June 29, 2022

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Why some players have No. 21 on back of their baseball caps

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Roberto Clemente Award winners will get to wear the Hall of Famer’s number on their hats for the rest of their careers

Photo of Matt Young


St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright pauses between batters while wearing No. 21 on his cap during the fourth inning Thursday, April 7, 2022, in St. Louis. Winners of the Roberto Clemente Award, like Wainwright, will wear his No. 21 on back of their caps for the rest of their major league careers.

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright pauses between batters while wearing No. 21 on his cap during the fourth inning Thursday, April 7, 2022, in St. Louis. Winners of the Roberto Clemente Award, like Wainwright, will wear his No. 21 on back of their caps for the rest of their major league careers.

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Players who have won the Roberto Clemente Award will wear his No. 21 on the back of their baseball caps for the rest of their major league careers. The award is given to a player at the end of every season for “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

Honoring the players by having them wear Clemente’s number on their caps is a move similar to what the NFL does for Walter Payton Man of the Year honorees, who wear a Payton patch on their jerseys. J.J. Watt won the award in 2017 and has had the patch on his Texans and Cardinals jerseys.

There are eight active players who are Clemente Award winners: the Mets’ Carlos Carrasco, Nationals’ Nelson Cruz, Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, Brewers’ Andrew McCutchen, Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo and the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright. The Astros’ Craig Biggio won the award in 2007.

“The Roberto Clemente Award is easily the best award I’ve won in my career,” Rizzo told the Associated Press. “Just representing him, having that recognition of his number on the forefront of a lot of players’ hats throughout the league will be will be in his honor. It’s very deserving because he served everyone else.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary Clemente dying in a plane crash at the age of 38 while he was on his way to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.



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