Sports by Numbers: Clemente Best to Wear #21

Sports Illustrated Online recently put together a photo gallery of the “Best Athletes by Number.”
A notable Pirate made their list:

He is remembered as much for his humanitarianism as for his renown in right field. Clemente won four batting titles, 12 Golden Glove awards and finished his career with an average of .300. He died at 38, in 1972, in a cargo plane that was carrying supplies and food to Nicaragua.

Runner-up to Roberto was Roger Clemens, who, despite being an active player, can’t add to his resume in this contest—he now wears #22.
Tim Duncan, Sidd Finch, Kevin Garnett, Stan Mikita, David Pearson, Deion Sanders, Sammy Sosa, Warren Spahn, LaDainian Tomlinson and Dominique Wilkins were considered to be “worthy of consideration.”
Was Roberto the best to ever wear #21? Could Duncan, Garnett or LT do enough over the remainder of their careers to bump Clemente from the top spot?
Should baseball retire his number universally?

Author: Randy Linville

Randy is currently living and thriving in suburban Dayton, OH with his wife and two kids. He was raised in Cincinnati, OH and attended Anderson High School. He went to Miami University (Ohio) and received a degree in Paper Science Engineering from MU. He is a devout Christian and a pop culture buff. He coaches his son’s baseball and basketball teams and his daughters softball and basketball teams. Randy has been a Pirates fan since the late 1970s and has fond memories of the 1979 World Series team. He began blogging for Most Valuable Network in 5/2004 after stumbling across a help-wanted sign for a Pirates blogger. He wrote for Pittsburgh Lumber Co. until the site merged with Pirates Prospects in 2/2011.

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  • Randy Linville

    Hard for me to argue against Clemente as the greatest wearer of #21 ever. I am, as you can see if you follow the link, against universally retiring #21 for Roberto the way #42 has been retired for Jack Roosevelt Robinson.
    As a Raider fan, Cliff Branch should also be among those considered. He would’ve gotten more NFL HOF support if it wasn’t for the glaringly obvious anti-Raider sentiment in Canton. How else can one explain the exclusion of Ken Stabler from the Pro Football HOF?

  • Crackbaldo

    As much as I love Clemente, Tim Duncan might be the best power forward to ever play in the NBA. He probably should have gotten the nod, if the selection was based purely on on-field performance.

  • Tony Ferrante

    Absolutely Clemente’s #21 should be retired….
    Clemente was just as influential to Latinos as Robinson was to blacks. While not something to be proud of, Clemente suffered just as much abuse as Robinson did. Moreover, I’d submit that he suffered more because of his very broken English. He was quite often openly ridiculed in the press, having his pronounciations quoted verbatim by the bigoted reporters, such as “dis” or “dat”. His humanitarian efforts, which of course led to his death, were perhaps unequaled in his time.
    Unfortunately, it’s still not politically correct enough to give that type of an honor to him.