Nesbitt: Hide and seek: The true story of how the Dodgers lost Roberto Clemente

From Stephen J. Nesbitt at The Athletic on December 18, 2019, with mention of SABR members Stew Thornley and Marcel Dugas:

When Stew Thornley decided almost two decades ago to write a children’s book about Roberto Clemente, he thumbed through newspaper archives and bought every Clemente biography he could find. Thornley is a dogged researcher. He has authored more than 40 books, written scores of articles for the Society for American Baseball Research, and visited the gravesites of 222 Hall of Fame baseball players, compiling an ever-expanding list complete with GPS coordinates.

There is no grave for Clemente, who died in a plane crash at sea Dec. 31, 1972. Thornley has always admired Clemente. Once, when Thornley was 15 or 16, he went to Chicago to see Wrigley Field, his favorite ballpark, for the first time. He could have chosen to watch Hank Aaron or Willie Mays play the Chicago Cubs, but Thornley picked a weekend when Clemente and the Pirates were there.

Reading the biographies, Thornley watched a well-worn narrative play out in each one: The Brooklyn Dodgers discovered Clemente in Puerto Rico and stashed him in Montreal for a minor-league season, trying to hide him from other teams, only to have the Pirates purchase the future Hall of Famer for pennies in the Rule 5 draft. But the books mostly skimmed over Clemente’s 1954 season with the Triple-A Montreal Royals. That bothered Thornley. He doesn’t like holes — they suggest lazy research — so he started to fact-check.

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Originally published: December 19, 2019. Last Updated: December 19, 2019.