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Maldonado honors Clemente with cleats

@brianmctaggart
September 9, 2020

Like many players, veteran Astros catcher Martín Maldonado would like to see Major League Baseball retire No. 21 across the league in honor of Roberto Clemente, the Hall of Fame outfielder who died on a humanitarian mission to deliver earthquake supplies to Nicaragua in 1972. “I think this is something

Like many players, veteran Astros catcher Martín Maldonado would like to see Major League Baseball retire No. 21 across the league in honor of Roberto Clemente, the Hall of Fame outfielder who died on a humanitarian mission to deliver earthquake supplies to Nicaragua in 1972.

“I think this is something that guys previously in the big leagues have tried,” Maldonado said. “Carlos Delgado was one of them. He used 21 when he played, but he was all in for that. Carlos Beltrán, Alex Cora, a lot of guys. We’re still fighting for that. I think that’s something that would make us feel proud. If you ask any guy in the big leagues, any Puerto Rican guy, they would tell you that.”

Maldonado joined fellow Puerto Rican teammate Carlos Correa in wearing No. 21 during Wednesday's game against the A's to celebrate Roberto Clemente Day around baseball. Maldonado also wore custom cleats with “RE21RE” on the back of the left heel and the No. 21 on the back of the right heel, as well as the inscription “Legends Never Die” on the top of the shoe.

“I had a chance to use 21 before, but I never asked for it, because I feel like we’ve got so much respect for him,” Maldonado said. “Just wearing his number on this day is amazing. I think it is something we have been fighting for, for years and years, to retire 21. He’s one of the guys that changed the culture of the Latin players.”

Maldonado said he first learned about Clemente’s legacy when he was about 6 or 7 in school while growing up in Puerto Rico. When he was early in his career with the Brewers, he visited The Roberto Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh when they were playing the Pirates.

“That’s where I got shocked,” Maldonado said. “I didn’t know he served in the military. They told him about a movie [he was going to have a role in] and he was going to be the guy that had to strike out three times, and he told the guy he wasn’t going to do that movie because he doesn’t strike out three times. That was one of the most impressive things I’ve heard.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.