Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Goodbye, Rocky

Fifty years ago this month -- April 17, 1960, to be exact -- the Indians traded Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. Without their home-run champ, the Tribe were never the same again: They wouldn't contend until the 1990s. The Colavito curse has become a key legend of Cleveland loserdom, a baseball-sized wound to the civic psyche.

Terry Pluto called Colavito to chat last week and found the home-run champ, now 76 and living on a Pennsylvania deer farm, still saying unprintable stuff about Frank Lane, the general manager who traded him. But to hear a lot more from Rocky, and to see how the trade looks on the other side of Lake Erie, check out this interview with Colavito from the Detroit Free Press.

"I still believe that if I had stayed with the Indians I would have had a longer and even more productive career," Colavito tells writer Bill Dow. "When you stay with one team, your name becomes synonymous with the organization."

Still, Rocky manages to find good things to say about playing with '60s Tiger greats Al Kaline and Norm Cash. He brags he could throw a baseball over the roof of any stadium. He explains why he signed more autographs than most any player: "As a kid growing up in the Bronx, I would try to get autographs outside of Yankee Stadium, and I remembered how bad I felt when a player wouldn't sign for me."

Losing such a great guy still stings (even though he rejoined the Indians toward his career's end). When we included the Colavito trade in our August 2006 Notorious Cleveland issue, readers voted it one of the city's most notorious moments: Rocky almost knocked the Torso Murders out of our tournament bracket.

(photo from checkoutmycards.com)

No comments: