TRENTON – A portion of Route 21 in Newark is now designated as “Robert Clemente Memorial Highway” in honor of the sports figure and humanitarian who has served as an inspiration to many New Jersey residents. The designation was made through legislation sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and signed into law by the governor last month.
“Roberto Clemente is someone whose contributions went far beyond the world of sports. He was an inspiration to Latinos, but he was a trailblazer, a legacy maker and an inspiration to all,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “I am proud that with this new law we will have established ‘Roberto Clemente Memorial Highway’ on a portion of Route 21 in Newark, which will forever bear his name.”
For 18 seasons, Roberto Clemente played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was voted the Most Valuable Player in the 1971 World Series and was an acknowledged leader on the field. For his 18-year baseball career he wore the number 21.
Following the 1972 baseball season, Clemente organized a relief effort designed to provide emergency assistance to the victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake. In order to ensure that essential supplies reached those for whom they were intended, Clemente decided to fly to Nicaragua on a cargo plane – a mission from which he would never return. On December 31, 1972, the plane carrying Roberto Clemente crashed into the sea, killing everyone on board.
“Given all that he contributed, it is fitting that we honor Roberto Clemente in our great city with this law,” added Senator Ruiz. “Roberto Clemente is remembered as a sports legend, but he was also a humanitarian whose philanthropic work extended across the globe.”
Clemente was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming only the second player for whom the five-year mandatory waiting period was waived. In his honor, the Newark Bears retired the number 21 jersey in 2009 at a ceremony at the Riverfront Stadium.
The bill (S1462) was approved by the Senate and the Assembly in March and signed into law on June 30. Roberto Clemente Memorial Highway extends from milepost 3.90 to milepost 5.83 in Newark. Senator Ruiz said there are plans to post signage on the highway and to hold a ceremony to formalize the renaming of that portion of Route 21.