August 10 – Happy Birthday Rocky Colavito

Rocky was born on today’s date in 1933, in New York City and grew up in the Bronx, rooting for Joe DiMaggio and the Yankees. He did not get to play for his favorite boyhood team until 1968, the final season of a very good fourteen-year career in which the powerful right-hand hitting slugger smashed 374 home runs. He was an excellent defensive outfielder with a cannon for an arm and I remember very well the Detroit team he played for in 1961. The Tigers were loaded that year with Colavito, Norm Cash and Al Kaline anchoring the offense and Frank Lary, Jim Bunning and Don Mossi, the pitching staff. Rocky smashed 45 home runs and drove in 140 runs as Detroit put together a 101-victory season. Unfortunately for Colavito and the rest of his MoTown teammates, Detroit finished eight games behind the 1961 Yankees, who were led by the M&M Boys.

Rocky started his career with Cleveland in 1955 and evolved into a star during his four plus seasons there. I’ve read that when the Indians traded Rocky to the Tigers even up for Harvey Kuenn just before the 1960 season began, many fans of Cleveland baseball actually cried. “The Rock” had led the league with 42 home runs in 1959 and driven in 111, but Kuenn had won the AL batting title that same season with a .359 average. The Indians had also traded Roger Maris away a couple of seasons earlier. Imagine if the Indians had both Rocky and Roger in the middle of their order in the early sixties. Instead of the M&M boys it might have been the R&Rs getting all the press for their home run exploits.

Colavito was at the very end of his career when the Dodgers released him in July of 1968 and he signed with the Yankees. By then, the favorite team of his youth had fallen upon hard times. I can remember very well watching the first game of a late August Sunday double-header, when New York Manager Ralph Houk put Rocky  on the mound to pitch in the fourth inning. The Tigers had crushed Yankee starter, Steve Barber and were leading 5-0 when Colavito took over. He threw 2 and 2/3 innings of scoreless ball and even struck out Tiger shortstop, Dick Tracewski, looking. The Yankee offense in the mean time, came to life and scored six runs to win the game and give Rocky the pitching victory. That same Detroit team would go on to win the 1968 World Series just a few weeks later.

The two things I will always remember about Colavito were that outstanding throwing arm and his practice swing routine at the plate. Instead of taking a few easy full swings before each pitch was thrown he would instead cut them short so that his bat would be pointed directly at the pitcher’s head.

Rocky shares his August 10th birthday with this former Yankee infielder, this former Yankee pitcher and this former Yankee outfielder

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1968 NYY 39 106 91 13 20 2 2 5 13 0 14 17 .220 .330 .451 .781
14 Yrs 1841 7559 6503 971 1730 283 21 374 1159 19 951 880 .266 .359 .489 .848
CLE (8 yrs) 913 3700 3185 464 851 136 9 190 574 9 468 478 .267 .361 .495 .856
DET (4 yrs) 629 2723 2336 377 633 107 7 139 430 6 346 301 .271 .364 .501 .865
KCA (1 yr) 160 681 588 89 161 31 2 34 102 3 83 56 .274 .366 .507 .873
LAD (1 yr) 40 129 113 8 23 3 0 3 11 0 15 18 .204 .295 .310 .604
NYY (1 yr) 39 106 91 13 20 2 2 5 13 0 14 17 .220 .330 .451 .781
CHW (1 yr) 60 220 190 20 42 4 1 3 29 1 25 10 .221 .306 .300 .606
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/9/2013.

3 Comments

Wow I really like this blog! It’s really interesting about all the Birthdays! Where did you fine inspirtation to do this of all things?

Thanks for your comments about my Pinstripe Birthdays blog. I got the idea from none other than Phil Rizzuto. One evening toward the end of his career in the Yankee booth, Rizzuto was going through his usual list of birthday announcements when Bobby Murcer interrupted him by asking when he was born. The Scooter didn’t answer the question so I grabbed my copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia and looked it up. Then I looked up Murcer’s, Mantle’s, Mattingly’s etc. As I did so I began to wonder if I could find a current or former Yankee born on each day of the calendar year and the task became my hobby for the next few months.

I love this site. Congratulations Mike.
I am forwarding to all my Yankee friends and also Met and Red Sox friends ( fortunately there aren’t many of the latter).
Again, great job!!!!

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