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Sports Author Discusses Biography on Latino Baseball Great, Roberto Clemente

Washington Post associate editor David Mananiss talks about his biography "Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero" and Roberto Clemente's career as a baseball player.

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    Finally tonight, San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds made baseball history this weekend when he broke Babe Ruth's homerun record. But Bonds still labors under a cloud of controversy over allegations of illegal steroid use.

    Not so for another baseball star of another era, Roberto Clemente, the Jackie Robinson of the Spanish-speaking world. Clemente joined the Pittsburgh Pirates as a first-round draft pick in 1954. His 18-year career there included two World Series and four National League batting championships.

    Now, David Maraniss, an associate editor at the Washington Post, has written "Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero." Maraniss sat down recently with Ray Suarez at RFK Stadium before a Washington Nationals game.


    David Maraniss, welcome.

  • DAVID MARANISS, Associate Editor, Washington Post:

    Thanks, Ray. Great to be at the ballpark with you.


    Well, there are bigger stars from that era, better-known names. What attracted you to Roberto Clemente?


    Two things. You know, I grew up in Wisconsin with the Milwaukee Braves of Hank Aaron and Warren Spahn. But from age 11, Clemente was my guy, my favorite player. I thought he was the coolest thing I'd ever seen.

    There was some aura about Clemente, the way he looked in his Pirates uniform, the way he looped the ball back to second base after the catch, his incredible arm from deep right field. All of his idiosyncrasies just appealed to me; I loved him.

    And that's not enough to write a book about. But when I became an author I realize that Clemente represented so much more. Clemente wasn't the greatest by the numbers, but he was art, not science. And he was the patron saint of Latino ball players, who now comprise 30 percent of baseball.

    And he was that rare athlete who was maturing and growing in character as he got older. So many diminish, you know, as their talents do. And Clemente was moving the other direction and died a noble death, so I thought it was a great story.

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