Biertempfel: One man's cause to canonize Roberto Clemente
As a 9-year-old Pirates fan in West View, Richard Rossi cried on that bleak New Year's morning in 1973 when he heard Roberto Clemente was dead.
Decades later, Rossi sat with his son in their home in Los Angeles and watched footage of a long-ago Pirates game. Clemente flashed on the television screen, slashing a hit and galloping around the bases.
“I started to weep again,” Rossi said.
Rossi explained to his son how Clemente was more than a Hall of Fame baseball player. Clemente died when his plane plunged into the Atlantic Ocean as he tried to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Rossi told other stories he'd heard of how Clemente touched ordinary folks throughout his life.
“This guy cared about other people,” Rossi said. “This guy was a Christ-like guy.”
Although he moved across the country, Rossi, 51, never stopped rooting for the Pirates. He produced the independent film, “Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories,” which was released last summer.
Now Rossi is trying to get Clemente into a different kind of hall of fame. He wants the Roman Catholic Church to canonize Clemente as a saint.
“Clemente had the ability to impact people spiritually,” said Rossi, a former evangelical minister. “The timing is right because Pope Francis is Latin American.
“Saints are people who gave back. That's what Roberto Clemente did. He was a great ballplayer, but he was also so much more than that.”
A few weeks ago, Rossi stated his case in letters to Pope Francis and the Most Rev. Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He has not gotten a response.
The first step in the canonization process is beatification, which requires a miracle caused by the intercession of the candidate. To achieve sainthood, a second miracle also must be proven.
Rossi is trying to collect stories about what he called a “healing touch” attributed to Clemente.
“We're getting more and more of them,” Rossi said.
“I want to wait for more evidence before I get into more detail,” Rossi said. “Some people say the miraculous requirement should be overshadowed by the fact that his life was so Christ-like.”
Rossi said he has received several messages of support since he began his campaign, including a letter from Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
“And there also are some people who think it's some kind of joke,” Rossi said.
If nothing else, Rossi's efforts will bring to light a personal side of Clemente that often is overlooked. Clemente was a deeply religious man whose humanitarian works extended beyond the final one that led to his death.
“I've never thought of him in terms of being a saint,” said Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, a devout Catholic whose father knew Clemente. “But he's somebody who lived his life serving others, really. So if it would happen, I wouldn't be terribly surprised by it.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Alvarez’s walk-off single lifts Pirates over Padres
- Pirates notebook: Kang settling in to comfort zone
- Torn thumb ligament puts Pirates’ Harrison on 15-day disabled list
- Pirates notebook: Four players selected for All-Star Game
- Pirates get journeyman Ishikawa off waivers; outfielder Marte injured
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Padres, July 6, 2015
- Alvarez homer triggers winning outburst for Pirates
- Starkey: Burnett writing incredible final chapter
- Gameday: Pirates vs San Diego Padres, July 7, 2015
- Pirates notebook: Red Sox, Phillies pitchers could be on Pirates’ radar
- Pirates notebook: Taillon headed for surgery, Richard traded