Tuesday, October 24, 2006

RATMAN Star de la Rosa Passes Away

Two-foot-four Nelson de la Rosa, a big fan of Red Sox Pedro Martinez during 2004 championship run, is dead at 38.

Nelson De La Rosa, the world's shortest actor whose friendship with now-Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez made him a Red Sox good luck charm during their 2004 World Series run, died yesterday of unknown causes.

He was 38.

The 2-foot-4 de la Rosa fell ill after arriving in Miami on a flight from Chile, where he'd been working in a circus, but forged on to New York on Saturday then on to Providence, R.I., to visit two of his brothers.

When his condition worsened, he was hospitalized.

De la Rosa befriended Martinez and quickly became a familiar face in the Red Sox clubhouse.

Martinez often sat his Dominican countryman on his shoulders or held him aloft for photographers.

"Oh, geez, this is awful news," said Daniel Mann, 42, an actor and entertainer known as Danoe the Clown, who worked with de la Rosa at events in Providence last summer.

"He was a wonderful guy, playful, kind and a real practical joker," Mann told the Daily News. "He'd go up to a big brute of a guy, give him a little punch in the leg and say 'Hey, you - MOVE! He did it with a smile on his face and everybody had to laugh."

"He was especially wonderful with kids," said Mann. "The guy was about as tall as a 2-year-old and I guess children related to him. They loved to take their pictures with him."

Born and raised in a small village near San Miguel, de la Rosa early in life developed a charismatic personality that drew the attention of moviemakers who starred him in the 1988 Italian horror flick, "The Ratman."

Billed as the world's smallest actor, he later became a regular guest on Venezuela's "Sabado Sensacional" TV show, making him a popular figure in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Spain.

In 1996, he shared lines with Marlon Brando in the Hollywood film, "The Island of Dr. Moreau."

The role is said to be the inspiration for the Austin Powers movie character, "Mini-Me."

De la Rosa's body will be sent back to the Dominican Republic after an autopsy and might be put on display in a museum, his agent said.

The actor is survived by his wife, a 9-year-old son, his mother and five siblings.

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