Roberto, Jackie, And The Irresistible Urge To Devalue Honors

Eventually almost all possible ethics issues will be explored in baseball commentary, if you wait long enough. They will also be explored incompetently, since the average athlete or sports journalist isn’t much more astute in the field than the average citizen, which means that the analysis will be dominated by emotion, rationalizations, logical fallacies, historical ignorance, and a vacuum in ethics generally.

This phenomenon was on display yesterday, which was Roberto Clemente Day in Major League Baseball. There is no doubt that Clemente was one of baseball’s all-time greats, and 18-year veteran who played his entire career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973,  the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be so honored. Clemente’s legacy and reputation is burnished by the fact that he died in a plane crash while trying to bring humanitarian relief to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was 38 years old.

Yesterday, in an orgy of Clemente love, sportswriters and players on the MLB satellite radio channel were arguing that Clemente’s uniform number, 21, should be retired by all teams like Jackie Robinson’s number, 42, was retired. The theory: Clemente was as much of a trail-blazer for Latin players as Robinson was for blacks.

This is, to be blunt (I’m feeling blunt today) crap. Continue reading