Thursday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays was a special one for the Tampa Bay Rays. On Roberto Clemente Day, the Rays fielded a lineup of all Latino hitters, which was a first in MLB history.
The Rays' nine-man lineup included players from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico. All of them wore No. 21 with no name on the back to honor the legendary Clemente.
Clemente was a Hall of Fame player with a jaw-dropping MLB resume. In his 18-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clemente totaled 3,000 hits, made 15 All-Star games, claimed four NL batting titles, won two World Series titles and was named the 1966 NL MVP.
As great as he was on the field, Clemente also made immeasurable contributions to the world as a humanitarian. Clemente died in 1972, at the age of 38, while flying emergency supplies down to Nicaragua following a massive earthquake.
For the Rays players, it was an excellent opportunity to honor someone who served as an inspiration to them. First baseman Harold Ramírez said the players with a Latino background compare him to Jackie Robinson, another baseball legend.
"It's a very important day for us, because he's special for every Latin guy. He's like Jackie Robinson for us," Ramírez said, via MLB.com. "Everybody was talking about him. They feel proud of him because of everything he did inside and outside of baseball."
Last season, only Roberto Clemente Award nominees and former winners, along with players of Puerto Rican descent, were allowed to don his No. 21. This year, the Rays felt it was important to expand the list of eligible players, according to manager Kevin Cash.
"Our guys were pretty passionate about it and said, 'Look, we want to represent it in our own way,'" Cash told MLB.com.
Not only was it a historic day for the Rays, but they also got a big win with an 11-0 drubbing of the Blue Jays to maintain their position in the AL Wild Card race.