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American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 12, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In a definitive examination of illegal drug use in America's pastime, "sports investigative team" Thompson, Vinton, O'Keeffe and Red (of New York's Daily News) focus on one-time Hall of Fame-bound pitcher Roger Clemens and his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who accused Clemens of relying on steroids and human growth hormone to prolong his lucrative career. (Clemens, upon this book's publication, continued to deny the allegations.) Both men were featured prominently in 2007's 409-page Mitchell Report investigation; in this decade-spanning account, they're surrounded by a motley cast that includes sports execs, drug dealers, lawyers, mistresses, elected officials, and former and current players such as Jose Canseco, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez. Richly detailed, the muscular narrative often reads like a thriller, though numerous subplots don't always connect. Relying on hundreds of on- and off-the-record interviews and access to public and private documents, this is an intricate and compelling case in which there are no heroes, but a notable villain-the League itself-whose lax approach to the issue ensures baseball's steroids era isn't over.

Review

“A definitive examination of illegal drug use in America's pastime . . . Richly detailed, the muscular narrative often reads like a thriller . . . this is an intricate and compelling case in which there are no heroes, but a notable villain—the League itself—whose lax approach to the issue ensures baseball’s steroids era isn't over.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Of all the books I’ve ever read about baseball, I’d say this is as thoroughly researched as can be and right now it stands as the definitive book about the steroid era.” —Mike Pesca, NPR: Morning Edition

“Gripping . . . nimble . . . the authors have turned the sprawling story of steroid-use into a sleek narrative that reads like an investigative thriller, peopled by a Dickensian cast of characters, from big-name ball players and their high-powered lawyers to small time bodybuilders and gym owners, from federal investigators and members of Congress to denizens of “the violent criminal underworld of muscle-building drug distribution. As in Bob Woodward’s inside-Washington books, the narrative of ‘American Icon’ draws upon lots of official documents—in this case sworn depositions, medical records, courtroom transcripts, records from criminal investigations, as well as the groundbreaking articles these reporters did for The Daily News, and hundreds of interviews, both on the record and off.” —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

“Graphic . . . damning.” —David M. Shribman, Bloomberg

“The account often reads like a detective novel, with the authors revealing the underbelly of professional baseball—the furtive injections, “gravy trainers” (sports hangers on), secret mistresses, drug transactions, and smarmy agents that pervade the sport. Things turn ugly when federal authorities put the squeeze on McNamee, and Clemens self destructs by lashing out at McNamee and demanding a congressional hearing. The journalism demonstrated here hits the bar set by another baseball/steroids book, Game of Shadows (2006), and it builds a daunting case against Clemens.” —Jerry Eberle, Booklist (starred)
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 3rd Print edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307271803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307271808
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,777,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a splendid piece of work. The portrait of Clemens that emerges is itself captivating: the writers offer a detailed, patient, wonderfully human account of how the very things that made the man so indisputably great on the hill - willfulness, absolute indomitability - led to his spectacular public undoing. But what is to me even more gripping in the book is the legal and procedural story it unfolds, about precisely how steroids came to be the object of so much political and legal scrutiny in the first place. It's a story that spans more than a decade, criss-crosses the country, is filled astounding intricacy and intrigue, and features a series of vibrant, wonderfully-drawn characters. If you want to the richest backstory, not just on Clemens, but on the history and ongoing place of steroids in baseball, you must get hold of this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book, with a little over 9000 locations in the Kindle edition, is quite a lengthy read. The authors take painstaking care to present very in depth accounts of conversations, emails, phone calls, court records, and other communication between Roger Clemens, Brian McNamee, Andy Petitte and other figures involved.

I found it very interesting in the beginning, and then found it to become very lengthy toward the latter half of the book, with this part mostly dealing with Clemens, McNamee and Petittes' appearances before congress in 2008. The writers judge Clemens to be guilty right from the beginning, and say so in the first few pages of the book. I don't know how anyone could believe anything Clemens says about the matter after carefully reviewing what is in this book.

Overall very interesting for baseball fanatics, but probably not for for the casual fan or non-sports reader.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't normally read baseball tell-all books, but I was drawn to this story because Clemens has insisted on maintaining his innocence despite the vast evidence, and I wanted to learn more. What a great decision! The book is excellent. Well written and thoroughly researched, I can't put it down. The characters (many of whom I only knew from media portrayals) really come alive. More than just a retelling of Clemens & McNamee's stories, the book portrays the entire steroid culture in baseball, from the points of view of the players (users and "clean"), suppliers, hangers-on, ownership, Congress, the media... it tells it all. Up there with MoneyBall and the Halberstam books, this is a must-read baseball book. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
To conclude that Roger Clemens took steroids and then lied about it does not take the combined talents of the Daily News' Investigative Team long. But the fascinating part of this book--why I kept reading the whole way through--is how exigently they connect the dots, using small details and lengthy court filings to slowly piece together a damning report. Lively writing makes this read like an easy feature magazine article, but the research is evident on each page.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For more than two decades The Daily News, a New York City tabloid newspaper, has been a leader in the coverage of illegal drugs in American sports. It dominated the Roger Clemens steroids story like no newspaper has since The Washington Post led the way in Watergate. Unfortunately it got it all wrong in the Clemens case, and American Icon; The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime, is the sad result.

To begin with, American Icon is a terrible and misleading title, for it suggests a subject so clean and popular and good and sanctified that his fall from grace is all the more dramatic. A Colin Powell, for example. Roger Clemens, on the other hand, has always been a controversial, emotional figure, as widely disliked as much as he was admired. In short, hardly an icon.

Secondly, this is not really Roger Clemens's story, but rather that of his accuser, Brian McNamee. As Clemens's attorney Rusty Hardin put it so accurately, so many times, "The Daily News is Brian McNamee's mouthpiece." In fact, McNamee's attorneys worked very closely with the paper, so closely, that even a journalist who wrote a book against Clemens has called the relationship "unethical."

To put it another way, The Daily News is Brian McNamee's biographer here. And what is disappointing about that is that while the book attempts to exonerate McNamee at every turn when it helps to incriminate Clemens, it does not spend enough time portraying McNamee in his sympathetic light: a man caught in the middle. For it now seems likely, particularly after McNamee got caught inventing stories whole cloth during trial testimony last year, that he invented much if not all of the allegations that he injected Clemens with anabolic steroids and HGH.
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Format: Hardcover
Before December 2007, Roger Clemens, winner of seven Cy Young awards, had established himself as one of baseball's preeminent players. There had been rumors and accusations of his using illegal performance enhancing drugs such as steroids and human growth hormones, of course, but he vehemently denied it. But when the famous Mitchell Report was published and exposed the truth, it ruined Roger Clemens' reputation and career.

Roger Clemens did not really need to use the performance enhancing drugs to enhance his career. In his youth he had natural talent and ability, and he was an extraordinary pitcher, and so he did not need to use the harmful and illegal drugs. Had he never used the drugs, he still would have been considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time. So, the question that baffles baseball fans is why was he even tempted to seek them?

"American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime", despite its unwieldy title, is a gripping and engaging non-fiction book that reads like a crime-fiction novel. This is truly an impressive accomplishment of the authors. The four authors, sports investigative reporters of the New York Daily News: Teri Thomson, Nathaniel Vinton, Michael O'Keeffe, and Christian Red, have worked together as a team, not unlike a baseball team at a game, to produce this highly readable book.
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