New Jersey Pols Want MLB to Retire No. 21

by Jason Epstein

The New Jersey Senate was scheduled to vote this afternoon on a resolution urging MLB to mandate the retirement of no. 21 in honor of Puerto Rican native and Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente. Currently, only Jackie Robinson’s no. 42 is on MLB’s universal retirement list.

Clemente, who spent his entire big-league career with Pittsburgh (1955–72), was not the first Latino to play professionally in the 20th century — Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans both debuted for the Reds in 1911 and many others followed — but SCR 27 states that he “confronted and overcame the dual obstacles of racism and language to become the first dark-skinned Latino to achieve unquestioned superstar status as a Major League Baseball player.”

Clemente was killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve in 1972 while delivering humanitarian supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was elected to the Hall of Fame the following year.