The Pittsburgh Pirates are set to honor Roberto Clemente Day by having his number grace the diamond once again.
Let’s go back to October 8, 1972. On that day, the Pittsburgh Pirates faced the Cincinnati Reds in Game Two of the National League Championship Series. Roberto Clemente was in his accustomed position in right field, hitting third in the lineup. He was 0-3 with an RBI and a walk, and made a single putout in right.
That would be the final time that the number 21 would be worn by a Pirates player. The Pirates lost the series in five games in Cincinnati to end the season. Clemente was tragically lost on New Year’s Eve that year when the airplane full of supplies traveling to an earthquake ravaged Nicaragua crashed into the ocean.
The Pirates and Major League Baseball quickly preserved Clemente’s legacy. His number 21 was retired, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, his greatness immortalized forever. Between his exploits on the diamond, and his charitable endeavors away from the field, there will never be another Clemente.
Since 2002, September 9 had been designated as Roberto Clemente Day, commemorating his memory. This year, that day will have a special feel to it, as the Pirates announced that each one of their players and coaches will wear his number 21 on their jerseys.
Since Jackie Robinson‘s number was retired across MLB, there has been a push to give the same honor to Clemente. The tenth player in MLB history to hail from Puerto Rico, he was the island’s first major league superstar, the player that every kid on the island aspired to become. To this day, Clemente remains an inspiration for those youngsters that dream of one day following in his footsteps and reaching the majors.
And maybe that day will come. Maybe, at some point in the future, the league will honor Clemente as they had Robinson, retiring 21 forever in his memory, with teams wearing his jersey on his day. For now, that will the Pirates’ duty, as the team will honor Clemente on September 9th.
For the first time since 1972, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have number 21 in their lineup as they continue to honor his memory.