Every 12 months when Roberto Clemente Day rolls round, the chorus comes again round that the legend’s No. 21 ought to be retired by Major League Baseball, the identical honor given to Jackie Robinson and No. 42.
Five years in the past, I wrote, “It’s a noble sentiment, putting Clemente alongside Jackie Robinson with uniform numbers honored forever. It would also be a mistake.” I argued that it might not solely diminish the consideration given to Robinson, whose quantity stands alone in league-wide retirement, but additionally diminish Clemente by making him “the other retired number.”
“Make No. 21 a living badge of honor, a special number worn only by those who wish to salute possibly the finest human being to play professional baseball,” I wrote. “A kid from Puerto Rico might grow up dreaming of wearing Clemente’s number. Let him. Open it up to past nominees for Clemente’s award. Use No. 21 not to make Clemente a bigger part of baseball history, but to bring his legacy into the future.”
They’re getting it right. As ESPN reported, for Wednesday’s twentieth annual celebration of Clemente, all Puerto Rican gamers can be allowed to put on No. 21, as they have been final 12 months, with the selection additionally supplied to all of this 12 months’s Roberto Clemente Award nominees and the lively gamers who’ve gained the award. Other gamers are also allowed to request to put on 21.
The completely different insurance policies for 42 and 21 match the legacies of the Hall of Famers who wore them.
There may solely be one Jackie Robinson — one first participant to interrupt the colour barrier — and having his quantity retired, then worn by all on April 15, displays Robinson’s significance to the whole baseball world. It was good when gamers like Butch Huskey may put on 42 all 12 months to honor Robinson, however then you definitely’d additionally see it on, say, Scott Karl. Taking it out of normal circulation was the right thought.
Clemente’s humanitarian legacy is something to attempt for, and possibly 21 shouldn’t simply be handed out to anybody who comes by means of and likes the best way it appears to be like, nevertheless it nonetheless is smart to cease wanting full retirement. The distinction is the best way that the usage of the quantity on an on a regular basis foundation can honor Clemente and encourage others to comply with in his footsteps, in addition to Puerto Rican satisfaction.
For this Roberto Clemente Day, MLB has nailed it. The league ought to keep on the identical path, paying tribute to legends in a approach that befits why every deserves such particular recognition, honoring the previous whereas seeking to affect the longer term.
#Note-Author Name – Jesse Spector