Entire Pirates team will wear No. 21 to honor Roberto Clemente

Once a year, every player in Major League Baseball wears No. 42 to honor the great Jackie Robinson. Now, Roberto Clemente is getting a similar honor in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates and MLB announced Wednesday that on Sept. 9, the entire Pirates roster will wear Clemente’s No. 21 — a move that many in Pittsburgh and around baseball have been suggesting for years.

From the Pirates’ announcement:

"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," said Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting. "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."

Roberto Clemente before his death in 1972. (Getty Images)
Roberto Clemente before his death in 1972. (Getty Images)

Clemente died in a plane crash while on a humanitarian mission in 1972. He was taking supplies from his native Puerto Rico to Nicaragua after an earthquake. He was still an active player and had notched his 3,000th hit in the 1972 season. He was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame and has become an icon in both Pittsburgh and MLB for his humanitarian efforts and his career achievements, which included an MVP award, 12 All-Star honors, two World Series wins and four batting titles.

No one has worn No. 21 for the Pirates since Clemente, but Roberto’s son Luis welcomes the change this year:

"Since 1973 the only persons allowed to wear no. 21 in a Pirate uniform would had 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," said Luis Clemente. "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."

In 1973, MLB renamed its Commissioner Award, which goes to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team” after Clemente. This seems like another great way to keep Clemente’s name and legacy alive for a new generation of baseball fans.

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