Death of a Journalistic and Literary Giant: Richard Ben Cramer Dies

The death of a journalistic and literary giant: Richard Ben Cramer has died at 62. The Daily Beast’s John Avlon says it all:

News that Richard Ben Cramer died swept through the Twitterverse on Monday night, even before a hint of his passing hit the Internet.

It was oddly appropriate, because the cult of Richard Ben Cramer was always first a word-of-mouth initiation, as in: “you’ve got to read this.” Journalists passed his work among them like samizdat, old articles referred to more than read, finally put online after persistent if not widespread demand. He was just that much better than anyone else.

For example, after the death of former Baltimore mayor and ex-governor Donald Schaefer, calls for Esquire to post Cramer’s iconic profile came from admiring journalists like Jon Heilemann and Ben Smith. The lede captured his style, the bracing balance of intimacy and immediacy:

How will they ever make a statue of him?
They’ll have to, you know. He saved the town.
But how could they bronze that stubby little body, the melon head, the double chin? Put him on horseback? Ha! One foot up on a pediment, with those clunky shoes he buys on sale? Gazing over a book? He doesn’t read, I guarantee you.
No. If they really want him, they’ve got to get him mad.
And paint the whole head rosy, and put the glitter in his eyes. And a couple of guys in suits cowering. That’d do it, and they could carve on the base:
MAYOR ANNOYED: THE BEST MAYOR IN AMERICA, FOR A WHILE…

Now put that political profile side-by-side with Cramer’s other obsession, baseball. His DiMaggio biography was greeted as an instant classic, but his novella-length Ted Williams profile for Esquire drew accolades with their own ZIP code, like “perhaps the finest piece of sports-writing on record.” Reality somehow matches the hype.
Go the link to read the rest — in its entirety.

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