When MLB celebrates Roberto Clemente Day on Sept. 9, all members of the Pirates will wear No. 21 jerseys. Since Clemente’s death, no Pirates player has worn that jersey number on the field.
“Our staff and players are excited to wear the number 21 with pride as we constantly search for ways to not only honor Roberto’s legacy but to keep his memory alive through our community actions,” Pirates chairman Bob Nutting said in a statement Wednesday.
“We recognize what this moment represents for all of us within the organization, the Clemente family, our fans and the people of Puerto Rico. We take great pride in representing such a great ambassador of the game.”
MLB held its first Roberto Clemente Day in 2002, and it has been celebrated every September across the league since then. The league also honors players who best represent Clemente’s spirit with the Roberto Clemente Award each year.
Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, was the first Latin American player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. Prior to his induction, he was killed in a plane crash at age 38 on New Year’s Eve 1972. The former MLB star was attempting to bring supplies to people impacted by a devastating earthquake in Nicaragua.
Clemente — also known as “The Great One” — spent his entire 18-year career with the Pirates and was a 15-time All-Star selection, 12-time Gold Glove Award winner, member of the 3,000-hit club, four-time batting champion, World Series MVP and National League MVP.
“Since 1973 the only persons allowed to wear No. 21 in a Pirate uniform would have been any of the three sons. I became the closest to have that honor but didn’t continue to play to reach the Major League level,” one of Clemente’s sons, Luis, said.
“History will be made this September 9 and we would like to express our deepest gratitude to Derek Shelton for his initiative and supporting the Clemente family endeavors. We thank Bob Nutting and the Pirates organization for continuing the goodwill of the Clemente name in their community efforts.”
After the game, the jerseys will be auctioned, with proceeds going to the Clemente Foundation and Pirates Charities.