Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Retire 21

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Slow clap for the Pa. House of Representatives.

The lawmakers are urging the MLB to retire Clemente's #21 across the entire league. As of now, Jackie Robinson's #42 is the only league-wide retired number.

Here's the snag.

Jackie's widow, Sharon Robinson and baseball great Frank Robinson are opposing the request. By retiring Clemente's #21, Robinson and Robinson (who are not related) feel Jackie's #42 would become watered-down. I think that is a bit of a double standard, and Sharon and Frank are being extremely greedy. Here's an excerpt from the P-G article:

[Sharon Robinson and Frank Robinson] have argued that Jackie Robinson's contribution was unique in the sport, and that a similar honor for Clemente might diminish baseball's tribute to Jackie Robinson.

Are you serious? I understand that Jackie Robinson had more balls than most men, but retiring Clemente's #21 shows honor to a fallen legend, and is not proposed solely to destroy Jackie Robinson's legacy.

Clemente entered the league 8 years after Jackie Robinson. Truth be told, the racial tensions of 1947 were not cleared up by 1955. It would be ignorant to believe that Roberto Clemente, the first Latin player to be inducted into the Cooperstown and the only man inducted without waiting the mandatory 5-year span, faced less racial hatred than Jackie Robinson. Plus, Clemente's legacy, which was heightened by his untimely passing in which he was flying to aide Nicaraguan earthquake victims, is deserving of a league-wide number-retiring.

The next issue to look at is statistics. It can be argued that Jackie Robinson, although Rookie of the Year and one-time league MVP, was inducted into Cooperstown based primarily on his symbolic breaking of the color barrier. He played just 10 seasons with an career average of .311, 137 homers and 734 RBIs. Would former Pirate Joe Randa be inducted into the Hall of Fame based on his career stats, which eerily mirror Robinson's? Now, Joe Randa wasn't RotY of even league MVP, but based on pure numbers and seasons played, he stacks right up with Jackie Robinson.

Now, let's look at Clemente. Roberto wasn't RotY, but he did capture an NL MVP award. Add that to 12 Gold Gloves and 12 All-Star appearances, 2 World Series rings (one in which he was World Series MVP), 4 batting titles, a .317 average, 3,000 hits and 240 homers. Compared to Jackie, Clemente got his bling on...all while enduring the same racial tensions of the 50's. Now, Bob didn't break the color barrier, but he did prove that minority athletes could thrive in a setting that was formerly off-limits.

Sharon Robinson and Frank Robinson need to open their eyes. Retiring Clemente's #21 will not dilute Jackie Robinson's legacy. As long as ESPN is around, Jackie Robinson will not be forgotten. Jackie Robinson was a man who fought to be respected by his peers. Jackie Robinson was not some demigod who needed to be placed on some pedestal, pooing on players that didn't stack up to him in his wife and friend's eyes. Clemente carried the torch that was started by Jackie Robinson, and he deserves to be acknowledged for his contributions to the sports and to the world.


The shirt picture was found here, a place that also wants #21 retired.

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2 comments:

Extra P. said...

Man, that is some triflin' bullshit. So now the league can never honor anyone else but Jack Robinson, and only using the criteria used in that instance? Absurd.

tecmo_bowl_bo_jackson said...

All in all a sad state of affairs. A league-wide retiring of #21 means Clemente meant a lot to the game. Sharon and Frank have no business scoffing at players who aren't Jack's equals in their eyes.