Pastor/actor/criminal seeks canonization for Roberto Clemente

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If you think the process of getting a guy into the Hall of Fame is murky, convoluted and complicated, you should really look into the history of canonization sometime. It’s fascinating stuff, with at least some parallels to Hall of Fame voting:

  • It’s riddled with no small amount of politics and red tape that stand separate and apart from a candidate’s merits; and
  • It often relies on the assertion of wholly unprovable and often unsupportable claims of miraculous acts.

The biggest differences are that the Catholic Church tends to investigate the unprovable and unsupportable claims better than the BBWAA does. Also, the justification for a character clause with canonization is a LOT more compelling, even if it would likely be employed to keep sainthood candidates out less often than it does in baseball. I mean, let’s face it, there’s more proof that St. Shlabotnik healed the sick than Jim Rice was “the most feared hitter of his day” or that Jack Morris “pitched to the score.” And if Saint Augustine was a baseball player you know that voters would dwell WAY too much on his wild, early days.

Anyway, I bring this up because I just read an article about how a pastor from Pittsburgh is trying to get the Catholic Church to canonize Roberto Clemente. Seriously:

Saint Roberto?

Richard Rossi thinks a case can be made on behalf of the Pirates’ late right fielder, Roberto Clemente.

Mr. Rossi, who directed and played a scout in the recent movie “Baseball’s Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories,” is seeking to document miracles in his pitch to have Mr. Clemente canonized as a saint.

On Friday, Mr. Rossi received a letter from the Vatican through the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., that informs him the authority to begin the process rests with the archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

This Rossi guy sounds like a peach. He’s a pastor for what the article describes as a “non-traditional church.” He has acted in bit parts in things like the “X-Files.” He did time after accepting a plea bargain following a hung jury on an attempted murder charge. It’s . . . messy.

As for Clemente: yes, he died doing what lay people would properly call the work of a saint. Actual canonization is a bit more of a trick than that. We need miracles here, and not the kind that involve clutch hits. I mean, maybe if it can be proven that he willed Bill Mazeroski to hit that homer in 1960 we can start to fill out paperwork, but I feel like the Pope will require a bit more.