Monday, August 14, 2006

Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Marannis

Greg Coates was my neighbor when I was a kid. He wasn’t a baseball fan at all (though he counted a lenticular Pete Rose baseball card he got from of a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes among his prized possessions--go figure), but I will never forget the New Year’s Day, 1973, when he knocked on my door and told me Roberto Clemente had been killed in a plane crash. Clemente had been among my first heroes and now he became my first martyr. Marannis gives Clemente’s life the Gold Glove treatment. He neither paints Roberto as a saint (though in many ways, he was) nor as a tragic hero (he was) but as a man who was far more complex than he was given credit in his day. In 18 years with the same team, he had 16 Gold Gloves, 4 batting championships, a lifetime .326 batting average and achieved 3000 hits in his very last at bat despite being continually labeled a malingerer and a hypochondriac throughout his career. He was the epitome of power, speed, grace (except when running to first) and hustle and Marannis does a wonderful job telling a very complete story.

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