Should Roberto Clemente have his number retired the way Jackie Robinson does? This question is only going to continue until Major League Baseball and Bud Selig come to a decision.
No one should be angered by this...I think everyone can agree, whether you think Clemente is deserving of this honor or not, is that Clemente and Robinson made Major League Baseball much better through their contributions. So, let's take a deep breath and discuss this rationally.
Did Clemente face the same challenges of Robinson and Larry Doby (who for some reason, doesn't get nearly enough respect for being the first American League black baseball player) had to face? No, he did not.
But that doesn't diminish what they Clemente went through. I couldn't imagine what it was like facing the racism that Doby and Robinson had to face, but how does lessen what Clemente did? It doesn't!
Like Robinson and Doby, Clemente infused racial diversity into a sport that desperately needed it. Major League rosters are now heavily Latino, and Clemente was the trail blazer for this occurrence. Every Latino baseball player owes Clemente a debt of gratitude.
Major League Baseball can thank Robinson for getting black players involved. No question that black ball players have been the foundation and soul of baseball for decades. Major League Baseball is also facing a crisis with a diminishing number of black baseball players and something needs to be done about this. (This is something that is very scary and needs to be addressed ASAP!)
Another reason that people say that Clemente should not be honored this way is because it could lead to others having their number being retired that aren't as deserving.
The only other figure in Major League Baseball history that you could conceivably consider is Babe Ruth. And Ruth did save baseball after the Black Sox scandal in 1919. He also did things that nobody ever thought was possible and lifted baseball to heights never seen before!
Ruth, Clemente, and Robinson, how would that hurt baseball? Baseball is the one sport that can reach fans as well as they do with their history. Why not celebrate it more?
It's not like people are going to be rioting to get Mickey Morandini's number retired for turning the first unassisted triple play in 1992 since 1968. (Yes, I just referenced Mickey Morandini, can you name the number he wore when he turned that triple play against Barry Bonds?)
So if worse came to worse in this scenario, Ruth, Robinson, and Clemente would have their numbers retired. What's wrong with that? Can you think of three other players that have had as much impact on the game? They all had an indelible impact on the game of baseball and their contributions should be honored forever!
Personally, I think Clemente should have his legacy honored this way because of the impact he had with the Latino infusion he helped bring about. I also think the way that Clemente died was so heroic, and that should also be honored. It will not diminish what Jackie Robinson did if Roberto Clemente is honored. In fact, it may even honor Robinson more.
(If you disagree or agree with me please post a comment!)