Roberto Clemente Day’s recent homage to Major League Baseball’s Puerto Rican icon has stirred strong feelings for both fans and legends across the sport. The party at Citi Field attracted several baseball stars including Hall of Famer Iván Rodríguez, as well as 14 former Roberto Clemente award winners.
Born just a year before Clemente’s fatal plane crash, Rodriguez grew up adoring the legendary Pittsburgh Pirates player. He explained how important it was to have a role in honoring The Great One.
“It’s special for us, special for me, special for Puerto Rico and Latin America and all the Latinos who play in this beautiful game,” Rodriguez said at Citi Field. “With him being our champion in Puerto Rico, what he did not just on the field, but the things he did off the field to help the community, was incredible for us. The door he opened for me and so many of my Latino and Puerto Rican players to play at this level is amazing.”
Several players have benefited from Clemente’s pioneering path, including former New York Yankees star Bernie Williams. Speaking at Yankee Stadium during Roberto Clemente Day, Williams said how Clemente’s tragic death affected multiple generations.
“Roberto Clemente meant a lot to my generation and the generation before me,” said Williams. “He lost his life doing what everyone is asked to do as a professional athlete, and that is giving back to society in a time of need. He paid the ultimate price for that. … For these things, Roberto is one of my greatest heroes I can think of in baseball.”
The celebration of Clemente Day 2022 was so important to Puerto Rico that Governor Pedro Pierluisi flew in to join Rodriguez in New York to honor Clemente. The governor said how Clemente’s life, nearly 50 years after his death, remains a benchmark for people everywhere.
“He represents us better than anyone else in terms of what Puerto Rico means,” said Pierluisi. “[He] It is a great example of what Puerto Ricans can do for our nation as a whole and the world.”
The Clemente Day salute also reappeared in the roar of retired Clemente No. 21 at the league level. While Berluisi said the movement of the retired 21 is fierce in Puerto Rico, Rodriguez feels it is urgent to have 21 in the rafters on all MLB stadiums.
“The number 21 for us is the number that we all respect,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a number we’ve all been waiting for until we retire. I think it’s time to put it in a nice place on the field. It’s time to retire with that number. I think all of us as Puerto Ricans will be happy when that happens.”