Skip to Main Content


The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero


Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss’s brilliant rendering of the life of one of baseball’s most iconic figures captures both myth and man in daunting sweep and meticulous detail.

On New Year’s Eve 1972, beloved Pittsburgh Pirate Roberto Clemente died a hero’s death, killed in a plane crash while attempting to deliver food and medical supplies to Nicaragua after a devastating earthquake. His career ended with four batting titles, two World Series championships, and three thousand hits; he and the immortal Lou Gehrig are the only players in history to have the five-year waiting period waived so they could be enshrined in the Hall of Fame immediately after their deaths.

But Clemente was also that rare athlete who rose above sports to become a symbol of larger themes. Born at a time when there were no players of color in American baseball, Clemente went on to become the greatest Latino player in the major leagues. With determination, grace, and dignity, he paved the way and set the highest standard for his peers both on and off the field: his famous motto was “If you have a chance to help others and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on this earth.” The end of the book reveals the corruption and negligence that led Clemente toward his untimely death as an uninspected, overloaded plane plunged into the sea.

Linda Maraniss

David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post and a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and was a finalist three other times. Among his bestselling books are biographies of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Roberto Clemente, and Vince Lombardi, and a trilogy about the 1960s—Rome 1960; Once in a Great City (winner of the RFK Book Prize); and They Marched into Sunlight (winner of the J. Anthony Lucas Prize and Pulitzer Finalist in History). A Good American Family is his twelfth book.

"Splendid . . . . A baseball-savvy book sensitive to the social context that made Clemente baseball's future . . . . Thanks to Maraniss, Clemente's legacy is suitably defined and explained."

– George F. Will, The New York Times Book Review

"The year's best bio."

– Sports Illustrated

"Clemente stands apart. His story, like the game he played, is a deep breath of fresh spring air."

– David Hinckley, Daily News (New York)

"Maraniss brings imagination, energy, and even poetry to his superb biography of one of the greatest ballplayers ever to delight a stadium full of fans."

– Bill Littlefield, The Boston Globe

More books from this author: David Maraniss