Athlete Number 21 - Roberto Clemente

Number 21 - Roberto Clemente
The pick for the best athlete to wear number 21 may be the most difficult choice of them all. It was neck and neck on this decision. Warren Spahn versus Roberto Clemente. Pitcher versus Hitter. In the end, Roberto's offensive prowess, combined with his defensive strength, proved to be the tie breaker.

Here are some of "Bob" Clemente's acheivements:

  • Hit better than .300 for the season, thirteen times
  • 1966 NL MVP
  • 12-time All-Star
  • Two-time World Series Champ (1960 and 1971)
  • 1971 World Series MVP
  • Four-time NL batting leader
  • Twelve Gold Gloves

Here is an interesting story about Roberto Clemente, relayed by my brother, who is a new resident of Pittsburgh. My brother was sitting in a bar in Pittsburgh, when his new neighbor walked in. They started chatting about sports and the subject of Roberto Clemente came up. His neighbor told him that he went to a Pirates game as a child and while the Pirates were warming up, he went down to field level to get Clemente's autograph. He sought out Clemente, and handed him his baseball glove to be signed. Clemente took the glove and walked away. Strange, huh? Well, when Clemente came back, the glove was signed by the entire Pirates team. That's the kind of guy Roberto Clemente was.

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  1. NY Jints Faithful9:19 AM

    Clemente not only was a great player but a great person. In this day and age of selfish athletes and crybaby millionaires - he is a refreshing name to see published again. New Year's Eve, December 31 1972 Clemente died in a tragic plane crash, the plane was taking medical, food and clothing supplies to earthquake stricken Nicaragua. Vera and friends begged him not to take the trip (poor weather and an unstable cargo plane) but Roberto was determined. He was infuriated that the previous supplies had not made it to the victims. Roberto was going to personally see to it that the victims received the much needed supplies. Unfortunately, the plane went down off the coast of Puerto Rico. Roberto's body was never found. Just months after Roberto joined an elite group of players with 3,000 hits, he was gone.

  2. Misopogon9:28 AM

    Honorable mention for Dominique Wilkins, but I agree with the pick.

  3. Anonymous1:52 PM

    No Love for neon Deion. Find me a better Corner to ever play the game. Also hitting a homerun in MLB and scoring a touchdown in the NFL in the same week had never been accomplished before Prime Time.

    1. Anonymous2:12 AM

      One-- Deion Sanders, statistically, wasn't a very great CB; but, he was flashy, and he did everything; returns; he even played wide out a bit...And Bo Jackson, among some other players did the whole baseball-football thing, so, that's not that impressive...And, I can find you many better CB's-- Mike Haynes, Willie Brown, Darrell Green, Mel Blount, Dick Lane, Mel Renfro, and Herb Adderley...

    2. Anonymous5:36 PM

      Deion may have been good, but Clemente was a legend.

    3. I think Deion would vote for the Great One.

    4. Agree. Don't think you can do any better than the Great One.

  4. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Tomlinson? He's only the best running back in football.

  5. Anonymous10:00 PM


  6. Anonymous7:26 PM

    Tim Duncan???????? Best PF ever in the NBA??????

  7. Anonymous4:19 AM

    Tomlinson is not even the best LT. Adrian Peterson is going to shatter the house Tomlinson made.

    Clemente all the way.

  8. Anonymous6:56 PM

    Clemente was a great person and a fine baseball player, but Deion Sanders (also a great person -- not "Prime Time", but Deion) is the best player ever at the second-most-difficult position in the most team-oriented sport. Clemente was not the greatest outfielder ever, but Deion WAS the greatest defensive back ever.

  9. Anonymous1:30 PM

    DEION SANDERS...nothing further

  10. Anonymous8:24 PM

    Prime Time is among the greatest athletes of all-time

  11. Anonymous7:30 PM

    Roberto Clemente was the greatest left fielder of all-time. A position where you need to have the strongest arm on the team.

    1. He was a right fielder. Still the greatest though.

  12. Anonymous1:36 PM

    What about Peter Forsberg

    1. Anonymous3:20 PM

      What about Peter Forsberg? Several better, that's what.
      Clemente, Sanders, Tomlinson, Duncan, Clemens. All better 21's than Forsberg. Nothing wrong with being a fan of Forsberg, but please, get real.
      John Mayo

  13. Anonymous7:24 PM

    dang this is a good one id have to go with LT. Timmy Duncan and prime time is up there too. Clemente is such a classy guy that its hard to argue against. Dark horse Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers

    1. "LT" was, is, and always will be Lawrence Taylor. You can call Tomlinson "LT" all you want, but that doesn't make it so.

  14. Anonymous1:41 PM

    Don't forget about the winningest left hander in MLB history Warren Spahn

  15. Anonymous8:35 PM

    This is a tough one. I'm not sure there is a clear cut winner.

  16. Anonymous11:53 PM

    Prime Time! The only person to ever play in the World Series and the Super Bowl.

  17. Deion was a spectacular athlete, no doubt. But Clemente's numbers and achievements are not disputable.

  18. Anonymous11:52 AM

    Warren Spahn: compare his war record with others: did they interrupt their careers to defend their country? A career that spanned three decades?

  19. Anonymous3:23 PM

    I love Paul O'Neill. Not suggesting he is the greatest #21, but I respect his ability, grittiness, and character. It's hard to find a more competitive #21.

  20. Anonymous12:34 PM

    Sorry I would have to go with Deion Sanders on this one. He was one of the best shutdown corners ever to play the game of football. Much respect to the other guys but Deion comes out on top

  21. Anonymous11:18 PM

    Deion Sanders was one of the greatest athletes of all-time. Had he played baseball full-time he might have been an all-star in that sport too. Deion may not have the most interceptions, but it's not his fault that quarterbacks completely ignored that side of the field in most instances. He also never played free safety, like Rod Woodson did later in his career, a move that added a lot of INTs to his stats. He could cover his man with no safety help and he was the first person considered to be a true "shut down" corner. He could change the game as a cornerback and a returner.

  22. Anonymous6:18 PM

    Clemente was spectacular. Prime Time and Tim Duncan were both great as well. The main problem I have with this website is comparing different players/achievements from different sports. But my pick for greatest #21 is the real LT, LaDainian Tomlinson.

    About LT:

    Ladanian Tomlinson Holds the all-time NFL record for single season touchdowns (31).
    Holds the all-time NFL record for single season rushing touchdowns
    Holds the all-time NFL record for the most points scored in a single
    Holds the all-time NFL record for most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown (18).
    Holds the NFL record for most consecutive multi-touchdown games
    Tied the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown score with Hall of Fame fullback Lenny Moore (18).
    Tied for third place for most career 200-yard (180 m) rushing games with several other players (4).
    Holds the all-time San Diego Chargers record for most career rushing yards (11,760).
    Holds the all-time San Diego Chargers record for most career
    Holds the all-time NFL record for fewest games needed to achieve 100 touchdowns, with his 100th career touchdown
    Second place on the list of NFL all-time rushing touchdown leaders—behind Emmitt Smith.
    In 2006 Tomlinson became the second player in NFL history to score 4 touchdowns in 2 straight games
    Holds the record for most touchdowns scored in a five game span with 16 TDs (14 rushing, 2 receiving), breaking his own record of 15 that he had set two weeks earlier.
    Became the only player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards (910 m) and receive 100 passes in a single season.
    Second player in NFL history with 1,800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in one season.
    LaDainian Tomlinson joins Emmitt Smith, Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander, and Marshall Faulk as the only running backs to record consecutive seasons of 20 or more touchdowns

    5× Pro Bowl selection (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)
    4× First-team All-Pro selection (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)
    2× Second-team All-Pro (2002, 2003)
    AP NFL MVP (2006)
    PFWA NFL MVP (2006)
    Co-Walter Payton M.O.Y (2006)
    Best NFL Player ESPY Award (2007)
    Best Record-Breaking Performance ESPY Award (2007)
    Best Male Athlete ESPY Award (2007)


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