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Roberto Clemente

Biography of a legendary Pittsburgh pirate

En español | It’s October 1971, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have just edged out the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in the seventh game to win the World Series. With millions watching and listening, MVP Roberto Clemente speaks: “En el día más grande de mi vida, para los nenes, la bendición mía y que mis padres me echen la bendición.”

After 17 seasons, this was Clemente’s moment—and it was Spanish that flowed instinctively from him, words blessing his sons and asking his parents for their blessing.

“That moment was the essence of Roberto Clemente and symbolizes why he is so revered in all of Latin America,” said David Maraniss, the author of Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero (April 2006 in English, July 2006 in Spanish), in an interview.

But the biography is about more than baseball. With the same attention he gives to play-by-play accounts of the Pirates’ 1960 and 1971 World Series victories, Maraniss delves into Clemente’s character. What he unearths is not only a complex view of a hero but a vivid portrait of the cultural landscape of the United States.

“I tried to write a universal story through Clemente, who is a universal character,” said Maraniss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer.

The arc of Clemente’s life was high and short, like a pop fly to the infield. At 38, on New Year’s Eve 1972, he died in a plane crash while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. His body was never found. In his brief life, he rose from poverty to become immortalized as the first Latino player to reach baseball’s Hall of Fame. Readers will walk away with an understanding of the myth and the man who, in the words of the author, “became, in death, larger than life.”

Read more in our one-on-one interview with David Maraniss.