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Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero Paperback – April 3, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. If ever a baseball player were deemed worthy of canonization, right fielder Roberto Clemente might be the one. Jackie Robinson may have suffered greater hardships during his career, but Clemente's nobility, charity and determination make him far more appropriate for a postage stamp than a Nike commercial. After 18 distinguished seasons, the Pirate star with the astonishing throwing arm died in a 1972 plane crash while en route to deliver relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. Considering the potential for hagiography, Washington Post staffer and Clinton biographer Maraniss sticks to the facts in this respectful and dispassionate account. Clemente is a deceptively easy subject for a biographer: his acquired halo tinges past events and the accounts of his colleagues (although close friend Vic Power is frequently quoted to both admiring and frank effect). Clemente wasn't entirely virtuous—he had a temper and was sometimes given to pouting—but his altruism appears to have been a genuine product of his impoverished Puerto Rican upbringing. Maraniss deftly balances baseball and loftier concerns like racism; he presents a nuanced picture of a ballplayer more complicated than the encomiums would suggest, while still wholly deserving them. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

It's hard not to feel that Clemente, for all its virtues, is a bit of a letdown. With a Pulitzer Prize and notable biographies of Bill Clinton (First in His Class) and Vince Lombardi (When Pride Still Mattered) under his belt, David Maraniss sets high expectations. He mostly satisfies by revealing details about Clemente's tragic death and the compassionate instincts and dogged stubbornness that enabled it and by rightfully placing him alongside his generation's best players. But some critics note a reliance on research rather than reporting, which leaves Maraniss's famously inscrutable subject opaque until the closing pages. Still, not every hit is a homer, and critics applaud Maraniss for delivering the first notable biography of one of the most compelling players to take the diamond.<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074329999X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743299992
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post. He is the winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and has been a Pulitzer finalist two other times for his journalism and again for They Marched Into Sunlight, a book about Vietnam and the sixties. The author also of bestselling works on Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, and Roberto Clemente, Maraniss is a fellow of the Society of American Historians. He and his wife, Linda, live in Washington, DC, and Madison, Wisconsin.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Theo Logos on May 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Roberto Clemente was a legendary ballplayer - a .317 career batting average, 3000 hits, four N.L. batting titles, twelve gold gloves, 1966 National League MVP, 1971 World Series MVP, and the first Latino elected to the Hall of Fame. Impressive as these statistics and facts may be, they cannot capture Roberto's greatness. To try to capture Clemente this way, David Maraniss writes, "is like chemists trying to explain Van Gogh by analyzing the ingredients of his paint. Clemente was art, not was hard to take one's eyes off him". Maraniss' new biography of Clemente, (the first since shortly after he died) captures the many facets of this complex man who truly did live his life both on and off the diamond with passion and grace.

Where the earlier Clemente biographies, written shortly after his death, were little more that tributes and eulogies for the fallen hero, Maraniss writes of the man in all his complexity, and though he deservedly calls him a hero, he does not treat him as a saint. Notoriously thin skinned and prickly, Clemente had a career-long feud with the press. Though it was aggravated by the racism of the time, (Clemente was infuriated when the press would quote his interviews using phonetic spelling to capture his accent) and the language barrier, his sensitive personality, often perceiving slights where they were not intended, was equally to blame. He was obsessed with his health and ailments, complaining constantly about his pain, and some accused him of being a goldbricker and a hypochondriac, yet he seemed to play at his best when in his greatest pain, and ended his career breaking the record for most games played in a Pirates uniform.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Robert W. Kellemen on April 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I still recall where I was (family living room) and who I was with (my Dad) when we heard the news of Roberto Clemente's tragic death. As a pre-teen boy, at the time all I knew of Clemente was his batting average and his bullet arm. Then, as details trickled out concerning the events surrounding his death--his mission of mercy to people in need, I learn more and more about Clemente the man.

Maraniss does a superb job telling both a baseball story and a biography. He also deftly balances the many remarkable traits of the man, with the few flaws he, like every human being, had.

If you love baseball history, you'll love "Clemente." If you love a "poor boy makes good" story, you'll love "Clemente."

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction," "Soul Physicians," "Spiritual Friends," and the forthcoming "Sacred Friendships: Listening to the Voices of Women Soul Care-Givers and Spiritual Directors."
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Kim Eisler on April 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was carrying an advance copy of this book on the Washington Metro and several people stopped to ask me how they could get it. They won't be disappointed. At times Maraniss can be a little wordy like when he takes a page and a half to list all the players on some labor committee and he takes a long time to get to the end, and when he does get to the end, it turns into an NTSA report. I have written a full review at [...] and I encourage all potential readers to find my full opinion at that location. Having said that, this is an absolutely amazingly complete and fascinating account of one of my favorite all time players and the baseball era in which many of us just turned 50 somethings lived. Juan Pizarro, Vic Power, whose pre-swing I emulated all my life, they all come alive on these pages. Clemente of course in all his pride and arrogance. From 1960 to 1971, two pennant seassons, baseball and the world changed a lot. Clemente would be happy that his story was told not by a hack baseball writer, but by a world class biographer. Who does the player and his tragic, heroic story more than justice.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a young boy growing up near Chicago, I attended countless baseball games at both Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field. Visits to those stadiums were a routine and regular occurrence. But each year a special treat would take place for my brother and me. My father would travel with us 90 miles north of Chicago to Milwaukee County Stadium to watch the Milwaukee Braves. I remember a game played one evening in the early 1960s when the Braves battled the Pittsburgh Pirates. Henry Aaron was the Braves right fielder and that evening he homered and played his normal exemplary game. But the star was number 21, Roberto Clemente, the Pirates right fielder who was then establishing himself as one of baseball's young stars. Clemente had two hits and showed extraordinary speed as he ran the bases. In the field he was flawless, and uncorked an incredible throw from right field as he cut down a Braves baserunner attempting to go from first to third on a hit. Even my father, not much of a baseball fan, was impressed, remarking to me, "Who is that 21, he is quite a player!" While the years have diminished some of the details of that game played more than 40 years ago, I have never forgotten the night when perhaps the two greatest right fielders of their generation performed on a weeknight evening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

David Maraniss selects unique subjects for his biographical talents. For reasons known only to him, he has limited his subjects to the fields of politics and sports. While these two topics may seem diverse and unrelated, in many ways they are part of a common thread. Politics and sports are a unique juxtaposition of two significant aspects of our culture, where success and failure are often public and fleeting.
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