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 1934 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.
"Wilfred Santiago's 21 is brilliant and beautiful, challenging and lyrical ... which seems exactly right, as Roberto Clemente was all those things and more." – Rob Neyer, ESPN.com
"A kaleidoscopic look at the life of the great Clemente. Santiago's artwork is superb and the depth of his passion for the subject and incredible preparation comes through on every page." – Steven Goldman, author of Forging Genius: The Making of Casey Stengel and editor of Baseball Prospectus
"I'll admit, being a baseball player often feels like a comic book experience: the costumes, the origins, the battles for great victories and inspiration it conjures in our fellow man. This book captures the essence of one of our sport's greatest heroes, and it does so in a way that engages the imaginations as much as it reveals the heart, ink, color, style, and character; I can think of no better way to share a tale of a true legend." – Dirk Hayhurst, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher and author of The Bullpen Gospels
"…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." – Alex Belth, Sports Illustrated
"Nearly every page brings a new compositional marvel, setting energetic, limber figures against stylized photographic backgrounds washed in sepia tones and Pirate-yellow highlights. The in-game sequences, though, are show-stoppers, taking advantage of dizzying perspective shifts to capture the fluid, whirling nature of the game as it moves in fits and starts through huge moments of pause into cracking shots of sizzling drama. It’s not a comprehensive biography by any means, nor does it try to be one. But for a book that matches the pure athleticism, unshakable compassion, and towering legacy of its subject, look no further." — Ian Chipman, Booklist (Starred Review)