Why should Roberto Clemente’s #21 be retired from all of baseball?
Roberto Clemente’s #21 should be retired from baseball not because of the great baseball player that he was, but for his ability to use his greatness as a player to help so many people and fans. You can say that he word, “humanitarianism” was started by the benevolence of this great player. Clemente never turned his back on children seeking an autograph, or to snap his picture. There are numerous stories of Clemente’s generosity with both resources and his time to help bring a smile to countless people, in Pittsburge, or anywhere the team travelled. His greatest donation was with his life trying to help the victims of the devastating earthquake in Nicaragua when his plane carrying supplies crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico.
Clemente is the perfect example of a great human being that happened to also be a great baseball player. There is no better way to remember his legacy than by retiring his # 21 from all of professional baseball.
How did the movement to Retire 21 begin?
The present campaign to retire Clemente’s #21 grew out of a local senior citizen, Mr Willy Soto from New York’s El Barrio who started a petition drive to force Major league Baseball to retire the number. Mr. Soto would go out by himself and collect signatures wherever there was a Puerto Rican gathering. Latino sports President, Julio Pabón met Mr. Soto at one of those functions and Mr. Soto insisted that Mr. Pabón take on the cause. After weeks of Mr. Soto calling Mr. Pabón, Mr. Pabón finally conceded to meet and hear Mr. Soto out.
“I recall meeting Mr. Soto in the Chuchifrito restaurant on 116th St in El Barrio for lunch where Mr. Soto insisted on treating me. Afterwards he insisted on walking with him to the senior living complex where he lived and we sat in the community room to talk about retiring #21,” Mr. Pabón recalled. “I was struck how this proud Puerto Rican senior citizen was so determined to do what he had to do to collect signatures to send to the baseball commissioner.”
Mr. Pabón left that meeting thinking about one thing that Mr. Soto had stated. He said that retiring Clemente’s #21 was more than baseball; he said it had to do with respect for the work and sacrifice of a young Puerto Rican that should never be forgotten. Mr. Pabón began to do more research on Clemente and was shocked to learn of the many things that Mr. Clemente had done outside of the game of baseball that he believed very few had known. Thus, he returned and told Mr. Soto that Latino Sports would work with him on his petition drive and help promote the campaign pro bono.
Mr. Pabón reached out to several key Latino icons for their opinion. They were Dennis Rivera, the President of the powerful union, 1199; Mr. Omar Minaya, General Manager of the NY Mets and Fat Joe, a rising Puerto Rican rapper from the South Bronx who was well connected to the youth. They all told him that it was a good idea and that hey would support as best as they could. Mr. Pabón also contacted Major League Baseball and told them of the campaign, he was told that the “retire 21 campaign was being taken under advisement.” Mr. Pabón also reached out to the Clemente family and explained the concept of the campaign and though he knew they might not be able to support the campaign openly, he wanted them to know of this new Retire 21 campaign.
When did the retire 21 Campaign officially begin?
The Retire 21 campaign officially began with a press conference held in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania during the July 2006 All Star game. A press conference was held the site of the now Clemente Museum. The press conference was well attended, as it was part of the opening of the Clemente exhibit. Latinosports.com was one of the many sports news agencies that covered the event. Immediately following the press conference, 21 volunteers wore a retire 21 t-shirt designed and promoted by Latino Sports to collect the first new set of signatures for this new national campaign to retire #21.
What is the structure and organization of the Retire 21 Campaign?
The Retire 21 campaign was formed as a promotions campaign by Latino Sports, a sports marketing and promotions firm to generate national attention to the cause to retire Clemente’s #21. The concept was to generate national attention, recruit volunteers and set up an independent committee to take on the movement with the resources provided by Latino Sports.
A follow-up meeting was held in November of 2006 at Hostos Community College as part of the Puerto Rican Heritage month celebration. Representatives from Chicago, Connecticut and New York met and agreed to make it a national movement with Mr. Julio Pabón as chairman and each city present would have a coordinator. The concept was to have a coordinator in as many cities as possible to collect petitions, gather them all and send to Major League Baseball, not as Mr. Soto had done in the past with a couple of sheets, but with thousands of signatures.
What are the finances of the Retire 21 campaign?
The Retire 21 campaign was started by in kind contributions of 1199 who printed the first petitions, Fat Joe that helped by donating the first two dozen T-shirts worn at the press conference and Latino Sports that donated the graphic work. And coordination. However, as the campaign began to grow, we needed to raise more money than the in-kind donations were able to cover. The committee decided that to promote the movement stickers, posters, banners, etc were required in large quantities to send out to present and future coordinators wherever they might be?
We agreed to start the first donation drive, “Going To Bat To Retire #21.” The campaign was followed and immediate success. A single was $2.10, a double was $21.00, a triple was $210.00 and a home run was $2100.00. Some even suggested we put a grand slam for $21,000.
Though the campaign was catchy and popular we only received one “Home Run” donation of $2100 the rest were singles and doubles. Every person that donated was listed on the new site, www.retire21.org without the amount (this would not embarrassed anyone and made giving fun).
The campaign had asked the La Resurrección United Methodist church to become our fiscal conduit. Thus our campaign was official opened with a bank account where all donations were deposited and checks had to be written to La Resurreccion/Retire21.
All donations went to pay for all of the materials that we needed to have to begin distributing. The campaign now had a banner, stickers to send everywhere, bumper stickers and all of the printing for our new petitions and pamphlets. Our highlight was that we were able to negotiate a deal with the New York Times to place a full-page ad asking the commissioner to retire #21.
However, donations began to slow and it was obvious that the campaign to retire 21 was going to be a long protracted movement that would require more than the few dollars that were trickling in. The expenses were not being covered by donations. This required a re-evaluation where Latino Sports came up with a great concept. Latino Sports would invest in producing a documentary on Clemente and would pay for all expenses for producing a retire 21 T-shirt. In addition it would donate from the viewing of the film and the sale of the T-shirts to the retire 21 campaign. As a result, the Retire 21 Campaign was able to go national with the production of the film, The Legacy of #21. Though the film is a Latino Sports production on Clemente, a segment of the film is dedicated to the Retire 21 campaign made it easy to market and promote the Retire 21 campaign.
At present, both the viewing of the film and as a result the retire 21 campaign has dwindled to a halt. At present there is approximately, $300 in the account for Retire 21.
What is the future of the Retire 21 Campaign?
The strategy that was utilized to fund the campaign by the generosity of Latino Sports properties was quite successful and helped move the campaign to a new higher level recognized world wide. Unfortunately, the properties are now outdated and thus the income generating source is no longer flowing. The investment of a new website will be the first step in the new campaign to retire 21.
At present, we have decided to move Retire 21 to a new organizational level. We will use our resources to incorporate the Retire 21 campaign into a 501.C3 with a new board of directors and a new and expanded advisory board. We are presently soliciting names for both boards.