilst a teen in Guayama, Rosario knew of Clemente’s significance, which led him to sign up for the vast majority of Puerto Rican foremost leaguers in doing one thing that Main League Baseball hasn’t: decline the usage of No. 21 with the intention to necessarily retire it.
Of the 235 Puerto Rico-born avid gamers who’ve seemed within the foremost leagues since Clemente’s loss of life 47 years in the past, handiest 16 have used No. 21 — and none up to now 5 seasons, in line with Baseball Reference.
“That’s very robust,” stated Luis Clemente, 52, certainly one of Roberto Clemente’s sons.
Along with Roberto Clemente’s accomplishments at the box — a 15-time All-Famous person, 12-time Gold Glove Award winner, two-time Global Sequence champion with the Pittsburgh Pirates and member of the three,000-hit membership — he used to be a fierce recommend for Latino avid gamers and towards Jim Crow segregation. A 12 months after he died in a aircraft crash on Dec. 31, 1972, whilst escorting earthquake aid from Puerto Rico to Nicaragua, Clemente was the primary participant from Latin The usa inducted into the Baseball Corridor of Reputation.
On Monday and Tuesday, Main League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson, who broke the colour barrier in baseball on April 15, 1947, by means of having each participant put on his No. 42 jersey, which used to be retired in 1997 and stays the one one to obtain that particular honor by means of all 30 groups. Many Puerto Ricans imagine the similar M.L.B.-wide retirement must additionally cross to Clemente, who additionally made his foremost league debut this week, on April 17, 1955.
Within the 4 a long time since Clemente’s loss of life, there was no scarcity of actions, campaigns and petitions to retire No. 21. The argument is especially sturdy now, as the proportion of Latino avid gamers has swelled to almost 30 % within the foremost leagues, and it’s even upper within the minor leagues. M.L.B. has made better efforts to honor the affect of Latinos basically, whether or not via TV ads or the Ponle Acento (“Put an Accessory on It”) marketing campaign that has ended in extra unique renderings of names on jerseys.
At an tournament in San Juan, P.R., closing 12 months unveiling a memorial to Clemente, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló of Puerto Rico requested Commissioner Rob Manfred, who used to be additionally in attendance, to take away No. 21 from fee.
“His frame of labor speaks volumes, so I do assume that, as Jackie Robinson represents greatness in baseball and so a lot more, so does Roberto Clemente, specifically for Latinos far and wide the arena,” Rosselló stated later on. “So I believe it’s the suitable time to retire No. 21.”
Manfred has resisted the speculation, announcing that iconic avid gamers must be known in unique techniques, and has time and again pointed to the distinguished Roberto Clemente Award, given once a year to a participant who embodies sportsmanship and neighborhood provider, as M.L.B.’s manner of honoring Clemente. Manfred has known as the award “in reality baseball’s perfect honor.”
Without or with an authentic directive, many Puerto Rican avid gamers have necessarily attempted to retire the quantity themselves, passing up probabilities to make use of No. 21 all over their lives. (Clemente’s handiest foremost league workforce, the Pirates, retired No. 21.)
“No Puerto Ricans will use the quantity on account of Roberto Clemente,” Carlos Correa, 24, the Puerto Rican famous person shortstop of the Houston Astros who makes use of No. 1, stated in Spanish. “The best way I see it: Roberto Clemente is a determine for Latinos similar to Jackie Robinson used to be for African-American citizens. Clemente didn’t simply damage obstacles however impressed different Latinos to get into baseball.”
“I by no means attempted to make use of No. 21,” added his compatriot Edwin Díaz, 25, the Mets nearer who makes use of No. 39. “This is one thing the place everyone can’t use it.”
Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals’ celebrity catcher, and Carlos Beltrán, a former celebrity outfielder and present Yankees particular adviser, have each gained the Clemente Award, and the 2 Puerto Ricans have additionally suggested clear of the usage of No. 21 all through their careers.
“You’ll be able to use it to honor him or you’ll be able to see it as one thing you don’t need to contact, since the manner he carried the No. 21 is difficult for some other participant to do in the similar manner,” Beltrán stated in Spanish. “It’s no longer unattainable, however it’ll be truly onerous. You’ll all the time have that shadow of Clemente, and plenty of avid gamers steer clear of the usage of that.”
Clemente’s legacy stays potent in Puerto Rico, the place his likeness dots the island. Close to a primary front of Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, “#Retire21” is painted inside of a mural of a memorable Clemente symbol: tipping his cap to the gang at 3 Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh after notching the three,000th and ultimate hit of his profession. In 2016, No. 21 used to be formally retired around the island, from the pro wintry weather league named after Clemente all the way down to the formative years degree.
Now not all avid gamers have shyed away from the quantity. Outfielder Rubén Sierra, who spent maximum of his 20 major-league seasons with the Texas Rangers, and primary baseman Carlos Delgado, who performed 17 seasons, had been a few of the few Puerto Rican-born avid gamers to put on No. 21 all through their careers.
Delgado stated he used it within the minor leagues and for the 1996 season with the Toronto Blue Jays sooner than turning it over to celebrity pitcher Roger Clemens, a brand new acquisition and extra senior participant, in 1997. Delgado returned to No. 21 from 2006 via 2009, when he used to be with the Mets.
“In my case, the verdict wasn’t a troublesome one,” he stated in Spanish in a telephone interview. “I believed he used to be so essential that this used to be a strategy to acknowledge him. I perceive the opposite aspect of the coin, no longer the usage of the quantity to honor him, however so long as you honor his reminiscence and his profession, I believe it’s O.Ok.”
Even so, Delgado stated he used to be in want of retiring Clemente’s quantity as a result of his legacy used to be related to Robinson’s. Delgado, who gained the Clemente Award in 2006, stated he wasn’t positive why No. 21 hadn’t been retired but, however he puzzled if M.L.B. may really feel force to additionally retire quite a few an illustrious participant from Venezuela or the Dominican Republic, two international locations that experience produced many a hit foremost leaguers.
Luis Clemente, whose circle of relatives has labored with M.L.B. on previous projects involving his father and his legacy, has a unique thought on honoring No. 21. He has advocated no longer just a quantity retirement however some form of distinctive and visual reputation — equivalent to a patch at the jersey or hat — to be worn by means of the former 12 months’s Clemente Award winner; he hasn’t had authentic talks with M.L.B. concerning the thought.
“My uncle — my dad’s handiest residing brother — feels folks will fail to remember in the event that they don’t see the quantity,” Luis Clemente stated. “I don’t assume that’s essentially true. However it has to move hand-in-hand” with a visual reminder.
For now, such a lot of present and previous avid gamers have taken the topic into their very own palms that to a couple, the problem is settled.
“We acknowledge what he’s accomplished and we all know that the quantity must be retired,” stated Ricky Bones, 50, a former foremost league pitcher and trainer from Guayama, P.R. “In our hearts, it’s retired.”