All Puerto Rican players in Major League Baseball once again will be allowed to wear No. 21 to honor Roberto Clemente on Sept. 15, and this time it will be in front of fans.
MLB has extended the honor to all uniformed personnel of Puerto Rican descent this year for the 20th annual Roberto Clemente Day. In addition, all 2021 Roberto Clemente Award nominees, as well as the six active players who are Roberto Clemente Award recipients, can also wear the No. 21, sources told ESPN.
During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when teams played in empty ballparks, MLB allowed all Puerto Rican players to wear the No. 21 to honor the late Pittsburgh Pirates star for the first time, after the Clemente family authorized its use.
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.
All MLB players, managers and coaches will wear a No. 21 patch to commemorate Clemente’s legacy. The Clemente Day logo will also be emblazoned on the bases and official dugout lineup cards.
A league source also told ESPN that Sept. 15 will be announced as the official date to commemorate Roberto Clemente Day in perpetuity. In the past, it has been celebrated across baseball in early to mid-September.
St. Louis Cardinals All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, 39, the longest-tenured active Puerto Rican-born major leaguer, called wearing No. 21 last year an “extraordinary honor” and “a source of great pride.”
“For all us Latinos who have played Major League Baseball, and have had to deal with so many obstacles, difficulties and challenges, Clemente is the source of inspiration we need to move forward and pursue our dreams and be an example to others on and off the field,” Molina told ESPN. “We hope this day continues to perpetuate the remarkable legacy of No. 21.”
Former Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets slugger Carlos Delgado was the last Puerto Rican-born player to wear No. 21 for most of his career. No Pirates player had worn No. 21 since Clemente’s death until last season.
The Puerto Rican-born Clemente was the first Latin American player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was a venerated figure for his achievements on and off the field. He was a 15-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner, member of the 3,000-hit club, four-time batting champion and National League and World Series MVP.
Clemente died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972, as he accompanied a cargo plane departing San Juan, Puerto Rico, in an attempt to bring humanitarian aid to people affected by a devastating earthquake in Nicaragua. Months after his death, Clemente became only the second player in MLB history to have the mandatory five-year waiting period waived for Hall of Fame induction.
At the start of the 2021 season, there were 18 Puerto Rican-born players on Opening Day rosters, the second-highest total since 20 in 2011.
That list includes: Javier Baez (Mets); Jose Berríos (Twins); Víctor Caratini (Padres); Willi Castro (Tigers); Carlos Correa (Astros); Edwin Díaz (Mets); Enrique Hernandez (Red Sox); Joe Jimenez (Tigers); Francisco Lindor (Mets); Jorge Lopez (Orioles); Martin Maldonado (Astros); Molina (Cardinals); Michael Perez (Pirates); Roberto Perez (Cleveland); Eddie Rosario (Braves) and Christian Vazquez (Red Sox).There are three MLB managers of Puerto Rican heritage, Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox, Charlie Montoyo of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Dave Martinez of the Washington Nationals.
MLB calls the Roberto Clemente Award “the most prestigious individual honor for major leaguers,” presented to players who represent the game through “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”
Previous Roberto Clemente Award winners on active rosters include last year’s recipient, Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Carlos Carrasco (Mets), Molina, Anthony Rizzo (Yankees), Andrew McCutchen (Phillies), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), and Albert Pujols (Dodgers).
All 30 nominees for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award will be announced by MLB on Tuesday. Among those on the list are Trey Mancini of the Orioles, Jason Heyward of the Cubs, Joey Votto of the Reds, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, Salvador Pérez of the Royals, Mike Trout of the Angels, Nelson Cruz of the Rays, and Pete Alonso of the Mets.