MLB Ballplayers Can Now Wear #21 Patch on Ballcaps and Helmets

Why are some baseball players wearing a 21 patch on the back of their caps and helmets?

Starting with the 2022 season, marking the 50th anniversary of Roberto Clemente‘s untimely death, Major League Baseball players who have previously won a Roberto Clemente Award are given the option of adding the “21” patch to the back of their cap and helmet. This is permitted for the remainder of that player’s Major League career.

Clemente, a Hall of Fame ballplayer and as close to a Hall of Fame human being as you’ll ever find, played 18 seasons in the league (all with the Pittsburgh Pirates) from 1955 until 1972. Clemente played in 15 All-Star Games, won the NL MVP in 1966, two World Series championships, and finished his career with 3000 career hits and a lifetime .317 batting average. Clemente was killed on New Year’s Eve 1972 in a plane crash while on a humanitarian mission to help deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Roberto Clemente

As of Opening Day 2022, there are eight ballplayers who are eligible to wear the patch, in alphabetical order those are:

  • Carlos Carrasco, New York Mets
  • Nelson Cruz, Washington Nationals
  • Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Andrew McCutchen, Milwaukee Brewers
  • Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees
  • Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

The patch shows Clemente’s number 21 in a white block sans-serif typeface placed on a black oval trimmed in gold.

Roberto Clemente Day is celebrated each September 15th across the league

The Roberto Clemente Award was first awarded for the 1971 season (known then as the Commissioner’s Award, it was renamed for Clemente in 1973 following his death). Award winners are voted on by members of the media and (in more recent years) baseball fans. The award is given annually to the Major League ballplayer who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team.” The first Roberto Clemente Award winner was Willie Mays, last season the award went to Nelson Cruz.