June 12, 1950 - Jan. 7, 2013
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Richard Ben Cramer, whose narrative nonfiction ranged from presidential politics and the Middle East to the game of baseball and its heroes, has died. He was 62.
Mr. Cramer died Monday in Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, from complications of lung cancer, said his agent, Philippa Brophy.
Mr. Cramer lived with his wife, Joan, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Mr. Cramer won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting from the Middle East while with the Philadelphia Inquirer.
His other notable work included a best-selling biography of New York Yankees great Joe DiMaggio, an influential magazine profile of another baseball legend, Ted Williams, and a critically acclaimed, behind-the-scenes account of the 1988 U.S. presidential race, “What It Takes: The Way to the White House.”
Mr. Cramer was known for an in-depth reporting style that involved spending significant time with the people he profiled and re-creating scenes with vivid color and dialogue.
His 1986 profile of Williams in Esquire magazine traced the arc of his career from his early days in California to post-baseball life among the regular folks in the Florida Keys.
“It was forty-five years ago, when achievements with a bat first brought him to the nation’s notice, that Ted Williams began work on his defense. He wanted fame, and wanted it with a pure, hot eagerness that would have been embarrassing in a smaller man. But he could not stand celebrity,” Mr. Cramer wrote.
His book on the 1988 presidential race delved into the lives and careers of the candidates, explaining how eventual winner George H.W. Bush had early in his political career resisted the urging of advisers to speak openly about his war record or the death of his young daughter from leukemia – topics he later discussed movingly in his campaign.
Vice President Biden, who as a senator from Delaware ran for the White House in 1988 and was featured in the book, said Mr. Cramer was an unmatched talent. “It is a powerful thing to read a book someone has written about you,” Biden said, “and to find both the observations and criticisms so sharp and insightful that you learn something new and meaningful about yourself.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney called Mr. Cramer the greatest political journalist ever and described “What It Takes” as “a joy to read.”