Sunday, July 26, 2009

#380 Rocky Colavito

#380 Rocky Colavito
Ayyy, Rocky! By virtue of the multiple creases criss-crossing its front, the astounding discoloration of the back, and the paper-thin texture (take my word on this one), this card is the shabbiest in my 1965 Topps set. Don't mistake my tone; I see it as a badge of honor. Forty-five year-old cards shouldn't be immaculate.

Fun facts about Rocky Colavito:

-A New Yorker by birth, Rocky signed with the Indians in 1950 when he was just 16 and had a slow-but-sure five-year climb through the minors, belting 150 home runs in 718 games.

-Made an impact as a rookie with 21 home runs and a .372 on-base percentage. It was the first of eleven straight 20-homer seasons for him. He soon became popular with Cleveland fans for his booming hits, strong throwing arm, and good looks and friendly personality.

-Had his best all-around year in 1958, leading the league in slugging (.620) and clouting 41 longballs with 113 RBI to finish third in A. L. MVP voting.

-Surprisingly, only topped the A. L. in home runs once (42 in 1959). He made the All-Star Game for the first of six years. He also tied a record by going deep in four straight at-bats on June 10, 1959. The feat was more impressive than it seemed, as he accomplished it in spacious Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

-Was surprisingly traded to the Tigers after the 1959 season, in a straight-up "challenge trade" for singles-hitting shortstop Harvey Kuenn. The latter struggled and lasted one season with the Tribe. Meanwhile, Rocky reached career highs of 45 HR, 140 RBI, and 129 runs scored with Detroit in 1961. However, he was highly scrutinized in Motown and moved on to Kansas City for the 1963 season.

-The Indians compounded their original mistake of trading Colavito by giving up too much to reacquire him in a three-team trade with the A's and the White Sox. Gone from Cleveland were youngsters Tommie Agee and Tommy John, both of whom you may know.

-Rocky did have two more solid years in his second trip through Cleveland, topping the league in RBI (108) and walks (93) in 1965 and bashing 30 homers the following year.

-In his final two years in the majors, the slugger bounced from the Indians to the White Sox to the Dodgers to his childhood favorites, the Yankees. With the Yanks, he actually earned a win with two and two-thirds scoreless innings of relief against the Tigers on August 25!

-Retired with 374 home runs in 13-plus seasons, as well as 1,159 RBI and 951 walks. At that time, he ranked third in the American League with 371 total HR. He trailed only Jimmie Foxx (524) and Harmon Killebrew (397 as of 1968).

-Rocky currently lives in Berks County, PA and was inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame in 2006.
#380 Rocky Colavito (back)


  1. that card is beautiful. I have a 1969 reggie rookie in similar shape.

  2. Love the card. Reminds me that kids used to fasten cards on their bikes with clothespins so that the card hitting the spokes would make a "flappy" sound.

  3. Max - It's worth it just to have Reggie's RC, right?

    Doug - You can kind of tell on the scan that there's a tear in the bottom of the card. I think you may be right about the origins of this card.

  4. I disagree that the 3-way trade with Chicago, Kansas City and Cleveland was a bad trade for Cleveland -- because the trade may have saved Major League baseball in Cleveland.
    The Indians at that time were doing poorly attendance-wise (they were middle-of-the-pack in the standings). They were making trades in order to make payroll (the Jim Perry and Jim Grant trades to the Twins come to mind), and there was talk of the team moving. Rumors included places like Atlanta and Seattle. Reacquiring Rocky Colavito -- perhaps the best-loved player in Cleveland history, traded away in 1960 -- revived attendance, at least to the extent that the possibility of the team moving were forestalled for several years (another prospective move to New Orleans was in the works in the early/mid-1970's).
    Yes, it was painful in retrospect to lose Tommy John and Tommy Agee, two young but (at the time) unproven players. But for those of us in Cleveland, losing the team would have been much worse.
    Love this blog, by the way.

  5. Re - my earlier comment:

    "was forestalled", not "were forestalled."

    Haste indeed does make waste. Sorry.