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A Uni Watch Look at MLB’s Roberto Clemente Day

Yesterday was Roberto Clemente Day across Major League Baseball. The day has been an annual September celebration (the exact date has shifted from year to year), but this was the first year that the day had a major uni-related component — or, rather, several components. Here’s a recap:

• First, as you can see above, the Pirates’ uniformed personnel all wore No. 21 and NNOB — just like everyone wears No. 42 on Jackie Day (it’s almost a spooky coincidence that 21 is exactly half of 42):

It was the first time in 47 years that No. 21 was worn by the Buccos.

• The Pirates also mowed a big “21” into their outfield grass:

• Although the Pirates were the only club wearing No. 21 on a team-wide basis, Puerto Rican-born players on other teams were permitted to wear the number, but with their regular NOBs. Two players who jumped at that opportunity were Tigers pitcher Joe Jiménez (who normally wears No. 77) and Brewers pitcher Alex Claudio (normally No. 58) prior to yesterday afternoon’s game in Detroit:

• Milwaukee pitcher Brent Suter, who normally wears No. 35, is not from Puerto Rico, but he also wore No. 21 yesterday, because he’s the Brewers’ nominee for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award, which is the annual award to the MLB player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy, and positive contributions on and off the field:

I looked up photos of a few other 2020 Clemente Award nominees and couldn’t find any others who were wearing No. 21, but I didn’t go through all 30 of the nominees. Anyone know if any of the others wore No. 21 yesterday? (Update: Apparently several other nominees wore 21. See today’s comments for details.)

• The Pirates notwithstanding, most players (maybe all players?) wore a Clemente memorial patch. Most teams wore it on the right sleeve, but at least one team — the Tigers — wore it on the left sleeve:

The patch design is based on the one that the Pirates wore for Clemente in 1973 (but with a thinner border). That was the first MLB memorial patch to feature a player’s number. It seems like a standard thing now, but almost all uniform memorials up to that point had simply been a black armband or a piece of black crepe. So you could say that even after his death, Clemente was a pioneer!

• At least one player — Albert Pujols of the Angels — wore a Clemente memorial on his batting helmet:

I’m not aware of anyone else having done this. Were there others?

• As you’d expect, there was also plenty of Clemente-themed footwear:

• Astros catcher Martín Maldonado — one of the Puerto Rican players who wore No. 21 yesterday — took his shoes a step further by campaigning for MLB to retire No. 21 for all teams, just as No. 42 is retired for Jackie (additional info here):

Several other players have voiced that same opinion. Personally, I’m not in favor of it — in part because I think Jackie is unique and in part because I think it would open the door to more MLB-wide number retirements, which would water down the whole gesture and make the whole thing feel rote. I say keep things the way they handled it this year: Let the Pirates wear No. 21 on Clemente Day, and let others wear it to honor his memory.

Speaking of which: I was an eight-year-old Mets fan in 1972 and was watching when Clemente got his 3,000th hit off of Mets pitcher Jon Matlack. I didn’t fully appreciate the significance of either the man or the milestone, but I got the idea that it was special. Nobody realized at the time that it would also be his final hit. R.I.P.

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NFL Preview reminder: In case you missed it on Wednesday, the annual Uni Watch NFL Season Preview is now up and running over on InsideHook. Enjoy!

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Numbers game: Yankees pitcher Deivi García has a number on his belt. There’s nothing so unusual about that — we’ve seen more and more players doing it over the past year or so. But as you can see, the number on his belt (45) doesn’t match the number on his jersey (83).

So did García borrow the belt from teammate Gerrit Cole, who wears No. 45? Nope — turns out the belt number is a shout-out to former MLBer Pedro Martinez! I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve seen a belt number used as a tribute, instead of for the player’s own number.

(Big thanks to Reid Cure for this one.)

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Too good for the Ticker: Check out what Brewers catcher Jacob Nottingham’s chest protector straps do to his NOB. Looks like he’s keeping Kosher, or maybe begging not to be traded to the Nippon Ham Fighters!

(Big thanks to reader Neal Dorfman for this one.)

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ITEM! Mask raffle: The recent Uni Watch Tequila Sunrise Masks were a big success! We sold 500 of them in about two weeks, raising $2,500 for the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Unfortunately, they’re now sold out.

But! Reader Adam Bogan bought three extra masks, all sized M/L, for me to raffle off, so that’s what we’re going to do today.

This will be a one-day raffle. USA addresses only, sorry. To enter, send an email with your mailing address to the raffle address by 8pm Eastern tonight. I’ll announce the winners tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the two winners of our last raffle are Noah Softball and Ron Heerlyn, who’ve each won $100 to spend on Uni Watch merchandise. Congrats to them, and big thanks to James Mellett for sponsoring that one!

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The Ticker
By Paul

’Skins Watch: Loveland High School in Colorado will no longer call its teams the Indians (from Jason Greening). … The school board in Radnor Township, Pa., has dropped the high school’s Native American-themed logo and also its “Raiders” team name (from Andrew Hoenig). … Agawam High School in Massachusetts, bucking the national trend, will keep its Native-themed mascot character and will also keep calling its teams the Brownies. The school says the name refers to the team’s brown/orange color scheme (from Timmy Donahue). … Carthage College in Wisconsin will no longer call its teams the Red Men and Lady Reds (from Geoff Poole).

Working Class Wannabes™: A high school football coach in Maryland says, “I’m blessed to have a hard-working group. They were very blue collar last year.” … An UNC-Asheville soccer coach says, “[We have] a fantastic recruiting class, which encompasses the blue-collar mentality we must have here at UNC Asheville.” … An article about the Montana State football team says that MSU coach Cliff Hysell wore blue jeans, a short-sleeved work shirt, and boots when coaching his first game in 1992, because “[i]f Hysell was going to lead a blue collar program at his alma mater, it was going to start with him.” … Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley hopes his latest quarterback recruit has a “blue-collar work ethic.” … Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly describes one of his players, Ben Skowronek, like so: “He’s blue-collar in the sense that he’s the first one in and the last to leave.” … A recent article about an Aussie rules football game refers to the Adelaide team being “at the coalface,” which according to our own Jamie Rathjen “appears to be the Commonwealth version of calling something or someone ‘blue collar.'”

Baseball News: The Wisconsin DMV is offering new Brewers-themed license plate designs (from many readers). … Some fans are honoring deceased loved ones by ordering cardboard cutouts of them (WaPo link) to be placed in MLB ballparks. … A Houston cocktail bar called the Anvil has a tequila sunrise-style T-shirt (from Colin Sherrod). … In a related item, here’s a tequila sunrise-style golf head cover (from @TheBigJamesG). … The Kamloops NorthPaws — now there’s a name — are the latest expansion team in the summer collegiate West Coast League (from John Cerone).

NFL News: New uni number assignments for the Patriots’ rookies. … Ditto for the Lions’ rookies. … Although on-field postgame jersey swaps are banned this season, players can still exchange jerseys by mail. … Two Broncos players have changed their uni numbers. … Too late for my NFL Season Preview:Here are the uni schedules for the Bucs, Dolphins, and Bears (who are keeping their awesome 1930s throwback!).

College Football News: New uniforms for North Carolina A&T. … To celebrate the start of the CFB season, Robert Brashear sent along some vintage program and magazine covers from his collection. … Missouri State is the first team I’ve seen to use a contrast-colored center plate on the Schutt F7 helmet, creating a mohawk-ish effect (from @PaytonGlen).

Basketball News: A Seattle-area teen is getting lots of high-powered attention for his NBA uniform concepts (from Dustin Jensen). … New court design for UAB.

Soccer News: New home kit for Serie A team Parma (from Ed Zelaski). … Also from Ed: New kits for Ukrainian club NK Veres. … The Houston Dynamo are considering some sort of redesign (paywalled) (from Ryan Maquiñana). … Here’s one of the new kits, plus a goalie’s shirt, for the UVa women’s team (thanks, Jamie). … Here’s a look at this year’s Premier League shirt advertisers (from Ryan Walters). … English side Bedale AFC has new vegetable-themed kits (from @Spottschrift).

Grab Bag: Good story about how one U.S. Air Force airman’s experience resulted in a new policy on maternity uniforms. … Here’s a video showing all the logos for the TV show Jeopardy!, including the one for the new season, which begins next week (thanks, Jamie). … Also from Jamie: “Ferrari’s Formula One cars have a new livery this weekend for their 1,000th Formula One race, the Tuscan Grand Prix. The safety car will apparently also be red (it’s normally silver because it’s a Mercedes).” … Two Virginia high schools that were named after Confederate generals have now been renamed (from Timmy Donahue). … I wouldn’t say these inverted cat-eye glasses are good-looking, but they’re definitely clever! … New uniforms for the Italian men’s volleyball team Kioene Pallavolo Padova (from Jeremy Brahm). … Here’s an article with lots of really great info on space mission logos, patches, stickers, and so on (from Mike Mills). … Here’s a very simple, interesting explainer for the Tesla logo (from Andreas Papadopoulos).

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Comments (35)

    Yu Darvish also wore 21. I read non-Puerto Ricans reached out to the Players’ Association to obtain permission.

    So does Missouri State paint those maroon sections onto the other helmet models that some of the team certainly uses?

    Surprised you didn’t mention the Mets stacking the Clemente 21 over the Seaver 41. It made sense the way they did it, but an interesting visual.


    Also, the top of the 5th inning of the Met game had a wide-ranging discussion of uni topics…from Stance socks, to racing stripes to the Mets orange squatchee and more. Highly recommend.

    yes! keith really doesn’t like socks with horizontal stripes and I was surprised to learn that gary didn’t mind the black uniforms. I was really hoping gary would call it a squatchee, but alas.

    Interesting to see the Post article about the cutouts. I recently purchased a cutout of my brother (who was a huge A’s fan and died of suicide four years ago) to be “seated” in the Oakland Coliseum for the rest of the season. Though requesting seat location was not an option, the team was kind enough to have a 360 degree high resolution photo taken from the stadium floor…it’s zoomable on any section of the stadium so you can see the cutout in its placed location. (They do give section and row number so you know where to look).

    I read somewhere that Tom Walker, who played with Clemente in Pittsburgh, helped load the plane and wanted to go but Roberto had him stay behind. Tom’s son, Neil out of Pine-Richland HS in Pittsburgh was the Pirate’s 1st round selection in the 2004 draft and has gone on to have a solid career. Butterfly Effect right?


    Loved the NFL Season Preview Paul. A great gift to read in the fall and there was a lot to cover this year.

    Thinking about the Rams and how the bone uniform was such a mistake. Looks like a practice uniform.

    Even if they kept the same new blue uniform, they should have created a white version using the same template. This way they could have worn blue or yellow pants with the white jersey. We could have had a set of white pants that could have been subbed in with the blue jersey.

    They are basically stuck wearing bone pants with the bone jersey. Unless they decide to wear a set of pants that completely does not match well with the jersey. Which the Rams have been known to do anyway in the past few seasons.

    Self-follow-up, it’s “odd” because the Pirates were NNOB #21, and other teams’ #21’s had NOB, but Machado is a San Diego Padre, NNOB #21. The link goes to a MLB “slideshow” Instagram post, and Machado is the first photo there.

    Watching the Rangers v. Angels last night, Elvis Andrus (last year’s Ranger nominee for the Clemente Award) and Shin-Soo Choo (this year’s nominee) both wore 21. Choo was easy to overlook as he didn’t play due to injury. The pregame notes from Sports Illustrated indicate the Ranger’s Advance Scouting Coordinator also wore 21.


    I also remember watching Clemente’s 3000th hit off Matlack.
    I was 7 and remember having similar thoughts!

    For clarification purposes, Clemente did get 4 hits in the 1972 NLCS. His 3,000th hit was his last regular season hit but not last hit ever.

    “Looking forward to the day when we all wear this number and it is retired league-wide.”

    That. Makes. NO. Sense,

    Retiring Numbers 101: when you retire a number, NO ONE wears it again. And the Pirates already did that (well, until yesterday).

    But then we live in a world where the Big 12 has 10 teams, the Big Ten has more than 10 teams and the Chicago “White Sox” wear black socks. As George Costanza said, “There are no laws in this place. Anything goes. It’s Thunderdome!”

    Last night Pirstes’ broadcaster Greg Brown said he did NOT favor MLBwide retirement of 21 but then had an extended conversation with colorman (and former Pirate pitcher) Bob Walk about his idea would be be that Clemente award nominees would wear 21 throughout the next year,

    As much as I’ve enjoyed reading the Pandemic Porch Cocktail entries, I think I may like the current presented-without-comment version even more. Sometimes there’s a surprise (like the dapper fellow in green today), sometimes it’s business as usual — just like life.


    *Maybe a webcam can be set up so one can view the live look from The Porch—-anytime. link

    *When Willie Mays sadly passes away- they should consider #24 to be retired league wide. Arguably the greatest player in history, right?

    I’m not a fan of league-wide number retirements. While it can be fun to debate whether a team should honor a given player, doing it across the sport opens up a huge can of worms.

    If you’re going to retire 24 for every team, how about 3? There’s no question that Mays deserves the Giants’ tribute, and Ruth the Yankees’ (and Clemente the Pirates’), but 24 doesn’t mean Mays to me in the context of the Pirates.

    I feel the same way about 42. A better idea would have been to have the original 16 franchises retire the number of their first black player, but that wouldn’t fit MLB’s concept of “We signed Jackie and everyone lived happily ever after.”

    Paul, you couldn’t have put it better about the pitch to retire Roberto Clemente’s number across the big leagues. Clemente is the greatest Pirate of all time, and the first Latin American superstar, but Jackie was unique. Leave it the way it is.

    The greatest Pirate of all time is actually Honus Wagner, which is not to take anything away from Clemente.

    Your item above about AC Parma got me to thinking about kit deals outside of the huge global clubs. Beyond Nike, Adidas, and Puma, there are many smaller kit makers like Errea, Umbro, Macron, Diadora, Kappa, Joma, and others who outfit smaller clubs worldwide. AC Parma has used Errea now for several years and frankly the fan jerseys are uncomfortable and not nearly as well made as those from Nike or the bigger companies. I’m assuming these smaller kit makers compete for clubs, just like the top tier makers, but what are the stakes? Some of these companies have been around for quite a while but I’m wondering why a club like Parma goes with Errea, rather than another smaller company like Kappa, or why they don’t go with Nike or Adidas? What drives these decisions at that level? Parma are now a middling Serie A club, but were once a top club, competing for European hardware.

    I’ve never seen anything that really touches on this but a quick search found that as of 2017, Errea had an annual turnover of 57 millions euros ($67.7m) with sales of Iceland tops in the tens of thousands so there’s definitely money to be made by these smaller outfitters.


    As for the name of the club, it’s been branded as Parma F.C. and then Parma Calcio for quite some time.

    I know the reason why the small European national teams like Macron is that they actually have some effort put into their designs, whereas the Liechtensteins of the world got templates when they were with Adidas et al. Perhaps feeling like a partner instead of a faceless customer factors into those decisions (although those teams didn’t choose Macron, they’re part of a UEFA program that Macron chose to supply).

    The Dolphins wear white jerseys for half their home games, for their September and October games. Is there any evidence that white is cooler than aqua? I’m assuming black or navy would be hotter, but I’d be surprised if aqua is hotter. Of course they may be doing this because their opponents could be wearing darker jerseys.

    I was surprised this didn’t pop up in the ticker. Gio Gonzalez came in to relieve Dane Dunning in the White Sox game last night. As he was about to throw his first pitch the ump stopped him and told him he had to switch gloves. I was curious of a few aspects of this. Was Gio using this glove before his DL stint? Did the batter or someone else tip off the ump of the distraction, or does the ump not check for that during the warm-up pitches? Also How common is this? Fun note. As Gio approached the dugout asking for a glove Jose Abreu tossed a mini glove to him.

    It seems unlikely that we’ll ever see a player of such humanitarian caliber as Mr. Clemente. It blew my mind as a young boy circa 1980 to learn of a baseball player that died en route to help earthquake victims. I can’t imagine a player of similar stature, in any sport, that would do such a thing nowadays and not have it be about the photo opportunities or social media likes. I think yesterday’s simple tribute (circled 21) was most fitting for him.

    Mychal Givens wore #21 NNOB last night for the Rockies. TV reported he wore it in honor of his great-grandmother who raised him.

    I agree about leaguewide retirements — it’s a slippery slope because there are others who were pioneers in their own way. As an example, to my mind Hank Greenberg doesn’t get enough credit leaguewide for the anti-Semitic mistreatment he regularly had to put up with in the 1930s and ’40s. But that doesn’t mean I think his number should be retired throughout MLB — Jackie is the ultimate special case.

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