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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Want All MLB Teams to Retire Clemente’s No. 21
By BASN Wire Services
Updated: October 18, 2007
HARRISBURG –The Pennsylvania House of Representatives urged Major League Baseball to retire Roberto Clemente’s No. 21 in a resolution passed Wednesday.
The lawmakers are the latest group to contend that Clemente should be honored in the same way that Jackie Robinson was for breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947.
Robinson’s No. 42 was retired for all teams on April 15, 1997, the 50th anniversary of his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Clemente’s Hall of Fame career with the Pirates began in 1955 and ended when he died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, while trying to deliver relief supplies following an earthquake in Nicaragua.
“Roberto Clemente was more than a great baseball player,” said state Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia, who sponsored the resolution as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. “He was a humanitarian who gave so much of himself for those in need.”
The Pirates retired Clemente’s number in 1973. Major League Baseball has remained mum on doing the same across the league to honor him for being the first Latin American elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and his humanitarianism.
Jackie Robinson’s widow, Sharon, and Hall of Fame player Frank Robinson, who is not related to Jackie, oppose the move. They have argued that Jackie Robinson’s contribution was unique in the sport, and that a similar honor for Clemente might diminish baseball’s tribute to Jackie Robinson.
Hispanics Across America, an advocacy group that wants to see Clemente honored, and Roberto Clemente Jr. have said such criticism is misguided.
They acknowledge Clemente did not break down racial or ethnic barriers like Robinson but should be honored for his character and because he died trying to serve others.
Roberto Clemente was a 12-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner and four-time batting champion who had exactly 3,000 hits in 18 seasons. He was 38 when he died. He played his entire career with Pittsburgh.