Friday, June 21, 2013

1959 TOPPS ROCKY COLAVITO


NOT LONG FOR CLEVELAND IN '59.




HIS ARM WAS A NATURAL FIT FOR RIGHT FIELD.



THE FRONT PAGE

  • Rocky Colavito was Cleveland's favorite son who rose to prominence in the 1950s after dropping out of school and signing with the Indians at age 17. He was a 26-year-old star slugger coming off a 42-homer season when he was traded in the spring of '60. The Curse of Rocky Colavito was born. The Indians, second in the AL at 89-65 in '59, wouldn't finish that high again until '94 nor surpass that win total until winning 100 games in '95.

THE BACK PAGE

  • The '59 backs ooze vintage, but this cartoon is a tad strange.
  • Rocco certainly tore up the minors.

PHOTO PLAY

  • The face of the franchise wasn't long for Cleveland because home runs are overrated.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Colavito's said his decision to drop out of high school as a sophomore was a mistake because he feared it set a bad example for kids. Spoken like a true role model.
  • In addition to his power, he was blessed with a powerful arm. He could stand at home plate and throw a ball over the fence more than 400 feet away.
  • Finished with 374 home runs, 190 for Cleveland in two separate stints. On June 10, 1959, Colavito hit four homers in a game against the Orioles at Memorial Stadium. Interestingly, in The Sporting News that came out that day, it listed Colavito and Eddie Mathews as having the best chance one day to break Babe Ruth's season home run record of 60.
  • After averaging 26 home runs and 75 RBI in his first five seasons with the Indians, the reigning AL home run champ was traded to the Tigers in April 1960 for the reigning AL batting champ (Harvey Kuenn) who was coming off a .353 season. 
  • Indians fans did everything but storm the front office with pitchforks, torches and hounds. "Don't Knock The Rock,'' a popular battle cry for years along the Cuyahoga, was never more popular. Cleveland GM Frank "Trader'' Lane threw gas on the fire by saying the home run was overrated. Manager Joe Gordon agreed. The Ghost of Ruth stirred.
  • Reds GM Gabe Paul summed up the deal succinctly: "The Indians traded a slow guy with power for a slow guy with no power.'' Paul would have the power to undo the damage five years later but at a cost.
  • The Tigers opened the '60 season in Cleveland, and Colavito struck out four times in the opener. In the next game, he struck back with two home runs and three RBI.
  • Colavito hit 35 homers, drove in 87 and batted .249 in '60; Kuenn hit .308 with nine homers and 54 RBI as the Indians finished fourth in the AL with a 76-78 record.
  • In four years with the Tigers, Colavito hit 139 homers, an average of 34 a season, before being traded to Kansas City in November '63.
  • After one season with the Athletics in which he swatted another 34, Colavito was reacquired by Paul, now the Tribe GM, for '65. In doing so, though, he gave up lefty Tommy John, who would win 288 games, and outfielder Tommie Agee, who would win the '66 AL Rookie of the Year. Still, the trade was wildly popular with Indians fans.
  • A crowd of more than 44,000 attended Opening Day to welcome back The Rock, who hit a two-run homer. He'd go on to hit .287 with 25 homers and lead the AL with 108 RBI. He started in right field for the AL in the '65 All-Star Game.
  • Had his last All-Star season in '66 with 30 HRs and 72 RBI, but he hit a career low .238.
  • He was a platoon player for most of his last two seasons divided among three teams.
  • On Aug. 25, 1968, while with his hometown Yankees in his last season, Colavito was called on to pitch, going 2.1 innings and getting the victory. He was the last position player to earn a victory until Brent Mayne in 2000 for, who else, the Rockies. 
  • In '94, Terry Pluto wrote The Curse of Rocky Colavito, which details the slide of the franchise after its iconic slugger was misguidedly traded. 

1 comment:

  1. There are fewer things prettier than a '59 in nice condition. Love this one!

    ReplyDelete