Today is Roberto Clemente Day in Pittsburgh and all around baseball.
For the first time since he last wore it in 1972, all Pirates players will wear #21 on their uniforms tonight to honor “The Great One.”
In addition, all Puerto Rican players will be able to wear #21 all across the MLB.
Pirates third base coach Joey Cora will be the first Puerto Rican to wear Clemente’s number for the Pirates since 1972.
“It’s going to be something that, man I don’t know if I can handle that moment, it’s going to be unbelievable,” Cora said. “Wearing number 21 as a Puerto Rican, as a Pirate, it means a lot.”
One of Clemente’s teammates, World Series champion pitcher Steve Blass says “every time his name comes up, it evokes so many memories.”
“He had the ability to turn a 10-year major league veteran into a 10-year-old kid because you didn’t want to take your eyes off of him,” said Blass.
Blass adds it was an honor to be his teammate and also discussed how uncompromising Clemente was to his principles and values.
“He turned down a lucrative endorsement deal here in Pittsburgh after the World Series . . . turned it down because some of his teammates weren’t involved and that’s what he wanted,” said Blass.
“He had a feeling for the people who struggled and that was one of his real things that he cared about. He wanted to be somebody and something to people that he cared about.”
“The Great One” died on December 31, 1972 while sending earthquake relief supplies from Puerto Rico to Nicaragua in a plane crash.
“There are a lot of people that have given some time and resources to help others…Roberto Clemente gave his life,” said Blass.
While Clemente is celebrated now by everyone, he faced prejudice and was a trailblazer for Latin players.
“He came up in the 50s as not only a Black player, Latino player, the issues with language and it could not have been easy for him,” said Blass.
The Pirates are celebrating Clemente Day by working with small businesses and local non-profits.
The events included: Priory Fine Pastries and Beverly’s Birthdays: The Pirates joined Beverly’s Birthdays staff at Priory Fine Pastries to purchase cookies for their September Itty Bitty Birthday Cheer baby shower, a baby shower program hosted monthly for area single moms.
- Jerry’s Pizzeria and the Latino Community Center: The Pirates hosted a meal and mask distribution with Jerry’s Pizzeria at the Latino Community Center.
- New Pittsburgh Courier: The Pirates gifted New Pittsburgh Courier subscriptions to local libraries and Pirates staff recorded and shared personal book reads for the library archives.
- RS Supply and Light of Life Rescue Mission: The Pirates purchased food service and sanitation supplies from RS Supply and delivered the materials to Light of Life Rescue Mission.
- Wagsburgh and Humane Animal Rescue: The Pirates worked with the Humane Animal Rescue staff to host a shopping spree for pet supplies at Wagsburgh.
- North Shore Tavern and Frontline Workers: Pirates staff and the Pirate Parrot took the time this morning to visit with Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire stations 30 and 37 as well as Allegheny Health
Network’s Lifeflight unit to deliver North Shore Tavern gift cards, as a thank you for their service to our community. In addition, the Pirates also sent gift cards to Giant Eagle as a thank you to grocery store clerks at their Southside location.
“Every season we honor Roberto Clemente’s legacy as an organization by visiting schools, non-profits and other community organizations to make a positive difference in the lives of others on Clemente Day,” said Pirates president Travis Williams. “Although we are unable to take part in the visits this year, we feel it is important to draw from his inspiration to find different ways to continue to make an impact throughout our area. We are proud to be the team of The Great One and lead the way throughout Major League Baseball in celebrating his legacy.”
This year’s celebration of Clemente will be the first one without his wife, Vera, who passed away last November after a brief hospitalization. She was 78.