Advertisement

Richard Ben Cramer's genius: books from politics to baseball

Richard Ben Cramer had the gift of a great writer: an agile mind that generated entertaining books and magazine articles in topics as disparate as Middle East politics and baseball.

The

Advertisement
Chestertown

, Md., resident, who died Monday at age 62, "had raw talent for writing and reporting and was just so damn good," said Tom Horton, a former Baltimore Sun colleague

Advertisement
Advertisement

"He was born to be a journalist and a writer."

His books ranged from

to

to

In Baltimore, he will always be remembered for a 1984 Esquire magazine piece called "Mayor Annoyed," chronicling the obsessiveness of

William Donald Schaefer

.

Few other authors have that range. Michael Lewis, John McPhee and Calvin Trillin are favorites who come to mind, but it is not a long list.

Advertisement

How did he do it? By getting inside his subject's head -- whether that person was a politician or ballplayer. Speaking to the Sun in 1992 about the presidential candidates in "What It Takes," he outlined the approach that would serve him well throughout his career: "The question that I started out with was, why do all of these fellas seem cut off? Why do they look like they don't know what's going on in normal American life? I wanted to know how these fellas got the way they are, and so what I set about trying to do was not actually write about the campaign but the lives that brought these guys to the campaign. And then, once I got in, what happened to those lives?"

Cramer won

a Pulitzer Prize

for his coverage of the Middle East for the

Philadelphia Inquirer

. "He was one of the greatest nonfiction writers to sit behind a desk and put a pen to a page," friend James McBride, author of the best-selling "The Color of Water,"

"He's the writer that we all wanted to be . . . He could spin a yarn out of anything."

Advertisement
Advertisement