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.
McCutchen's shoes pay tribute to Jackie
SAN FRANCISCO -- All of the Pirates took the AT&T Park field Sunday wearing that exalted No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.
However, Andrew McCutchen was the only one also wearing special UCLA baby blue-and-gold spikes created for him for the special occasion by Nike.
With "JACKIE" spelled out on the inside and "42" on the outside, the shoes received TLC from the Pittsburgh center fielder prior to the game. He even posed them in front of his No. 42 uniform, snapping pictures to post on his Twitter page.
"It's always special to wear this number," said McCutchen. "He definitely was an inspiration to people like myself. He endured a lot of things, and we have to keep remembering and honoring that."
Echoed second baseman Neil Walker, "Jackie Robinson was obviously one of the all-time greats. What better way to honor him than by having everyone wear his number?"
Since the Pirates are on the road during the national celebration of Jackie Robinson Day, the club will hold its own observance at a later time.
Pregame festivities honoring Jackie Robinson will be held Friday, when the Pirates return to PNC Park to kick off a six-game homestand against the Cardinals.
McGehee getting an education at first base
SAN FRANCISCO -- If Casey McGehee has been taking classes on playing first base, graduation might have come Saturday night. With an all-lefty lineup facing ground-ball pitcher Charlie Morton, McGehee was on the firing line the whole game and came up spades.
He handled six balls, most of them smashed, all of them perfectly. Included was the grab of and unassisted putout on Melky Cabrera's rocket with a man on third and one out in the fifth -- which loomed as a game-saving play had the Giants not pulled out a 4-3 win in the bottom of the ninth anyway.
"He's putting in his work over there," said manager Clint Hurdle. "To learn a position at this level ... you've got to give the guy some credit."
Until coming to the Pirates with the plan of primarily platooning at first base with left-handed-hitting Garrett Jones, McGehee had only dabbled at the position. As the Brewers' regular third baseman, he'd made 11 appearances at first, including only one start.
McGehee went into it thinking it's just another corner of the infield, but has quickly learned there is a lot more to the adjustment. A simple thing like getting to the base when a grounder is hit elsewhere in the infield has given him pause.
"I feel like I'm super late getting to the base all the time, then get myself into a little panic," McGehee said with a sheepish grin. "It feels like it's taking me forever to get there. And when I'm playing behind a runner, I have to get a feel for getting into ready [to field] position without the runner blocking me off, to where I see the ball into the hitting zone.
"But every time over there, I get a little more comfortable with it, feeling more natural, until one day I'll walk out there and in the seventh inning I'll realize, 'Hey, I'm not thinking about it too much, just doing it.'"
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.