In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's death and as a tribute to his legacy, Major League Baseball will allow all active Roberto Clemente Award winners to wear a commemorative "21" patch on the back of their caps for the rest of their careers.
Beginning with Opening Day of the 2022 season, all eight active Roberto Clemente Award winners will wear the patch on the back of their caps and can choose to wear a sticker with the No. 21 on the back of their helmets.
Roberto Clemente Award winners on active rosters include last year's recipient, Nelson Cruz (Washington Nationals), along with Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals), Carlos Carrasco (New York Mets), Anthony Rizzo (New York Yankees), Andrew McCutchen (Milwaukee Brewers) and Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers).
In the past, all players, managers and coaches wore a No. 21 patch on Sept. 15, which was designated by MLB as Roberto Clemente Day.
Last year, players born in Puerto Rico, uniformed personnel of Puerto Rican descent and Roberto Clemente Award nominees were allowed to wear a No. 21 jersey for the 20th annual Roberto Clemente Day.
Molina, 39, the longest-tenured active Puerto Rican-born major leaguer, has called wearing No. 21 an "extraordinary honor" and "a source of great pride."
"For all us Latinos who have played Major League Baseball and have had to deal with so many obstacles, difficulties and challenges, Clemente is the source of inspiration we need to move forward and pursue our dreams and be an example to others on and off the field," Molina told ESPN. "We hope this day continues to perpetuate the remarkable legacy of No. 21."
Said Rizzo, the 2017 winner: "The Roberto Clemente Award is one the best awards I've won in my career. Just representing him, having that recognition, his number on the forefront of a lot of players throughout the league, will be in his honor. And it's very deserving because he served everyone else. To win that award, it's a humanitarian award and one of the awards I'm definitely proud of. I'll be happy that I'll get to wear that No. 21."
Puerto Rican-born Clemente was the first Latin American player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was a venerated figure for his achievements on and off the field. He was a 15-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner, member of the 3,000-hit club, four-time batting champion, and National League and World Series MVP.
Clemente died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, as he accompanied a cargo plane leaving San Juan, Puerto Rico, to bring humanitarian aid to people affected by a devastating earthquake in Nicaragua. Months after his death, the mandatory five-year waiting period for Clemente's Hall of Fame induction was waived, and he was honored as part of the 1973 class.
MLB calls the Roberto Clemente Award "the most prestigious individual honor for major leaguers," presented to players who represent the game through "extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field."