Sunday, July 6, 2014

Unlikely Summer Hit 'Baseball's Last Hero' Spreads Message of Sacrificial Love   
The title "Summer Blockbuster" is usually attributed to big-budget studio films with explosions and special effects helmed by an A-list director like Steven Spielberg or Michael Bay.  

This summer, the baseball biopic "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories," a low budget film about the spiritual side of the late right-fielder Roberto Clemente, lacking the budget of studio fare like Transformers 4 and X-Men, became one of the most-discussed guerrilla movies of the Summer Box-Office Challenge. Big-budget fare plummeted to an all-time low, 44% down in ticket sales for a July 4th weekend, the lowest Independence Day weekend in history.

Audience members pack a community 
theater for recent screening
The Roberto Clemente film, made by a volunteer cast and crew, gained momentum when it catalyzed a campaign to canonize Roberto Clemente as a saint in the Catholic church, as reported by the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post last week.  Clemente died in a humanitarian effort to rescue earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Lovers of the film organized grass-roots viewing parties in homes (called "micro-cinema screenings"), community centers, art house cinemas, parks, festivals, picnics, and schools. The film's writer-director, Richard Rossi, refers to Clemente as a "mini-Jesus" who exemplified the scripture "Greater love has no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends."

"The film was under the radar initially because it wasn't distributed in a conventional way like a studio film," a source in marketing said.  "A studio has a team of marketers and a budget to buy ads.  The Clemente film has no publicist.  The coverage in the last few weeks across major media has continued to escalate until we had to acknowledge the reach of the film.  It's truly a case of David challenging Goliath."

"Screenings in New York took on a participatory nature not seen since
'The Rocky Horror Picture Show,' with audience members wearing Clemente uniforms."
Screenings in New York and San Francisco took on a participatory nature like the "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" with audience members wearing Roberto Clemente Pirate uniforms and shouting "Arriba, Arriba."

"'Baseball's Last Hero' is the anti-summer blockbuster.  It is the polar opposite of the studio blockbusters. It highlights minorities and the struggle for civil rights, it addresses profound spiritual questions about the meaning of life, God, and caring for our neighbor, it relies on the acting and writing rather than special effects, and it leaves the audience in an emotional rather than an escapist state," a source said.

The film has allies inside the church and Clemente communities. Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, wrote Rossi a letter in Spanish this week saying, "Count on my prayers for this project and I ask your prayers as well for me."  Archbishop Gomez is considered a powerful Latin American church leader in the United States by the Vatican.  The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is the largest Catholic diocese in the nation, with Hispanics comprising more than two-thirds of the archdiocese's five million Catholics.

Letter from Archbishop to Richard Rossi.
"There's a very small percentage that walk out their faith in the real world as a family-first man, as a husband, as a father, in a secular culture, as a baseball star," Rossi said in an interview published by Religion News Service.
"I haven't heard of lines this long for a film since 'Star Wars'
or  'The Exorcist'," Fran Baker, a fan waiting in line to see the film said.

The film "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories" is available on Amazon for purchase on DVD and streaming on PureFlix.

Note: As reported in Religion News Service, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, the campaign for Clemente's canonization is collecting letters of support and stories of miracles related to Roberto Clemente. E-mail to with your contact information. E-mailing your letter of support and stories grants permission to share publicly.
Due to the overwhelming worldwide interest in the Clemente canonization campaign and the film "Baseball's Last Hero," several news websites crashed due to the volume of hits. This blog is newly created specifically to give up-to-date information on this story alone. Coverage of others stories will continue on other Catholic news sites. For additional coverage of the Clemente campaign/film, recent articles can be Googled and found in the following publications (Partial List): Catholic News Service, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Newsmax, Salt Lake Tribune, Religion News Service, Sporting News, Fox-News, Washington Times, Post Gazette, Tribune Review, Auburn Pub, Charisma News Service, Pittsburgh CBS KDKA local news, Seamheads, Latino LA, Backstage, Valley Star and more.