30 September 2020

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Major League Baseball Celebrates Roberto Clemente Day

Every year, Major League Baseball celebrates the life, career, and achievements of Baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. Clemente was originally signed as an international free agent by the Brooklyn Dodgers when he was 17 years old but was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1954 Rule 5 draft. He made his MLB debut for the Pirates in 1955 and would go on to become a key part of the Pirates success. Clemente would go on to make 15 All-Star teams, win 4 batting titles, 12 Gold Glove awards, and finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits. He also won the 1966 NL MVP and helped lead the Pirates to two World Series titles in 1960 and 1971, the latter of which included Clemente being named the World Series MVP.

Clemente is best known for his charity work off the field. He would visit hospitals during his time off the field and organized transports of supplies to Nicaragua following a devastating earthquake.

Clemente tragically died in a plane crash while escorting supplies to Nicaragua. He was still an active player at the time and his death was tragic not only for baseball fans but also for his native country of Puerto Rico where he was seen as a national hero for all of his accomplishments. His number, 21, was retired by the Pirates and the “Commissioner’s Award” which had been created the year before to recognize a player for their charity work and their community involvement, was re-named to be the “Roberto Clemente Award” which is still handed out every year. The rule for Hall of Fame election which states that a player must be retired for 5 years before they may be nominated to be on the ballot was waived for Clemente due to the nature of his death, and he was elected with 92% of the votes in his first year appearing on the ballot.

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The Roberto Clemente Award is given annually to one active player in MLB who in recognition of their outreach work. Each team nominates one player and the winner is announced at the World Series, where the award is handed out. The 2020 nominees are:

  • Eduardo Escobar (Arizona Diamondbacks)
  • Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)
  • Hanser Alberto (Baltimore Orioles)
  • Mitch Moreland (Nominated for Boston Red Sox, now with Padres)
  • Jayson Heyward (Chicago Cubs)
  • Tim Anderson (Chicago White Sox)
  • Tucker Barnhart (Cincinnati Reds)
  • Brad Hand (Cleveland Indians)
  • Ian Desmond (Colorado Rockies)
  • Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
  • Alex Bregman (Houston Astros)
  • Ian Kennedy (Kansas City Royals)
  • Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
  • Justin Turner (Los Angeles Dodgers)
  • Miguel Rojas (Miami Marlins)
  • Brent Suter (Milwaukee Brewers)
  • Nelson Cruz (Minnesota Twins)
  • Steven Matz (New York Mets)
  • Giancarlo Stanton (New York Yankees)
  • Tony Kemp (Oakland Athletics)
  • Aaron Nola (Philadelphia Phillies)
  • Josh Bell (Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Drew Pomeranz (San Diego Padres)
  • Hunter Pence (Nominated for San Francisco Giants, has since been released)
  • Dee Strange-Gordon (Seattle Mariners)
  • Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals)
  • Charlie Morton (Tampa Bay Rays)
  • Shin-Soo Choo (Texas Rangers)
  • Danny Jansen (Toronto Blue Jays)
  • Sean Doolittle (Washington Nationals)

The 2019 winner was Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians who did work in his native Venezuela and was diagnosed with and recently overcame a battle with Leukemia. 

Carlos Carrasco is awarded with the 2019 Roberto Clemente Award at the World Series

In addition to the award, the entire Pittsburgh Pirates team will wear the number 21 on their jerseys. All Puerto Rican players in MLB, as well as other players who were given permission, were given permission to wear 21 as their number for their game if they already do not. Some of the players who will be wearing 21 this year include:

  • Carlos Correa (Houston Astros)
  • Enrique Hernandez (Los Angeles Dodgers)
  • Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians)
  • Carlos Carrasco (Cleveland Indians)
  • Roberto Perez (Cleveland Indians)
  • Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals don’t play on Roberto Clemente Day so he will wear it the following day)
  • Eddie Rosario (Minnesota Twins)
  • Joe Jimenez (Detroit Tigers)
  • Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs)
  • Edwin Diaz (New York Mets)
  • Brent Suter (Milwaukee Brewers)
  • Manny Machado (San Diego Padres)
The Pittsburgh Pirates salute Clemente’ 21 plaque at PNC Park

Clemente will always be remembered across MLB for all he did for the game, his native country of Puerto Rico, and all the future players who he inspired.

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