Roberto Clemente holds a special place in the heart of not just everyone throughout the Pirates franchise, but every Pirates fan, the entire city of Pittsburgh and the island of Puerto Rico. His legacy is one of a man who transcended sports to be a humanitarian and a part of something greater in the world. This is why every year the Pirates lead the rest of Major League Baseball in honoring his memory on Roberto Clemente Day.
This year the Pirates, in coordination with Major League Baseball, will honor "The Great One" on the field as all players and coaches will wear Clemente's jersey number 21 on Roberto Clemente Day, Wednesday, September 9 vs the Chicago White Sox. The number 21 will grace the back of each of the Pirates' home white Nike jerseys for the game.
In the days following the game, the jerseys will be placed for auction on pirates.auctions.mlb.com as fans will have a chance to bid on the game-worn jerseys. All proceeds from the sale of the jerseys will benefit the Clemente Foundation and Pirates Charities.
Clemente died December 31, 1972, with four others when a plane carrying supplies from Puerto Rico to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua crashed. Since Clemente's tragic death, no player has worn 21 on the field for the Pirates as the Club retired the number of the humanitarian and 12-time All-Star in 1973.
"Since 1973 the only persons allowed to wear no. 21 in a Pirate uniform would had been any of the three sons. I became the closest to have that honor, but didn't continue to play to reach the Major League level," said Luis Clemente. "History will be made this September 9 and we would like to express our deepest gratitude to Derek Shelton for his initiative and supporting the Clemente Family endeavors. We thank Bob Nutting and the Pirates organization for continuing the goodwill of the Clemente name in their community efforts."
"Our staff and players are excited to wear the number 21 with pride as we constantly search for ways to not only honor Roberto's legacy but to keep his memory alive through our community actions," said Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting. "We recognize what this moment represents for all of us within the organization, the Clemente Family, our fans, and the people of Puerto Rico. We take great pride in representing such a great ambassador of the game."
Each season the Pirates honor the life and legacy of Roberto Clemente throughout the Pittsburgh area with the Roberto Clemente Day of Giving. This special event is a day when players, coaches and front office staff join together to canvas the community volunteering their time and making charitable donations to local non-profits and schools.
The first Roberto Clemente Day was observed by Major League Baseball in 2002, and each September MLB celebrates the annual Roberto Clemente Day at every ballpark across both leagues.
The number 21 is special within the Pirates organization as Clemente and 21 is prominently showcased in several ways throughout PNC Park, including the right field wall which measures 21 feet in height in honor of "The Great One." In addition, his number adorns the wall behind the position he played for 18 years with the Pirates.