May 28, 2023

Bringing Back Fond Memories of The Rock

July 23, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Rocky Colavito Book CoverThe first baseball season I remember was 1960. As an 11-year-old, that season was very memorable. One of the first big baseball stories that year was the Cleveland Indians trading Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. How could Indians GM Frank Lane trade the American League home run champ, even if it was for the batting champ? It caused quite an uproar. Lane said he traded “hamburger for steak.”

My brothers and I followed Rocky Colavito like we did Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. We thought Rocky was the coolest.

Author Mark Sommer does a great job of chronicling Colavito’s career, his achievements, and his disappointments.

His accomplishments are impressive. He reached 100 homers quicker than any other American League batter and was the fifth fastest to reach 300 homers. He slugged 40 or more homers three times, including a high of 45 in 1961.

He clouted four homers in a game at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, even though the stadium was the toughest place to hit homers.

He had one of the greatest arms ever, once throwing a ball 435 feet in an exhibition. Can you imagine team’s allowing players to participate in a similar exhibition today?

One of the most popular players, Rocky signed autographs for every kid. He was a down-to-earth superstar.

Playing in Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and New York, he never played on a pennant winner and he missed out on the national publicity Mantle and Maris received.

In recounting his negotiations with clubs, Rocky often butted heads with the front office. He seemed to have a short fuse when he came to managers and executives. To boot, he held grudges.

When Rocky retired after the 1968 season, he had 374 homers, third highest by an American League right-handed hitter. At 35, he still felt he could play, but no teams were interested.

In the book’s appendix, Sommer includes two perspectives about Colavito’s Hall of Fame worthiness.

Any baseball fan who remembers Rocky Colavito will thoroughly enjoy this well-researched and well-written book.

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