In death, which came much too early, the great Richard Ben Cramer is being justly, perhaps belatedly praised for his inimitable, brilliantly written and reported take on the 1988 presidential campaign’s many candidates, What It Takes. (I remember purchasing my copy of the 1047-page tome on remainder somewhere not quite two decades ago. Clearly it was a book too good for the hack audience that back then didn’t give it time of day. Today’s hacks at least know they’ll never see its likes again.) Disappointed by the poor reception it received, Cramer went on to write about baseball and people like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, so the obits inform us.
They should have added baseball iron man Cal Ripken as another of his subjects. Luckily, the long piece he did on Ripken for Sports Illustrated is available online (here) and I heartily recommend it as the best thing of its kind, so good, at so many levels, one does not know where to begin. Cramer’s combination of eye, mind, ear and pen became a kind of literary movie camera, which he wielded with unforgettable, delightful artistry. Not only this reader, but anyone who really knew baseball and the American scene, ever had it so good.
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