MLB Clemente Award winners wear his 21 on caps for careers

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Winners of the Roberto Clemente Award will wear his No. 21 on the back of their caps for the rest of their major league careers.

Major League Baseball made the announcement saying it was a “special tribute to his enduring legacy.” The announcement was timed for the 50th anniversary of the year in which Clemente died in a plane crash while on a humanitarian relief effort.

The award is announced during each World Series and given to a player for “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

Clemente was from Puerto Rico and became a Hall of Fame right fielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“It means the world,” said Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who is from Puerto Rico. “Everybody knows why you are wearing that number, it means a lot, for the player, for the families, for the organizations. I think it’s a great way to show respect to the individual. …

“How much appreciation the world has for Roberto Clemente, and sometimes we come up short in our island, which is embarrassing, right? Like we should do more. But I’m glad that everybody else in the world is showing respect to Roberto. It’s not that we don’t show respect to him, because he’s our guy, but we should do a little more,” he said.

Active Clemente winners include Nelson Cruz (Nationals), Carlos Carrasco (Mets), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Andrew McCutchen (Brewers), Anthony Rizzo (Yankees) and Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright (Cardinals).

“The Roberto Clemente Award is easily the best award I’ve won in my career,” Rizzo said. “Just representing him, having that recognition of his number on the forefront of a lot of players’ hats throughout the league will be will be in his honor. It’s very deserving because he he served everyone else.”