SAN FRANCISCO -- Baseball's Jackie Robinson Day observances annually rekindle the debate about whether Roberto Clemente merits similar acknowledgments for breaking down barriers for Latin American ballplayers.
"I'd love to see it. But it's outside of my sphere of influence, so there's nothing else for me to say about it," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
"He was as special as any player ever in this game," said Neil Walker, the Pittsburgh native who grew up listening to the Clemente legend. "I do think [he deserves the same honor]. At least, the issue should be revisited, absolutely."
The resistance to establishing a Roberto Clemente Day, complete with the universal retirement of his No. 21, never has been a reflection of Clemente's own merits.
Rather, Major League Baseball, which established a national holiday on the anniversary of Robinson's first color-line-breaking game with the 1947 Dodgers, hasn't wanted anything to detract from that singular achievement.
MLB honors the memory of the late Pirates great with its Roberto Clemente Award, presented annually since 1971 to an active player who reflects Clemente's commitment to community and helping others.