South Bronx, NY: Today I have had two radio interviews from Puerto Rico both on the topic of today being Roberto Clemente Day and the significance of wearing #21. I was grateful that both radio personalities remembered and sought me out for the interviews because as they stated, “you were the first to start the national campaign to recognize Clemente, #21 and retiring his number throughout all of baseball.
It was a pleasure for me then, in 2004 and 2005 to follow up where a retired senior and community activist in El Barrio, Willie Soto had harassed me to the point of finally meeting with him taking his attempts to retire the number to another level. He was the one that convinced me to take up the cause for retiring #21 as he so eloquently stated to, “it’s not about baseball, he’s already recognized at the highest level by being in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s about respect for the Puerto Rican community.” He explained that with all that Clemente had done, from his controversial positions supporting Civil Rights, fighting Jim Crow laws in the South and helping all those in need to the point of losing his life, that those were some of the reasons that his number should be remembered by all.
That convinced me and when I returned to my office and spoke to my crew, they all looked at me with that, “oh no, not another goodwill project where we will get involved instead of focusing on building our small Latino Sports business.” Thank God for a very loving crew of people that I have always surrounded myself with that supported my newest project. We planned to rent a van and travel to the 2006 All Star Game in Pittsburg, PA and announce what is known as the Retire #21 movement.
So today, though I, or Latino Sports are no longer spearheading the Retire 21 Campaign, I am proud that we produced a documentary specifically on retiring his number and several apparel items that are still quite popular and more than delighted to see how many players, coaches and folks from all walks of life are slowly, but surely moving the pendulum more and more to the day that Roberto Clemente’s #21 will be retired. I remember interviewing Joey Cora for the documentary and he was opposed to it, so you can imagine how surprised and happy I was to see how he posted a video yesterday calling on everyone to wear something with #21. More and more people are coming around to the idea that it is something that needs to be done.
Today, I like thousands throughout the country and many more in Puerto Rico are wearing, or displaying something with the #21. As I continue to get pictures, or calls from people sharing their attempts to honor this day I can only smile and realize that “Si Se Puede.”
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