Cleveland Indians 1955-59, 65-67
Detroit Tigers 1960-63
Kansas City Athletics 1964
Chicago White Sox 1967
Los Angeles Dodgers 1968
New York Yankees 1968
The Cleveland Indians have had many star players on their
roster during the past decade, including; Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Roberto Alomar, and Jim Thome, just to name a few.
While all of those players have put up huge numbers and thrilled the Cleveland crowds, none of them have approached the popularity
of Rocky Colavito, the most beloved Indian of all time. Although Colavito remains popular in Cleveland, many fans today do
not realize that he was one of the great power hitters of his era. A strong case can be made for a Veteran's Committee induction
in to the Hall of Fame.
Rocco Domenico Colavito was born on August 10, 1933 in New York City. He began his career
in Major League baseball in 1955 when he was called up with Herb Score. While his first stint in the majors lasted just five
games, he returned in 1956 and was there to stay.
After hitting 21 and 25 home runs in 1956 and '57, Colavito emerged
as a star in 1958. The slugger belted 41 home runs and drove in 113, finishing second in the AL in both categories, while
hitting .303 and slugging a league leading .620. He finished third in the MVP following the season.
On June 10, 1959,
Colavito hit four home runs in one game in consecutive at bats - only the third player to accomplish this feat. For the season
he belted an AL leading 42 home runs and finished second with 111 RBI, but his average dipped to .257. Following the 1959
season, Cleveland GM did the unthinkable, trading the fan favorite to Detroit for AL batting champ, Harvey Kuenn. The trade
angered the Cleveland faithful so much that they blamed Lane for the next 30+ years of Cleveland futility. It became known
as the "Curse of Rocky Colavito."
After a year of getting acclimated to his new surroundings (.249 35 HR 87 RBI),
Colavito broke out in Detroit, having his finest season in 1961. The Italian idol smacked 45 home runs with 140 RBI, and hit
.290. He, however, was overshadowed by the Maris/Mantle home run race and finished eighth in the MVP voting.
hitting 37 home runs in 1962 and 22 in 1963, respectively, the Tigers dealt Colavito to the Kansas City Athletics - baseball's
equivalent of Siberia. Colavito hit 34 HR in his one season in the KC and was dealt back to Cleveland in a three team deal
before the '65 season.
Colavito celebrated his return to Cleveland by setting major league record of 162 errorless
games. He also was productive at the plate, leading the AL in RBI (108) and walks (93) while belting 26 home runs. 1966 would
be Colavito's last productive year as he hit 30 home runs. He had a falling out with Cleveland management in 1967 after being
platooned with Leon Wagner and was dealt to the Chicago White Sox. He hit just eight home runs between the two teams and was
released following the season.
Colavito began the 1968 season in the National League with the Los Angeles Dodgers,
but was dealt to the Yankees after appearing just 40 games in Dodger blue. Colavito most notable accomplishment as a Yankee
was becoming the last position player to win a game as a pitcher. He also hit a crucial home run in that game.
Colavito retired following the 1968 season. His resume includes six All Star selections (1959, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66), 374 home
runs, 1159 RBI, and 1730 hits. He was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. Now, the question
remains, will a trip to Cooperstown be in Colavito's future?
-David Zingler, July 2002
Colavito @ Baseball-Reference.com
Simply Baseball Notebook
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