Lest we forget: Richard Ben Cramer

January 8, 2013 · 2 comments

The author of one of the most controversial baseball biographies died yesterday at the age of 62.

Cramer published Joe DiMaggio : The Hero’s Life in 2000. Many fans of the Yankee Clipper were outraged as the author painted the legend in an unusually unflattering light. DiMaggio was cheap, ungracious, a womanizer (sometimes bordering on physically abusive).

In addition, and somewhat fitting given the ballplayers’ relationship, Cramer also published What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?: A Remembrance in 2002. Just last Month, he was the subject of legal action as Hachette sued him over his failure to deliver a biography about Alex Rodriguez, tentatively titled A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, which was due in 2010.

Cramer was one of those writers who had concentrated on more “serious” topics, such as politics and international affairs; he won a Pulitzer for Middle East reporting Israel in 1979. I always find it somewhat amusing when such authors (Thomas Oliphant, George F. Will, et al) venture into more frivolous arenas, such as sports.

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  • Joe

    This is sad — Cramer really was a great reporter, whether he was writing about politics or baseball. His work always seemed careful, detailed and dense — in the positive connotation of that word. When I got my first job as a magazine writer back in the ’80s, my editor (who’s now the executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) gave me a profile Kramer had published in Esquire about the then-major of Baltimore and said, “This is how people should write.” I had a chance to meet him when he came to St. Louis a few years later when he was working on his big book about the presidential campaign in 1988, What it Takes. He was extremely gracious — As I recall, he even picked up the check for lunch.

  • Dennis Anderson

    Cramer, a friend of a friend, signed my copy of his Joe DiMaggio book. I
    just looked at the inscription the other day after learning about his
    death. Even this was well-written. I’ll cherish it.

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