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21: The Story of Roberto Clemente

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A graphic novel biography of a baseball legend and Latin American hero.
The biographical 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a human drama of courage, faith and dignity, inspired by the life of baseball star Roberto Clemente.
No other baseball player dominated the 1960s like Roberto Clemente and no other Latin American player achieved his numbers. Born in 1924 in Puerto Rico, Clemente excelled in track and field and loved baseball. By the age ...
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Overview

A graphic novel biography of a baseball legend and Latin American hero.
The biographical 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a human drama of courage, faith and dignity, inspired by the life of baseball star Roberto Clemente.
No other baseball player dominated the 1960s like Roberto Clemente and no other Latin American player achieved his numbers. Born in 1924 in Puerto Rico, Clemente excelled in track and field and loved baseball. By the age of 17 he was playing in the PR Winter league. Spotted by the big-league scouts because of his hitting, fielding, and throwing abilities, he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954. A fierce competitor, within two seasons he was hitting above .300 consistently. He played like a man possessed, fielding superbly, unleashing his rifle arm, and hitting in clutch situations. Despite his aesthetic brilliance, he faced prejudice throughout his career and was given his due only after his unexpected and tragic death in a 1972 plane crash.
Although baseball was his obsession, Clemente never lost sight of his dreams and his greater responsibilities outside the game. This sense of urgency is what came to define him beyond that of a grand athlete. His eventual success and accompanying celebrity gave him the opportunity to engage his conscience in public life. He died when his plane went down in the Caribbean Sea on a relief mission to earthquake-torn Nicaragua that he personally directed.21 chronicles Clemente’s life from his early days growing up in rural Puerto Rico, the highlights of his career (including the 1960s World Series where he helped the Pirates win its first victory in 33 years, and his 3000th hit in 1972 during the last official at-bat of his life) as well as his private life and public mission off the field.
After his death, Major League Baseball declared September 18 to be “Roberto Clemente Day,” and in 1999, Pittsburgh’s Sixth Street Bridge was renamed the Roberto Clemente Bridge in honor of the greatest Latino ballplayer in history. Wilfred Santiago captures the grit of Clemente’s rise from his impoverished Puerto Rican childhood, to the majesty of his performance on the field, to his fundamental decency as a human being in a drawing style that combines realistic attention to detail and expressive cartooning.
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Editorial Reviews

Garrett Martin - Paste
“Santiago makes the sport exciting for even the most die-hard anti-baseball lout, but more importantly reminds us of the man behind one of the most inspirational figures in sports.”
Johnny Bacardi - Popdose
“[A] reverent, yet sometimes playful look at the man and what he had to go through to get where he did.... Santiago’s art is cartoonish, yet expressionistic and appealingly loose. [...] He really captures the action of the game very well… it’s really some daredevil storytelling at times.”
Chris Mautner - Robot 6
“Santiago avoids the traditional traps of being too staid, didactic or reverential, creating a book that shows us what made the Pittsburgh Pirates member so special without feeling like a history lesson. It’s a book that’s both fun as well as informative.”
Booklist
“Starred Review. Nearly every page brings a new compositional marvel… The in-game sequences… are show-stoppers… [F]or a book that matches the pure athleticism, unshakable compassion, and towering legacy of its subject, look no further.”
Rob Neyer - ESPN.com
“Wilfred Santiago's 21 is brilliant and beautiful, challenging and lyrical ... which seems exactly right, as Roberto Clemente was all those things and more.”
David A. Kirschenbaum - Boog City
“Santiago uses black and white and some yellow-orange fill-ins, but really that’s all he needs. His style is clean, ranging in depiction of Clemente throughout the years to religious leaders to baseball action scenes ... Santiago does Clemente proud with 21.”
Leroy Douresseaux - I Reads You
“The comic book biography is alive and well in 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente... 21 captures what made Clemente unique. However, Santiago uses the medium of the comic book in a unique way to tell the story of man who represents the best of us. [Grade] A-”
Rob McMonigal - Panel Patter
“It's an artistic tour de force and shows that bio comics do not have to be the stolid, one step at a time narrative that we often see. ...21 is an excellent book... Clemente is every bit the important figure in baseball history that Robinson was, and more people need to know his story. 21 is an excellent place to start, either for you or the baseball fan in your life.”
Noel Murray - The A.V. Club
“Exuberantly expressive... Santiago imbues his biography of famed Puerto Rican baseballer Roberto Clemente with the furious energy of a Clemente triple.”
Andy Frisk - Comic Book Bin
“The simple joy conveyed in this book is universally appealing... Baseball is a game that is full of life and story, and every year the game blooms in the spring with the trees and flowers of the season. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente celebrates life, and new life, as much as it does baseball.”
Win Wiacek - Now Read This!
“Lusciously realised in sumptuous earth-tones and powerfully redolent of the spirit of Unjust Times A-Changin’, this is a fabulous book for every fan of the medium and not simply lads and sports-fans.”
Largehearted Boy
“Santiago… creates a well-balanced, yet striking, portrait of the man and his times. This is a book to be enjoyed by teens and adults, baseball fans, and anyone who wants to read an epic story.”
Andy Smith - Bugs & Cranks
“A must read for anyone awed by the beauty of the sport.… This graphic novel seeks to give a proper sense of wonder and the fantastic to a player whose tragic ending is often a stark reminder or our own mortality. At that it succeeds terrifically.”
Ralph Mathieu - Ich Liebe Comics!
“…[A]s those of you who are familiar with the great baseball player and humanitarian that Roberto Clemente was already know, it would be hard to tell his story in any media and for that story not to be powerful. ...21 ... is a handsome production... [and] an... EXCELLENT graphic novel.”
Alex Belth - Sports Illustrated
“Wilfred Santiago captures the physical grace of baseball and creates a story of visceral and emotional force... Santiago… has produced a rich and surprising work. The compositions and framing are intricate and varied… Santiago captures Clemente's relentless vitality as a player, frames the story around the historical and religious traditions of Puerto Rico, and handles Clemente's tragic death with restraint, all with a gimlet eye and the sensitivity of a true artist. It is a classic story given new life in this fresh, innovative telling.”
Ted Walker - Pitchers & Poets
“The graphic novel is a beautifully wrought Clemente collage… While there were several poignant dramatic through lines, the book’s strength lies in its brilliant visuals, which far outweigh its strictly biographical content…. The oral tradition of myth-making is put into visual form here.”
Michael Machosky - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“...Santiago has managed to capture both aspects of Clemente -- the legend and the human being....”
Pedro Zayas - ESPN Desportes (translated)
“It's a rocket. It's a plane. It's a bird. No, it's Roberto Clemente! ...It is an attractive book for all ages.”
David Roth - Los Angeles Review of Books
“The world around [Clemente] is alive, and Santiago’s expressive (and occasionally, bracingly expressionistic) approach to portraying Clemente’s wild athletic genius ensures that it remains thrillingly present.... [A] fitting and vital tribute.”
Mark Chiarello
“An astoundingly beautiful book. As great as a graphic novel can be.”
Paste - Garrett Martin
“Santiago makes the sport exciting for even the most die-hard anti-baseball lout, but more importantly reminds us of the man behind one of the most inspirational figures in sports.”
Popdose - Johnny Bacardi
“[A] reverent, yet sometimes playful look at the man and what he had to go through to get where he did.... Santiago’s art is cartoonish, yet expressionistic and appealingly loose. [...] He really captures the action of the game very well… it’s really some daredevil storytelling at times.”
Robot 6 - Chris Mautner
“Santiago avoids the traditional traps of being too staid, didactic or reverential, creating a book that shows us what made the Pittsburgh Pirates member so special without feeling like a history lesson. It’s a book that’s both fun as well as informative.”
ESPN.com - Rob Neyer
“Wilfred Santiago's 21 is brilliant and beautiful, challenging and lyrical ... which seems exactly right, as Roberto Clemente was all those things and more.”
Boog City - David A. Kirschenbaum
“Santiago uses black and white and some yellow-orange fill-ins, but really that’s all he needs. His style is clean, ranging in depiction of Clemente throughout the years to religious leaders to baseball action scenes ... Santiago does Clemente proud with 21.”
I Reads You - Leroy Douresseaux
“The comic book biography is alive and well in 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente... 21 captures what made Clemente unique. However, Santiago uses the medium of the comic book in a unique way to tell the story of man who represents the best of us. [Grade] A-”
Panel Patter - Rob McMonigal
“It's an artistic tour de force and shows that bio comics do not have to be the stolid, one step at a time narrative that we often see. ...21 is an excellent book... Clemente is every bit the important figure in baseball history that Robinson was, and more people need to know his story. 21 is an excellent place to start, either for you or the baseball fan in your life.”
The A.V. Club - Noel Murray
“Exuberantly expressive... Santiago imbues his biography of famed Puerto Rican baseballer Roberto Clemente with the furious energy of a Clemente triple.”
Comic Book Bin - Andy Frisk
“The simple joy conveyed in this book is universally appealing... Baseball is a game that is full of life and story, and every year the game blooms in the spring with the trees and flowers of the season. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente celebrates life, and new life, as much as it does baseball.”
Now Read This! - Win Wiacek
“Lusciously realised in sumptuous earth-tones and powerfully redolent of the spirit of Unjust Times A-Changin’, this is a fabulous book for every fan of the medium and not simply lads and sports-fans.”
Bugs & Cranks - Andy Smith
“A must read for anyone awed by the beauty of the sport.… This graphic novel seeks to give a proper sense of wonder and the fantastic to a player whose tragic ending is often a stark reminder or our own mortality. At that it succeeds terrifically.”
Ich Liebe Comics! - Ralph Mathieu
“…[A]s those of you who are familiar with the great baseball player and humanitarian that Roberto Clemente was already know, it would be hard to tell his story in any media and for that story not to be powerful. ...21 ... is a handsome production... [and] an... EXCELLENT graphic novel.”
Sports Illustrated - Alex Belth
“Wilfred Santiago captures the physical grace of baseball and creates a story of visceral and emotional force... Santiago… has produced a rich and surprising work. The compositions and framing are intricate and varied… Santiago captures Clemente's relentless vitality as a player, frames the story around the historical and religious traditions of Puerto Rico, and handles Clemente's tragic death with restraint, all with a gimlet eye and the sensitivity of a true artist. It is a classic story given new life in this fresh, innovative telling.”
Pitchers & Poets - Ted Walker
“The graphic novel is a beautifully wrought Clemente collage… While there were several poignant dramatic through lines, the book’s strength lies in its brilliant visuals, which far outweigh its strictly biographical content…. The oral tradition of myth-making is put into visual form here.”
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Michael Machosky
“...Santiago has managed to capture both aspects of Clemente — the legend and the human being....”
ESPN Desportes (translated) - Pedro Zayas
“It's a rocket. It's a plane. It's a bird. No, it's Roberto Clemente! ...It is an attractive book for all ages.”
Los Angeles Review of Books - David Roth
“The world around [Clemente] is alive, and Santiago’s expressive (and occasionally, bracingly expressionistic) approach to portraying Clemente’s wild athletic genius ensures that it remains thrillingly present.... [A] fitting and vital tribute.”
Library Journal
Born in Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente overcame family poverty, racial prejudice, and the language barrier to be voted the National League's Most Valuable Player for 1966. With a career batting average of .317 featuring spurts up to .414, he led the Pittsburgh Pirates to two World Series victories. Known for his humanitarian work, Clemente was killed in a 1972 plane crash while on a mission to get medical supplies to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua. Santiago begins in the voice of a fan attending the 1972 game of Clemente's 3000th hit, then jumps back to the champion's childhood and energetic career. Clippings and headlines add perspective throughout. A telling touch: the white speech balloons contain Spanish, while those for English are colored orange, effectively making the Americanos—not the Boricuas—the "other." VERDICT Puerto Rican-born Santiago's (In My Darkest Hour) limber black-and-white art depicts superbly the kinetic excitement of baseball at its fanwise best, conveying Clemente's skill and warm humanity on and off the diamond. Highly recommended for tweens and up: buy several. Note that the Roberto Clemente Sports City complex in Puerto Rico (http://64.78.33.77/rcsc21/index_en.cfm) encourages donations to carry on his legacy.—M.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560978923
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
  • Publication date: 4/12/2011
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Wilfred Santiago was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He now lives in Chicago.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2011

    Highly Recommended--you must check it out!

    Superb story, masterful artwork, a book that will stay with you long after you're done reading it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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