Author: David Maraniss
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
People who know me always know what gifts to get me. An avid reader, all of my friends know that I am happy to receive Barnes & Noble gift cards on any gift-giving occasion. They know that this is one gift that will never go to waste - you don’t have to worry if the size will fit or if it’s the right color for me and I will surely get some use out of it. My last gift card was used to purchase a number of books that I wouldn’t ordinarily buy on my own. One such book was Clemente by David Maraniss.
Clemente is about the famous Pittsburgh Pirates ballplayer named Roberto Clemente, a man who broke barriers and paved the way for Latinos in baseball, dying a hero to his people and all who knew and loved him. Roberto Clemente was one of the first Puerto Rican stars of baseball. A dark-skinned Latino, Clemente suffered through the Jim Crowe laws all black ballplayers dealt with in those days. He did so with pride and integrity, banding together with fellow players to help bring an end to the discriminatory regulations imposed on them while on the road playing the game they loved.
His achievements on the field - four-time batting champion, 12-time All-Star Team member, Most Valuable Player in the National League in 1966, 1971 World Series MVP and more - were an inspiration to all ballplayers. Players and fans alike would watch in awe at the power of the rightfielder’s arm, his speed and agility and the devastating batter who was dangerous to a pitcher no matter what was thrown his way.
Clemente’s feats off the field were no less honorable. Clemente was a true believer in giving back, funding charities, setting up baseball clinics for the poor youth in Puerto Rico, working on bringing about his dream of a sports complex that catered to the same deprived youth in his homeland. In fact, it was an act of charity that took Clemente’s life at the age of 38. He had been accompanying a load of supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims, ensuring that his aide would get past the profiteers who were stealing the aide from the country’s needy victims. Clemente’s actions in his personal life were heroic and an inspiration to everyone, not just baseball fans.
When I first began reading this book, I was not thrilled with its style. We meet Clemente toward the end of his life, then bounce back to the beginning. This annoyed me slightly and I worried if the author was planning on jumping around throughout Clemente’s life, offering a confusing view of the man and the baseball player. I had nothing to worry about - after that interesting beginning, David Maraniss stayed the course, never confusing the reader by jumping back and forth within the timeline.
A fan of the ballplayer, Maraniss made certain to include Clemente’s flaws as well as his virtues, offering the reader a well-rounded view of the man and not just the legend created by his fans. I found the book to be quite enjoyable, giving me insight into the baseball great that I unfortunately never got to see play. His legend was so great that I knew who Roberto Clemente was, but now that I have read David Maraniss’ book, I now know the story of the man behind the legend.
Fans of Roberto Clemente will enjoy David Maraniss’ honest and insightful look into the life and achievements of the man and the ballplayer. They will also enjoy the photo insert which is chock full of pictures of Clemente at his finest moments. Clemente is a must read for people who wish to learn more about the history of the game and its greatest players.