Major League Baseball Should Retire Roberto Clemente’s #21 for Good

Clementene is one of baseball’s greats. It’s up to you Commissioner Rob Manfred. You’re at bat.

Many grassroots activists and baseball fans have lobbied MLB to retire Clemente’s uniform number from all baseball teams. Such an honor has been given only to one player: Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.

New York City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Relations has passed a “Resolution calling upon the United States Secretary of the Interior to recognize the historical significance of Roberto Clemente’s place of death in Loíza, Puerto Rico, by adding it to the National Register of Historic Places.”

Advocates made their presentations before the City Council, saying why they support retiring the number. Two were judges from Connecticut: Carmen Lopez and Dale W. Radcliffe.  “We honor a young Latino from Carolina, Puerto Rico, who came north to play baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1950’s and confronted the dual minority status of race and language,” Radcliffe was quoted as saying. “We honor a superb athlete … often over-looked and underappreciated, yet, who managed to transform anger and resentment into determination and reached the pinnacle of his profession.”

Radcliffe also cited the Boricua’s accomplishments on the baseball field.

Lopez said it was about time MLB retires the number. “I believe that MLB, as a good corporate citizen, has a wonderful opportunity to showcase a superstar who lived by the principles of respect and service,” Lopez was quoted as saying. This move, she also said, would help a future generation know the legacy of Roberto Clemente. She also spoke about Clemente’s heroic acts.

Clemente is not a hero, she said, because he played baseball with skill and pride. He’s a hero because he led a life of service to others. He even lost his life in an attempt to help others.  “These are the role models that our children and youth need.”

William Gerena-Rochet, Editor of Latino Sports,, told how Clemente opened doors for future players.“Clemente was not the first Latin American to play in the MLB,” he was quoted as saying. “He was the first Latino super star and began playing baseball when MLB teams still had quotas on how many Players of Color they would have on their teams at a given time. Whereas, Robinson is said to have opened the gate, Clemente can be said to have held it open for the Latino players who followed.”

Bryon Hunter, producer of the documentary “THE LEGACY of 21,” said that almost every ballplayer interviewed for the project agreed that #21 should be retired.

Julio Pabon, founder of Latino Sports, was quoted as saying, Clemente deserves the honor because “he was more than just a great baseball player.” The fact that he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously after his death without having to wait the five-year period is a testament to his great ability as an athlete that still to this day is mentioned and compared when certain plays or throws are made from right field.”

“The fact that Clemente was killed on December 31, 1972 in an airplane crash on his way to take badly needed supplies to earthquake Nicaragua victims was the ultimate sacrifice that any human being can make,” Pabon said.


Ismael Nunez can be reached at


Ismael Nunez is a graduate of Hunter College’s undergraduate media studies program where he focused on journalism. Besides being a baseball enthusiast and a fanatic and historian, he is also an advocate of Puerto Rican Independence and an advocate of Disability Rights. He is a contributor to The Youth and Adults Self Advocate News Letter at YAI.

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