Friday, May 14, 2010

Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero

While this has nothing to do with baseball cards, I wanted to post a review of David Maraniss' 2006 biography of Roberto Clemente. Maraniss is a fine writer who has won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, and is currently an associate editor for the Washington Post. He was also the author of the critically acclaimed When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi.

Most baseball fans are familiar with the on-the-field acclomplishments of Clemente, as well as with his legendary arm and hitting prowess. Likewise, most have also heard of his compassion for the poor and neglected, a compassion which led to his death. What Maraniss has done in his book is paint a picture of a very complex man, one whose character often seemed contradictory. Clemete was obviously blessed with amazing talent that was shown on the baseball field, but one gets the impression that much of his success was fueled by an anger brought about because of the times he played in: black and Latin players were still often ignored, stereotyped, and misunderstood.

As much as I love baseball and learning its history, I think the importance of this book is found not in the history of the game, but elsewhere: the social commentary of the times Clemente played in, the desire of the man to use his fame and fortune for a greater good, and the corruption and negligence that led to the tragic death of Momen, Roberto Clemente. The author is to be commended for painting a picture of Clemente as he was- a man who had many admirable qualities as well as many shortcomings.


  1. I just put in a request at my library. I'll read it as soon as I finish "Mint Condition"

  2. I've been wanting to read "Mint Condition." Did you find it at a library? What are your thoughts on it? I'm excited to get to go back to reading some baseball bios- we've homeschooled two of our kids for a number of years, and most of my reading has been of the history and fiction genre and then discussions. I've placed a request for the new one recently released on Henry Aaron- I donwloaded the sample chapter to my Kindle, and am waiting on the library to get it from one of the surrounding towns. I actually added a few others to my want-list: Mays, Walter Johnson, and Tris Speaker. Now, if I can only find time to read them!

  3. Yeah, I think I was the first person to check it out at my library. I love it when that happens. I 'm about halfway done. There's a lot of history in the early 1900's. I'm really looking forward to reading about the card era I'm more familiar with. I have a ton of books lined up to read, but I moved this one up to the top of the list.