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Sports


Pluto on Indians fan-favorite Rocky Colavito
Rocky will be honored at Progressive Field for his 80th birthday Saturday
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI


Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
Rocky Colavito on cover of Baseball Digest, September 1959. He would be traded just before the 1960 season began.
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:
The Cleveland Indians are holding a special luncheon this Saturday to honor former Tribe slugger Rocky Colavito on his 80th birthday. The home-run hitter was the most popular player on the team in the late 50's but was traded. The ensuing lean years for the club inspired our commentator Terry Pluto to write the book “The Curse of Rocky Colavito.”
LISTEN: Pluto says the ties between the Rock and the Indians ran deep.

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Indians General Manager Frank Lane will always be infamous for trading home-run hero and perennial MVP candidate Rocky Colavito to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn, a batter who fizzled in Cleveland. Terry Pluto says that trade help sink the Indians into mediocrity for decades. 

In “1955 Herb Score comes up, ’56 Colavito comes up – they were roommates in the minors. Herb Score was going to be the next Bob Feller; he had that kind of stuff. Colavito was going to be the next home-run hitter. “

  • Former Cleveland players Gary Bell and Joe Azcue are scheduled to attend Saturday’s luncheon with Colavito.
  • Terry Pluto’s book on the subject is “The Curse of Rocky Colavito.”
  • Saturday night, the Indians are giving out replica Indians Hall of Fame plaques of Rocky Colavito.

Score started phenomenally but injuries cut his career short and he became a broadcaster. Colavito became an All-Star hitter who once hit four home runs in one game.  But after a contract dispute with GM Frank Lane, Colavito was sent packing for the Tigers' Harvey Kuenn.

“And to this day, I’ll put it mildly, Colavito calls Frank Lane an SOB.” 

The bond between Score and Colavito remained strong.

“When Herb Score had his stroke about 10 years ago and lost the ability to speak, his wife Nancy told me Rocky called every single week and talked to him on the phone anyway.”

In 2006, Colavito and Score were both made members of the Indians Hall of Fame.

“Rocky was just excited to show up. Herb’s in a wheelchair. They had different events. He’s rolling Herb around  to all these events. That bond for those guys is very, very strong.”

Lingering consequences
But the trade had long repercussions. In 1965, the Indians traded to get Rocky back but ended up giving away pitcher Tommy John and Tommy Agee. Agee went on to help the New York Mets win the 1969 World Series. And John went on to win 288 games – and get a certain elbow surgery named after him.  

Besides trading Colavito, Cleveland also traded away Roger Maris before he had his record-setting season hitting 61 home-runs.

“There’s a picture of the 1961 All-Star team of Roger Maris, Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito, and they are all ex-Indians.”

In 1959, Colavito played with Tito Francona, the father of today’s Indians manager Terry Francona.

“Terry Francona loves these older guys -- it doesn’t matter who it is -- because of his dad. He can’t get enough of that.”

Images with audio

Sympathy for Indians closer Chris Perez after blowing Monday's game against the Tigers.


Sympathy for Indians closer Chris Perez after blowing Monday's game against the Tigers.

Pluto says recent punishment for juiced players doesn't go far enough.


Pluto says recent punishment for juiced players doesn't go far enough.

(Click image for larger view.)

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