There is delightful baseball here, including thrilling accounts of the two World Series victories of Clemente's underdog Pittsburgh Pirates, but this is far more than just another baseball book. Roberto Clemente was that rare athlete who rose above sports to become a symbol of larger themes. Born near the canebrakes of rural Carolina, Puerto Rico, on August 18, 1934, at a time when there were no blacks or Puerto Ricans playing organized ball in the United States, Clemente went on to become the greatest Latino player in the major leagues. He was, in a sense, the Jackie Robinson of the Spanish-speaking world, a ballplayer of determination, grace, and dignity who paved the way and set the highest standard for waves of Latino players who followed in later generations and who now dominate the game.
The Clemente that Maraniss evokes was an idiosyncratic character who, unlike so many modern athletes, insisted that his responsibilities extended beyond the playing field. In his final years, his motto was that if you have a chance to help others and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on this earth.
©2006 David Maraniss; (P)2006 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved. Audioworks is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division
"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." (Publishers Weekly)
"Maraniss delivers a mother lode of wonderful baseball lore." (Booklist)
Clemente was a great baseball player and David captures his character well, and the narrator was fine. Clemente's humanitarian side was interesting, and the details of the plane crash were riveting. Even so, the story of a great ball player overcoming cultural prejudice, acting as a genuine philanthropist, and meeting a tragic end was -- well, duller than I expected. David Maraniss's "They Marched into Sunlight" was superb and prompted me to try this book. I also liked "When Pride Still Mattered" -- a biography of Vince Lombardi better than this one.
This book should be required reading/listening for all baseball fans young & old. It's one of those titles that really played with my emotions throughout.
At times I was angry, such as the annual Jim Crow treatment Roberto received in Florida Spring Training every year; the measly 13,000 fans who showed up to witness his 3,000th hit; and the fiasco that surrounded the incompetent owner & pilot of his fateful Earthquake relief flight.
Other moments literally sent chills up my spine, such as the thrilling Game 7 of the 1960 World Series and Ritchie Hebner's & Earl Weaver's account of THE THROW in the 1971 Fall Classic.
As a lifelong Pirate fan there was so much that I never knew about the man until I listened to this: his brother's death also on New Year's Eve 18 years earlier; the death of his sister which haunted him throughout his life; and his constant predictions that he would die young: even telling friends that it would happen over the Christmas/New Year's Holiday in 1972.
My only complaint whatsoever with this was that only the abridged version is available here or on CD in your lcoal bookstore. An unabridged version would've been much nicer since there's a big gap from Clemente being awarded the 1966 MVP to Game 1 of the 1971 World Series. That's the only reason I give this 4 stars instead of 5. I would've like to have heard about Roberto's reaction to Three Rivers Stadium opening in 1970 since he constantly complained about Forbes Field!
While the story could very well write itself the personal sides are dominant much more than the baseball he played. The descriptions are overloaded with adjectives. I grew up in Pittsburgh and was familiar with many of the baseball writers and players of that time. These recollections were the best. God rest his soul!
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