He is one of only two major league baseball players who didn't have to wait the standard five years to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. A special motion was made among the Baseball Writers of America — the organization that elects players to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY — and Clemente joined Lou Gehrig as the only players immediately elected. Clemente's on-field accomplishments were a shoo-in for enshrinement even before his death in the service of others. Tragically, he didn't live to receive the honor.
Beyond the tragedy of the final weeks of his life, Maraniss' text reads like a pleasant baseball box score. He tells of big games in which Clemente often performed amazing feats. He lets us see how the player could sometimes be sullen and small while at other times being gregarious and generous. Maraniss paints a portrait of a complicated, layered individual. What he doesn't quite paint is a man who measures up to the martyr legacy often conferred upon him. I'm not sure why I feel a disconnect, but it's there. Maybe it's Maraniss. Maybe it's me.