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Indians Indians Archive Cleveland Sports Vault: 6/10/59. A Signature Moment for Rocky Colavito
Written by Greg Popelka

Greg Popelka

rocky colavito stretchIf you are like me, you cannot help it- you mentally catalogue people by the iconic images of them that you hold. When particular individuals come to mind, those images are what you ‘see.’ Sometimes they are like still photos; speaking for myself, the images are often the mental equivalents of .gif files, or short video clips.

Musical artists are a great example. Take John Lennon, lead guitarist of the Beatles. There are plenty of images he can evoke- the black-and-white moptop… the frolicking movie idol… the strange tandem of Lennon and Yoko Ono.

My default mental image of John Lennon is from the rooftop Let it Be session, from 1969. Long hair blowing in the breeze, with the glasses and the muttonchops. I was seven or eight years old at the time, and those were the Beatles from when I first became aware.

How about Elvis Presley? There’s the youthful, playful Elvis… the U.S. Army private… the movie star… the 1968, leather-clad ‘comeback’ Elvis… the bloated, over-medicated caricature of the later years.

For me, the image is from the 1973 Aloha from Hawaii. In looking at YouTube footage, it’s still a great concert. Loved that strobe hitting the white suit as he danced in place on stage, later in the program.

Of course, there are many other notable musical figures, from contemporary times… for instance, Justin Bieber.justin bieber

Just kidding.

If I may be Mr. Obvious, sports is full of such iconic figures. Cleveland boasts her share.

My Uncle Allan has talked about one of the all-time favorite Indians players:

 “…Rocco Domenico Colavito stretching with the bat behind his back (a very iconic move for those of us old enough to remember it).”

I was too young to remember, personally, but yep (photo at top).

To me, Rocky was what Sandy Alomar, Jr. must be to ten-year-olds today. He was a coach in the 1970s, drawing attention during pregame warm ups and applause when introduced before games. Fans loved his good looks, and his willingness to talk and sign autographs.

Let’s relive a game from the height of Rocky’s popularity. By 1959, the right fielder with the booming bat and the cannon for an arm was a four-year veteran. It rocky colavito sport magazinewas the first of five All Star seasons in his career.

The Indians were in Baltimore, playing the Orioles at old Memorial Stadium. They were 26-24, and would prove to be contenders the entire season. The big acquisition for 1959 was former Detroit Tiger Tito Francona- but he was a part of just one of the 14 trades 2nd year general manager Frank Lane made that year.

The starting lineups-


Woodie Held, SS

Vic Power, 1B

Tito Francona, CF

Rocky Colavito, RF

Minnie Minoso, LF

Willie Jones, 3B

Dick Brown, C

rocky colavito swingBilly Martin, 2B

Gary Bell, P


Albie Pearson, CF

Al Pilarcik, RF

Gene Woodling, RF

Gus Triandos, C

Bob Hale, 1B

Billy Klaus, 3B

Chico Carrasquel, SS

Billy Gardner, 2B

Jerry Walker, P

Top of the 1st: The Indians jumped ahead of the Orioles; they really could hit. After a fly out to center by Held and a groundout to second by Power, Tito Francona singled to right. Minoso, a former Tribesman whom had been acquired by Lane, jacked a long home run to left field, and the Indians were up. Middle of 1, 3-0 Indians.

Bottom of the 1st: Baltimore scratched out a run, to answer. Bell walked Pearson, and induced Pilarcik to hit a ground ball back to the mound; the Indians got the force at second. Woodling, a former Indian who hailed from northeast Ohio, singled to right. First and third, one out. Triandos then hit a fly ball that was caught by Billy Martin- on the play, Pilarcik scored. Hale lined out to third. End of 1, 3-1 Indians.

Top of the 2nd: After a fly out to center by Brown, Billy Martin homered to deep left. Bell and Held went ground out- strike out. Middle of 2, 4-1 Indians.

rocky colavito kiss batBottom of the 2nd: After Klaus and Carrasquel flied out to right and to 1B, respectively, the Orioles started a two-out rally. Gardner and Walker each singled to center, and Pearson walked. Pilarcik sent a grounder up the middle to score Gardner and Walker. Woodling fouled out to the catcher. End of 2, 4-3 Indians.

Top of the 3rd: Francona followed a Power walk with a pop out to short.

Up stepped Rocky Colavito, who launched a two-run home run to left. The blast was plenty far enough, just curling around the foul pole. It sent Jerry Walker to the showers.

Minoso created some extra excitement, singling and stealing second, where he was stranded. Middle of 3, 6-3 Indians.

The pitching settled down for the next couple innings. In the home half of the 4th, Colavito made the catch on a long fly ball to the wall in right. At that moment, a fan threw a beer in his face. Afterward, The Rock challenged him. He was hot.

Top of the 5th: Francona struck out to start the inning.

Rocky Colavito came up, and jacked another home run. Again, it was to left field. The bomb was hit on a slider away.

rocky colavito with gloveA Minoso single and a Brown double went to waste, as they were stranded. Middle of 5, 7-3 Indians.

Bottom of the 5th: Woodling singled for the only Oriole offense of the inning. There was activity, however, out in right field. Rocky Colavito told the fan who’d dumped beer on him that he’d meet him outside the stadium after the game. End of 5, 7-3 Indians.

Top of the 6th: The Indians were not yet done. After Bell’s fly ball to center field, Held doubled to straight away center. Power moved him to third on a ground out. Francona doubled to left-center to score Held…

Colavito was up again. He clobbered a home run to deep left-center. This one was a no-doubter, and again, it came on a slider on the outside corner. He was looking for it, and thus was able to pull it.

The fans in right field gave Rocky Colavito a standing ovation- including the guy who had thrown beer in his face. Middle of 6, 10-3 Indians.

Moving ahead to the bottom of the 7th: Baltimore chased Gary Bell. Bell allowed a walk and a single, before inducing a ground out that moved the runners up a base. Woodling singled one run in. Then, Bell walked another batter. Bases loaded.

In to pitch came veteran Mike Garcia, the Big Bear. The former standout starter got a flyout - and yielded a bases-clearing double to Klaus. End of 7, 10-7 Indians.

Skipping to the top of the 9th: Francona grounded out.

rocky colavito scoreAll eyes were on Rocky Colavito. His roommate, Herb Score, told him to go on up and hit the fourth one. When Rocky told him he’d be glad to just get a single, Score said, “Bull- go up there and do it.”  The first pitch was up and in on Colavito. A purpose pitch. The next pitch was inside again, a fastball. He gave the fans what they were looking for – he homered to center. Four homers in a row! Another standing O (Colavito noticed that the beer-pouring fan was gone, however). 4-4 on the day, 4 homers, 5 runs scored, 6 RBI and a walk.

The Orioles pushed home a run in the bottom of the 9th.


Trader Lane’s frantic dealing was working- so far. The Tribe would threaten the first-place Chicago White Sox, until a crushing four-game sweep to those same Sox that virtually wiped out their chances. It proved to be an exciting season.

The madness of Lane would soon turn decidedly weirder. Gone would be Colavito, to whom Lane referred with a dismissive ethnic slur. Eventually, the man who once had tried to trade an entire big league roster (the league vetoed the deal) actually traded the manager of the Cleveland Indians.

And eventually, Lane would himself be gone, of course. Rocky Colavito would one day return…

Sources included Russell Schneider's Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia and Tales From the Tribe Dugout. Also, and Wikipedia. 

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rocky colavito card doby minoso.

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