Feature Film on Roberto Clemente in the Works
A little bit of baseball died on Dec. 31, 1972 when Roberto Clemente was killed trying to deliver food and supplies to the earthquake ravaged people of Nicaragua. Back in Clemente’s baseball hometown of Pittsburgh, a nine year-old boy cried for days over the death of his hero and vowed one day his hero’s story would be told.
Baseball’s Last Hero: The Roberto Clemente Story is the first narrative feature film to be produced on Clemente’s life. The film, currently in pre-production, will set the stage for Clemente’s life on the field and off the field as well as what Director Richard Rossi describes as the great love story between Roberto and his family and fans.
This film will showcase how he was the greatest right fielder ever, with a cannon arm and a grace that has not been seen before or since, said Rossi, who is also writer and producer, wrote some of the music and even has a small part in the film. Our goal is to release it next year, 2012, to coincide with the 40 year anniversary of Clemente’s heroic death to help others. He died giving. We want to honor him and pay homage to him.
In an age where the big headlines in baseball are money, more money, and performance enhancing drugs, Rossi said Clemente exemplified the magic of what makes a truly great baseball player. Clemente had a true passion of the game. He loved to play. He wasn’t in it for the money as he could have easily left the Pittsburgh Pirates for greener pastures in New York or Los Angeles.
He played his whole career for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Rossi said. He had a loyalty to the game and his team and the baseball fans. That is rare today.
Rossi said his movie will obviously appeal to baseball fans but he thinks the story he is telling will also appeal to people who don’t care about baseball or even know who Clemente was or what he died doing. Rossi said the tragedy that enveloped the Clemente family could be taken right out of Shakespeare. He compares Clemente’s love to his wife Vera and the tragic, but heroic end to his life with Romeo and Juliet and the 1970 film “Love Story” which starred Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw.
Rossi said he has been fine tuning the script for 40 years, ever since Clemente died, but it wasn’t until a heart attack a few years ago that made him realize now is the time. Rossi is a self-described biggest Clemente fan on the planet and his home could easily second as a museum to the late right fielder.
I love baseball because it connects to something really emotional, a seamless chord to memories of playing catch with my late father, to childhood summer days of rounding up neighborhood kids to play sandlot ball, he said.
Clemente, who hailed from Puerto Rico, played Major League Baseball for 18 years (1955-72). He won the MVP award in 1996 and was also a 12-time All Star and 12-time Gold Glove Award winner. In his last at-bat he hit his 3,000th hit and was a lifetime .317 hitter. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates his entire career and was selected to the Hall-of-Fame posthumously in 1973 being the only player to have the five-year waiting period waived to get into the HOF, since the rule was applied in 1954.
Clemente spent much of his off-season doing charity work. While helping the Nicaraguan earthquake victims, he learned the first three relief planes were diverted by corrupt officials in the Somaza government. He hopped aboard the fourth plane in the hope that his presence would ensure the aid got to the right people. The plane crashed into the ocean immediately after takeoff. Clemente’s body was never recovered.
Playing the role of Clemente is 2004 Olympic high jumper Jamie Nieto, who is also an actor. Nieto was encouraged to try out for the role because of his uncanny resemblance to Clemente. He beat out 3,000 others who auditioned. The role of Vera is being played by Puerto Rican Marilinda Rivera, a Project Runway winner who is also a model and actress.
Rossi also wrote and directed “Saving Sister Aimee” (Academy Award-Considered), “Quest For Truth: An Expose of Exorcism and Faith Healing,” and ”Sister Aimee: The Aimee Semple McPherson Story.” Rossi is the author of the bestselling novel “Stick Man” and has acted in a number of other movies. For more information on the film please visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1156617899/baseballs-last-hero-the-roberto-clemente-story. Rossi’s goal for his movie is to have a big nationwide release and is currently raising funds for that endeavor.