Why Baseball Should Retire Roberto Clemente's No. 21

Sam AlmassianContributor IJune 23, 2009

1 Apr 2001: A general view of the Roberto Clemente statue outside of PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the game between the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Squire /Allsport

This is not the first time you are hearing about this most likely, so let us really look at the topic at hand.

For years now, sports fans across the board have said that Roberto Clemente deserves to at least be in the conversation of retired numbers.

Jackie Robinson's No. 42 has been retired since 1997 on the 50th anniversary of his major league debut. 

There is no doubting that Robinson is a revolutionary and deserves his number retired. He was the first African American to enter the major leagues, but that was not the only reason his jersey was retired.

Robinson had many accomplishments that for what he had to go through, could not be less appreciated such as:

1. Six all star games (1949-1954)

2. Rookie of the year in 1947

3. 1949 MVP for the National League

So now let us look at Clemente.

1. 12 All Star selections (1960-1967, 1969-1972)

2. Two World Series championships (1960, 1971)

3. 12 time Gold Glove Award winner (1961-1972)

4. 1966 MVP for the National League

5. 1971 World Series MVP

Also, we must remember that Clemente was a Latin player playing in a still racially tense time.

During his time as a player, Clemente stayed very in touch with his roots and spent a lot of his free time helping people not only in the country of Puerto Rico, but all over Latin America.

Unfortunately, it was Clemente's charitable heart that caused his death. In 1972, on a flight to bring aide to Nicaraguan earthquake victims, the plane that Clemente had packed with supplies went down in what has been dubbed an aviation accident.

The reason Clemente decided to fly the supplies down himself was that he had heard rumors that the supplies that were being brought down to the victims had been going into the hands of profiteers.

So to put a stop to this, Clemente packed a plane that had a history of mechanical problems full of supplies to bring down, so he could watch the distribution of supplies to the people.

There were no survivors, and Clemente's body was never recovered.

Clemente was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 and is the first player to have the mandatory five-year waiting period waived.

He was a man of charity and family and this was well known through out the league and in baseball history. He now has the Roberto Clemente Award that is given to a player each year who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."

In the same year that he was elected to the Hall of Fame, his award started to be presented to the players that best resembled Clemente's heart of gold.

Clemente spent his whole 17 year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates while batting .317 driving him to a career 3,000 hits.

As far as Latin American players go, Clemente owns a lot of firsts.

1. First Latino American to be selected for the Hall of Fame

2. First Latino to win a World Series as a starter (1960),

3. First Latino Win a league MVP award (1966)

4. First Latino World Series MVP award (1971). 

Can anyone doubt that Clemente opened the doors for Hispanics the way that Robinson did for African-Americans?

Sammy Sosa wore the No. 21 as a tribute to his long time hero.

Baseball should take a serious look at retiring Clemente's number. 

He displayed a courage and respect for the human race that every person should. He presented us with an athlete that we only wish we had more of. He never thought of himself as a celebrity but more of a man with an even better ability to help others.

It is my opinion that Clemente's No. 21 should be retired by all Major League teams, and hopefully, more people begin to see this.