All Puerto Rican MLB players will be allowed to wear Roberto Clemente's No. 21 during the commemoration of the 19th annual Roberto Clemente Day on Wednesday, Sept. 9. All Major League Baseball players will also be given the option to wear a patch with the No. 21 to commemorate the legacy of the late Pittsburgh Pirates star.
Catcher Yadier Molina, 38, the longest-tenured active Puerto Rican-born major leaguer, will wear No. 21 during the St. Louis Cardinals' doubleheader vs. the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario and pitcher José Berríos would also be able to wear No. 21 that day, with both St. Louis and Minnesota having an off day on Wednesday.
"It is an extraordinary honor and a source of great pride for all of us to have the opportunity to wear No. 21 to honor Roberto Clemente on this great day," Molina told ESPN. "For all us Latinos who have played Major League Baseball, and have had to deal with so many obstacles, difficulties and challenges, Clemente is the source of inspiration we need to move forward and pursue our dreams and be an example to others on and off the field."
Molina added: "We hope this day continues to perpetuate the remarkable legacy of No. 21."
Former Blue Jays, Marlins, and Mets slugger Carlos Delgado was the last Puerto Rican player to wear No. 21 for most of his career. Players like Sammy Sosa and Paul O'Neill, both right fielders, also wore No. 21 in honor of Clemente. No Pirates player has worn No. 21 on the field of play since Clemente's death.
MLB will allow the use of No. 21 after the Clemente Family informed all Puerto Rican players that they authorized its use to those who wish to wear it on Roberto Clemente Day, according to a letter obtained by ESPN.
Signed by Clemente's children, Robert Clemente Jr., Luis R. Clemente and Roberto E. Clemente, the letter states that the family consulted with Major League Baseball and the MLBPA, and told players they could request their number to be changed in their respective clubhouses.
The Pirates already announced that all their players and coaches will wear Clemente's No. 21 on their jerseys on Roberto Clemente Day. The Clemente Day logo will also be emblazoned on the bases and official dugout lineup cards.
"For all us Latinos who have played Major League Baseball, and have had to deal with so many obstacles, difficulties and challenges, [Roberto] Clemente is the source of inspiration we need to move forward and pursue our dreams and be an example to others on and off the field."Yadier Molina, Cardinals catcher
The Puerto Rican-born Clemente was the first Latin American player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was a venerated figure for his achievements on and off the field. Among his achievements as a player: 15-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner, member of the 3,000-hit club, four-time batting champion and National League and World Series MVP.
Clemente died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972, as he accompanied a cargo plane departing San Juan, Puerto Rico, in an attempt to bring humanitarian aid to people affected by a devastating earthquake in Nicaragua. Months after his death, Clemente became only the second player in MLB history to have the mandatory five-year waiting period waived for Hall of Fame induction.
All 30 club nominees for the Roberto Clemente Award, which honors the late Pirates Hall of Famer's legacy as a humanitarian, were announced last week. MLB calls the Roberto Clemente Award "the most prestigious individual honor for major leaguers," awarded to players who represent the game through "extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field."
At the start of the shortened 2020 season, there were 20 Puerto Rican-born players on Opening Day rosters and inactive lists, the highest total since 20 in 2011.
That list includes: Berríos (Twins); Víctor Caratini (Cubs); Willi Castro (Tigers); Alex Claudio (Brewers); Carlos Correa (Astros); Edwin Díaz (Mets); Enrique Hernández (Dodgers); Joe Jiménez (Tigers); Francisco Lindor (Indians); Jorge López (Orioles); Vimael Machín (Athletics); Martín Maldonado (Astros); Molina (Cardinals); Michael Pérez (Rays); Roberto Pérez (Indians); Edwin Ríos (Dodgers); Rosario (Twins) and Christian Vázquez (Boston Red Sox).
There are two MLB managers of Puerto Rican heritage, Charlie Montoyo of the Blue Jays, and the manager of the World Champion Washington Nationals, Dave Martinez.