Roberto Clemente
Roberto Clemente wearing his famous #21 jersey Via ESPN

ALABAMA - A New York representative is pushing an initiative that would see Roberto Clemente's name be commemorated in U.S. currency. Adriano Espaillat, congressman from the Bronx, has put a bill in motion that would honor the Puerto Rican's impact on the "Latinization" of baseball and his commitment to helping others.

"From Puerto Rico to Cuba to the Dominican Republic to Venezuela and now even Mexico...the pioneer for all that was Roberto Clemente," said Espaillat in an interview with The New York Times.

The outfielder played 18 seasons with the Pirates, winning two World Series titles in 1960 and 1971. Clemente was a fine player both defensively and offensively, but his best traits were far away from the plate, as he was devoted to helping others.

Known for his charity work and always putting others ahead of himself, he used to spend the off-seasons in Latin America and the Caribbean, often delivering baseball equipment or food for those in precarious conditions.

"Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth."
– Roberto Clemente Walker

Shortly after his death, Clemente was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame via a special election, making the Carolina native the first first Latin American-born player with a plaque in Cooperstown.

"He felt that sports were one of the best ways to imbute in youth the values of good citizenship.... With sports the child learned in a natural way, at an important stage of their life, that one must sacrifice a bit for the common good," said Efren Bernier, one of Clemente's family friends to biographer Kal Wagenheim.

In order for the bill to pass, Espaillat would need it to receive the support of two-thirds of the House of Representatives (290 votes). Puerto Rico's only representative, Jenniffer González-Colón, has showed support to Espaillat's bill, but since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, she does not have a right to vote on legislation in the full House.

These type of movements are nothing new. Just this year, the U.S. Mint released a series of quarters honoring the life and legacy of salient American women. Cuban-American and cultural icon Celia Cruz was part of the 20 women recognized by the special quarters released by the program.

In the case of reaching the necessary votes, the Treasury Department would design the coin. Having Roberto Clemente's legacy immortalized would be "a source of immense pride for our family" said to two of his sons, Roberto Jr. and Luis Clemente.

Espaillat led another congressional effort in order to honor Clemente's name in 2022, introducing the bill H. Res 857, a resolution urging Major League Baseball to retire the number 21 (Clemente's jersey) leaguewide. "Roberto Clemente was a trailblazer in the fight for Puerto Rican civil rights and utilized his stardom to advocate and defend the rights of Black and Brown communities, both on the field and in the streets," Espaillat said back then.

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