The Reading Fightin Phils, double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, retired Roberto Clemente’s number 21 during a special pre-game ceremony on Wednesday, August 22nd at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Much like Jackie Robinson’s #42 had been retired here at America’s Classic Ballpark, it only seemed right to also retire Roberto Clemente’s #21. From this moment forward, no Reading Fightin Phils player will ever wear Roberto’s #21.
Roberto Clemente, known as the Patron Saint of Latin America Baseball, played 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955-1972. He was a 15-time All-Star, a two-time World Series Champion (1960 and 1971), National League Most Valuable Player in 1966, World Series Most Valuable Player in 1971, a 12-time Gold Glove Award recipient and a four-time National League Batting Champion. Clemente hit .317 in his career and recorded exactly 3,000 hits. The Pittsburgh Pirates retired his number 21 on April 6, 1973. He was the first Latin American to be enshrined into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.
Clemente is not only remembered for his play on the field, but also his work as a humanitarian off the field. The Puerto Rico native devoted his time during the off-season doing charity work for those in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Hall of Fame outfielder died in a plane crash on December 31, 1972 after takeoff due to engine failure. He was set to fly to Managua, Nicaragua to aid those who were affected by a massive earthquake a week earlier. He was 38 years old at the time of his death.
In paying tribute to the retiring of Clemente’s number 21 and hosting Latino Heritage Night, the Fightin Phils were known as Los Peleadores de Reading and wore specialty jerseys and hats to commemorate the evening. The specialty themed jerseys worn by the Fightin Phils were auctioned during the game and proceeds went to the Puerto Rican Relief Fund. The first 2,500 adults received a Roberto Clemente Bobble Head courtesy of Weidenhammer featuring Clemente wearing the Los Peleadores de Reading jersey.
The Clemente Museum was on hand on Wednesday, August 22nd. They brought a few items such as a Roberto Clemente Used Bat and his 1966 Gold Glove Award for fans to see.