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.
“What made me skeptical?” Thornley asked recently. “I don’t know.”
For a researcher, skepticism is a virtue. It seemed to most historians that only the sheer stupidity of the Brooklyn brass could explain how the Dodgers lost Clemente. Maybe, Thornley thought, there was more to the story. The claims about Clemente’s time in Montreal mostly lined up, even if the supporting evidence did not. And here’s why: Before the biographers unpacked their typewriters, the building blocks of the narrative were laid by Clemente himself.