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Next up for sainthood: baseball icon Roberto Clemente?

First Published      Last Updated Jun 04 2014 04:49 pm

Saint Roberto?

The pitch to canonize the late baseball great Roberto Clemente may seem like something straight out of left — or, in his case, right — field, but the idea is winning over fans.

So says the director of the film "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories" in an emailed news release.

Richard Rossi, a Pittsburgh native and idolizer of the Pirates' Hall of Famer, argues that his movie shows Clemente "exemplified the scripture, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13.)

"Roberto Clemente was not only the best right fielder of all time in his 18 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but was also an imitator of Christ, dying to save others," Rossi wrote in a letter to Pope Francis and the archbishop of Clemente's native Puerto Rico.

Clemente, in what could be seen as his last sacrifice, perished on New Year's Eve of 1972 when his plane delivering earthquake-relief supplies to Nicaragua went down at sea. He was 38.

Rossi reports that he now is gathering stories of miracles associated with Clemente.

"My goal," he writes, "is to go to Rome and watch the film with Pope Francis and make my case for Clemente as a saint."

Known for his powerful arm and steady bat (he finished with 3,000 hits), Clemente displayed dignity and pride in his Latin heritage and won universal praise for his humanitarian work, earning him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Could sainthood be next?

Maybe. After all, Rossi notes, the pope is Latin American.