Although his time with the Boston Red Sox did not end well, no player has worn number 21 since Roger Clemens departed in free agency.
Over the long and stories course of Boston Red Sox history, there have been many legendary players to come through their clubhouse. Fenway Park is more than a stadium – it is a living museum, a place where a fan today can sit and look out to where legends such as Babe Ruth and Ted Williams suited up for the Red Sox. The ghosts of the past are an ever present part of the modern era.
Yet, for all of those legends to set foot on the diamond, the Red Sox have retired only ten numbers, 11 if we count Jackie Robinson’s 42 being retired across baseball. These numbers belong to some of the greatest legends in Red Sox history, players whose contributions, no matter how long ago, remain fresh in the fans’ collective memory.
While ten numbers are officially retired, there is another one that has not been worn in over two decades. Ever since Roger Clemens departed the Boston Red Sox via free agency, no other player has worn his number 21.
Clemens was a dominant force for most of his tenure in Boston. Over his 13 years with with the Red Sox, he produced a 192-111 record, along with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.158 WHiP. Clemens struck out 2590 strikeouts with just 856 walks in his 2776 innings. He was a five time All Star with the Red Sox, winning three Cy Young awards and the 1986 AL MVP.
But Clemens was not the same pitcher over his final four seasons. In that time, he produced a 40-39 record with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.289 WHiP. He started at least 30 games just once in that time, with his walk rate continuing to climb. Then general manager Dan Duquette infamously said that Clemens was done when he was allowed to depart for Toronto.
As it turned out, Clemens had another 11 years left in the tank, although the legitimacy of his accomplishments in that time can be brought into question. However, his accomplishments in Boston remain unsullied, as he remains the greatest pitcher in franchise history based on bWAR. That could be enough to lead to his number officially being retired.
For now, the Boston Red Sox refuse to give out Roger Clemens’ number 21 to another player. After more than two decades, it is time to officially retire that number.