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January 24, 2006

Sharon Robinson doesn't want to water down the significance of Jackie's retired number: Hard to argue with that. As the article says, where do you draw the line? Would Gehrig be next? What about Minnie Minoso?

posted by BullpenPro to baseball at 07:59 AM - 25 comments

"Why is your number 7/8?" "Because all the whole numbers are retired."

posted by njsk8r20 at 08:33 AM on January 24

You know, I agree with her, but don't think she should have that much say, its up to MLB what they want to do. As far as Clemente goes, he deserves something special because of the way he died, maybe they could name the NL MVP award after him or something.

posted by sfts2 at 08:40 AM on January 24

Jackie Robinson played a major part in the history of MLB. I agree that MLB should find a differeant way to honor Roberto Clemente. The retired number for Robinson shows how he effected the whole league. He truely paved the way for change.

posted by daddisamm at 08:42 AM on January 24

I entirely agree with Sharon Robinson. Clremente was a great player, a hero, and an important symbol for baseball, but there is NO comparison to Jackie Robinson, whose importance was not to baseball, but to the entire nation. (It's hard to remember how pervasive racism was for younger fans. I'm 59, and remember how the first baseball special issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED showed the manager, the star, and the manager's wife of the World Champions, with her arm around the other two's waists. Because the star was Willie Mays, the next two issues posted pages of coments of Southerners (and other racists) cancelling their subscriptions because of the 'disgusting,' 'pornographic' cover.) Jackie's courage, and the effect he had on fans and on the country was so great that mentioning Clemente is the same context is absurd. (Had he been successful as a player, the only person who potentially had the same effect might have been Glenn Burke, the first openly gay baseball player, but, sadly, he was never more than a fourth outfielder and never had the same impact. Jim

posted by Jim Benton at 08:50 AM on January 24

I agree with Sharon Robinson. I think there is a tendency in today's cultural climate to try to include everyone in everything, which is good in general but would diminish the meaning of the retirement of Jackie Robinson's number. His accomplishments echoed beyond just baseball - he was a cultural pioneer that should be recognized as such. Obviously Clemente was a superstar on and off the field and means a great deal to the people of his heritage. He should be recognized for his accomplishments - just not by having his number retired across-the-board. Jackie Robinson should stand alone in having his number retired by MLB.

posted by ChiSox1977 at 09:17 AM on January 24

Clremente was a great player, a hero, and an important symbol for baseball, but there is NO comparison to Jackie Robinson,... I agree with the comment in theory, but who is drawing a direct comparison of Clemente to Robinson? I'm not sure I see the connection. Was retiring Yogi Berra's number by the Yankees a spit-in-the-face of Babe, since Berra didn't mean as much to the history of the team? Now, my example is over-simplistic, but conversely, it's blowing it out of proportion to state that simply retiring a number results in a one-to-one comparison of the players (IMHO). Having said that, I tend to agree with the overall idea of not retiring Clemente's number across all of MLB (although I am open to discussion). And, Ms. Robinson seems quite genuine and her ideas well-thought. But, the only problem I have is - how is it her place to publicly involve herself in this? Maybe it's a god-given right, being his daughter. But, I think either she is somehow personally offended and spoke on her own - or, an aggressive journalist thought it'd be spicy to get her thoughts and sought her out (if this is the case, then I blame her much less than the journalist). Either way, I don't think her comments belong in public record.

posted by littleLebowski at 09:22 AM on January 24

"I totally think that Roberto's accomplishments should continue to be spotlighted and highlighted as a major part of baseball and American culture, as well as Puerto Rico's culture," she told the newspaper. I don't see how you can honor someone by simply mentioning their accomplishments. Many kids don't know who Roberto Clemente was or how he died, and I think he should have his number retired alongside Jackie. Seriously, how many other people in baseball do you think should have their numbers retired by the entire MLB? Jackie and Roberto are the only ones that come to mind for me....

posted by sublime4390116 at 09:42 AM on January 24

I don't see how you can honor someone by simply mentioning their accomplishments. Really? Many kids don't know who Roberto Clemente was or how he died, and I think he should have his number retired alongside Jackie. How does retiring Clemente's number tell more kids about who he was or how he died? I have serious doubts that the mere fact of retiring Jackie's number has brought his accomplishments into the world's consciousness so much more than they were before his number was retired. Seriously, how many other people in baseball do you think should have their numbers retired by the entire MLB? Jackie and Roberto are the only ones that come to mind for me.... Hank Aaron? Larry Doby? Minnie Minoso? Lou Gehrig? Ray Chapman? Babe Ruth? Ted Williams? Bob Feller? Curt Flood? Pete Gray? If you spend enough time and energy, you can make a pretty compelling case for all sorts of people. It's a slippery slope. Clemente made tremendous contributions as a ballplayer and as a man, but nobody, not even Clemente, made close to the cultural contribution that Robinson did.

posted by BullpenPro at 10:09 AM on January 24

I don't think her comments belong in public record. What's objectionable: the fact that the comments themselves were made public, or the fact that she spoke them? Why on Earth should her comments be kept from the public?

posted by cl at 10:50 AM on January 24

What's objectionable: the fact that the comments themselves were made public, or the fact that she spoke them? Why on Earth should her comments be kept from the public? Fair question - I'd say the fact that the comments were made widely public. I just feel like this is unnecessarily airing laundry when it is debatable whether it concerns her. And, because of her relation, airing this in a widely-read newspaper article inserts influence (arguably undue influence) over the situation. It's kinda like, I don't care or blame her for feeling that way, but keep it private. I might totally feel differently if MY Dad were at the heart of the subject ... but again, I don't think HER Dad is at the heart of the subject. I think it's a major overstatement to say that retiring Clemente's number negatively impacts Jackie Robinson or his offspring.

posted by littleLebowski at 11:14 AM on January 24

when it is debatable whether it concerns her. It's debatable whether Jackie Robinson's legacy "concerns" her? I'd feel comfortable speaking for my wife's legacy (assuming the cops never found the body). Who else is going to do it? Jackie's ghost has been silent on the matter so far, most likely because that voice would make him the least frightening ghost this side of Casper. Clemente is an all-time great player and person. No one other than Jackie deserves to have their number retired for all teams. As stated above, it dilutes the importance of Jackie Robinson's accomplishment and it's simply a sop to Clemente's legacy, rather than actually educating kids about who he was and what he stood for. It'll be one kid in a thousand that leanrs about Clemente because of an oddball retired number in a stadium; if they can make everyone sing treacly, "Patriotic" songs every damn Sunday, they can damn well lecture us on Clemente once a year or something.

posted by yerfatma at 11:31 AM on January 24

I just feel like this is unnecessarily airing laundry when it is debatable whether it concerns her. My feeling is that whether MLB retires Clemente's number is in fact a public (relations) issue, and her viewpoint, while not necessarily authoritative, is certainly unique and interesting. So is that of Frank Robinson, who aired similar sentiments. And while it does not involve her specifically, it does involve an issue she is undoubtedly more familiar with than most, by virtue of who she is. I think it's a major overstatement to say that retiring Clemente's number negatively impacts Jackie Robinson or his offspring. I agree, but that's not what she said.

"To my understanding, the purpose of retiring my father's number is that what he did changed all of baseball, not only for African-Americans but also for Latinos... When you start retiring numbers across the board, for all different groups, you're kind of diluting the original purpose."

posted by cl at 11:51 AM on January 24

It's debatable whether Jackie Robinson's legacy "concerns" her? You're either failing to grasp the main point of my argument, or you don't care ... IF Robinson's legacy were at stake here, then by all means, she should speak up, and whatever else she wanted to do. I just don't see, and no-one has given me any concrete explanation to make me change my mind, WHY does Clemente's number "dilute the importance of Jackie Robinson's accomplishment" (or, MLB's original intent of retiring his number)? If you take your kid to the ballpark and choose to not tell him/her the Jackie Robinson story just because there's a couple other numbers on the wall beside his and it'll take too much time to cover them all - that's your bad - not the fault of whoever put the numbers on the wall. I see the other side to the argument, and if you had read another one of my comments, I'm not all-for retiring Clemente's number. I just disagree with the "it hurts Jackie" argument. On preview, real good comments, cl. I don't entirely disagree with her comments, or yours - I just personally don't agree that she has expert insight into the "fact" that this will dilute anything. Therefore, make sure the Jackie Robinson story is told, but why begrudge someone else of a similar honor? I just respectfully disagree - but a good discussion.

posted by littleLebowski at 12:03 PM on January 24

I can't help but think that Jackie would disagree with his daughter on this one. From what I have read about the man, anyway. Retiring numbers league wide isn't an answer to promoting all the great things that Clemente or Robinson stood for. My daughter loves going to ball games...but she wouldn't have noticed 42 up there if I didn't bring it up. maybe they could name the NL MVP award after him or something. There is already a 'Roberto Clemente Award'. A player from each team is nominated for this 'good citizen' award. One ultimately wins because he gives back to the community. They have been honoring players with this award since 1971. If you are interested here is a list of past winners. Hanging his number in the stadium and not allowing anyone else to wear it doesn't honor him or his family any more than this award does. I think the converse is true. A player who wears 21 and honors Clemente through his actions does much better for Roberto's legacy then a plaque on the side of the stadium.

posted by stofer71 at 12:13 PM on January 24

WHY does [retiring] Clemente's number "dilute the importance of Jackie Robinson's accomplishment" (or, MLB's original intent of retiring his number)? On April 15, 1997, a moment before announcing to the crowd at Shea Stadium, "Number 42 belongs to Jackie Robinson for the ages," Bud Selig said this:

"No single person is bigger than the game, no one except Jackie Robinson."

posted by cl at 12:42 PM on January 24

"No single person is bigger than the game, no one except Jackie Robinson." Ahh, if only it hadn't been Bud that said that ... Good on ya for callin' me out, cl. That's definitely a good counter to my argument. Not sayin' I'm 100% in your corner, but finally, a good point-of-fact.

posted by littleLebowski at 12:56 PM on January 24

I am 62 and got to see Jackie play many times. He layed the groundwork for African Americans not only to play the game but to show they could play it as well as most and much better than some. He also was able to influence many racist players to revise their conduct and beliefs.There was black, white and most importantly there was baseball. Robinson played in an era where baseball was your summer job. In the winter you worked in a deli, laid bricks, sold cars, etc. MLK marched and made speeches. Now he has streets named after him and a national holiday. Jackie Robinson did more for the African American movement by stealing (bases) than MLK can dream about. Jackie had a dream, he also followed it.

posted by nowandthen at 01:19 PM on January 24

If I could add my two cents... I think they should honor Roberto Clemente in a different way, yes naming an award would work. I not a baseball fan but I know Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB and he was a good ball player. I also know that R.C. died in a plane crash...I know cause I READ. Younger people will not know anything about either if they don't go beyond the basic stats/facts. And you can't retire nos. without a lot of thought or there won't be any nos. left to play with. NASCAR didn't retire the no. 3 when Dale Earnhardt died...despite fan/driver/owner consensus, but Richard Childress gave the no. to Dale's widow, Teresa to do with what she will. Maybe there will be a 3 down the road. I think you really have to be GREAT to retire your no. across the board. No dis to Roberto

posted by steelergirl at 01:55 PM on January 24

Is anyone sick of hearing the race issue in sports? I sure am like micheals smiths article on espn about how there where 9 head coach vacant signs and only one was obtained by a african american.. I am not a hater, im just tired of everytime the best coach gets the job someone has to scream racism. it is getting ridiculous and i hope that the crying racist pointers shut the hell up and owners continue to hire the BEST man for the job.

posted by ttdjkon at 02:14 PM on January 24

Roberto Clemente has a bridge in Pittsburg named after him and a coliseum in Puerto Rico. The man has been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. What else need be done? I also agree with stofer71, young latino players can honor him by wearing his number and keeping his memory alive.

posted by HATER 187 at 02:33 PM on January 24

/begrudginly offtopic: ttdjkon - you'd be a little more sour about the issue if your favorite team hadn't just hired mike mccarthy as their head coach. /ontopic: i think i have to agree that jackie's accomplishment should stand above the rest. these are all symbolic gestures anyway. we're all arguing about how we think history should be written, and that's nothing new.

posted by ninjavshippo at 05:34 PM on January 24

I just wonder if they do honor him by retiring his number, where do they draw the line? Who will be next? (Jose Conseco for bringing out the steroid changes?) I think it will delute Robinson's honor to start doing it for other people. I am in no way comparing Jose to Clemente just trying to make a point about drawing a line and where do you do it. After all sooner or later you would definately run out of numbers if you started to retire more. I think it would be an absolute honor to wear some of the greats numbers. I also do think that Robinson's daughter does have the right to speak on this because her father can't speak for himself. He should be given a voice in this matter and she is his voice.

posted by skydivemom at 06:26 PM on January 24

I also know that R.C. died in a plane crash...I know cause I READ. Younger people will not know anything about either if they don't go beyond the basic stats/facts. And yet we have plenty of young people here who can write. how there where 9 head coach vacant signs and only one was obtained by a african american.. I am not a hater, im just tired of everytime the best coach gets the job someone has to scream racism. Are you seriously suggesting the best available coaches were hired?

posted by yerfatma at 07:02 PM on January 24

Roberto Clemente has an MLB award named after him. Given to the person who gives backs to the community. Each team ahas a winner and there is an over-all winner. Robinson was a ground breaker and as suc had a major impact on society. Another thing to think about, Lattino players had been playing in the MLB long before Afro Amercians. So despite the fact he was a great person Roberto was not paving the way for his race. He is being remmebered for what he was very good at.-giving back to his roots.

posted by daddisamm at 10:34 AM on January 25

Both Nowandagain and Daddisamm make the key points. What Jackie did was unique, he was given a unique honor, and it should remain unique -- and I wish they hadn't 'grandfathered' it so Mariano still wears the number. Roberto was a great man and a hero, and a great ballplayer, who happened to be Hispanic as well. But he was not the first Hispanic, he was not the only great Hispanic ball player, and in fact, because of the 'darkness of his skin' Jackie opened the door for him as well. Nor was he the only hero who also played baseball. Ted Williams was a hero, maybe a greater one, and probably a better ballplayer than either of them, but he WASN'T JACKIE ROBINSON. There was only one who did what Jackie did. (And, btw, I happen to be white, if it matters.)

posted by Jim Benton at 04:07 PM on January 25

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