Withdrawal of Roberto Clemente’s # 21 falls on deaf ears

Major League Baseball’s (MLB) position on the lifetime retirement of late No. 21 player Roberto Clemente remains strong.

His way of honoring the memory of the once star of the Pittsburgh Pirates will remain as it has been until now.

“Major League (Baseball) has been very clear that they have no interest in withdrawing the number,” acknowledged Luis Roberto Clemente, one of the sons of the Puerto Rican star, to THE SPOKESMAN, when asked what was the status of the efforts to remove the iconic number.

“Basically, they understand that they honor the players in a different way and that by dedicating a day and the most prestigious award that Major League has, that that award previously belonged to the commissioner, who was named when daddy passed away, because they understand that with that they are honoring who my father was ”, he added.

Since 2002, MLB celebrates Roberto Clemente Day, which this year will be next Wednesday, September 15, in the city of Pittsburgh.

And each year, following Clemente’s tragic death on December 31, 1972, while carrying humanitarian aid after an earthquake in Nicaragua, the league awards the Roberto Clemente Award (originally known as the Commissioner’s Award) to a player who has demonstrated the values ​​that Clemente displayed in his commitment to the community and in his understanding of the value of helping others.

However, Clemente’s family has never wanted to drop the ball with the lifetime retirement of No. 21, just as MLB did with Jackie Robinson’s 42, the only one who has retired thus far.

“The dynamic that they think is that that (the withdrawal of the number) would open the doors for other groups to start pushing for, for example, Italians to advocate for the withdrawal of Di Magio’s number and things like that. Obviously, it is something that has no comparison. What daddy achieved and what he represents is more than clear, ”said Luis Roberto. “But, so far, that is the position that they have assumed and that is where they are at the moment.”

Clemente’s late wife, Vera Zabala, only allowed fans to be the ones who had the initiative to make the request for the removal of number 21, according to Luis Roberto. And so it has been.

Various groups have petitioned MLB, but so far it has fallen on deaf ears. Last year, the efforts were expanded when players from the Pittsburgh Pirates and some Puerto Rican and Latin American players from other teams first played No. 21 on Roberto Clemente Day.

In Nicaragua, its professional baseball league retired number 21 as did the Puerto Rico league named after the 12-time Golden Glove winner.

“We understand that it is a matter of time, it will eventually be achieved,” said Luis Roberto. “But in the meantime, we are still in talks.”

This year, the celebration for Clement’s Day will begin today, when the Foundation that bears his name will hold a fundraising activity for a baseball academy in Haiti.

On Tuesday, the 14th, there will be another fundraising activity for a non-profit organization from Pittsburgh. And on the 15th, it will be the official day with several previous activities in which Zabala will also be honored. At 6:00 pm, the pre-game ceremony will begin at PNC Park, where the Pirates will be visited by the Cincinnati Reds.