“He was everything a ballplayer should be” — Terry Pluto, Akron Beacon Journal

May 19, 2010

On April 19, I wrote about a 22-inning baseball game in 1962 in which the Yankees beat the Tigers, 9-7, thanks to the only home run of Jack Reed’s career. I mentioned in that post that Tigers outfielder Rocky Colavito went seven-for-ten in that game. That attracted a response from Gloria, who is a member of a group that is campaigning for the Veterans Committee to elect Colavito to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this  year.

It’s well known by now that the Hall of Fame is not the Hall of Justice. I have commented here, for example, on the fact that Pete Rose — an obnoxious SOB, but one of the best hitters of all time — is ineligible because he gambled on baseball, but Adrian “Cap” Anson stares smugly from his plaque despite his critical role in keeping two or three generations of black players out of the major  leagues. So if Rocky Colavito hasn’t been elected, there is no reason to be surprised.

I have a good perspective on this question, because  I saw Colavito play at Yankee Stadium many times. I was fortunate enough to have a father who was devoted to both baseball and the Yankees, and at one  point in the 1950s and 1960s, we attended an average of three games a week when the Yankees were home. We saw Colavito through most of his career.

BOBBY LOWE

Colavito’s stats as a hitter and as a fielder speak for themselves. They are readily available on the Internet, so I won’t recite them all here. I will mention that in 116 years, only 15 men have hit four home runs in one game; Colavito was one of them. That in itself doesn’t qualify him for the Hall of Fame, but in the context of the career he had at the plate, it can’t be ignored. The feat was first accomplished by Bobby Lowe of the Boston Beaneaters in 1894. Lowe was playing in the dead-ball era, but he was also playing in Boston’s Congress Street Park, which had a short left-field line. All four of his homers were hit to left. The only other player in the 19th century to hit  four home runs in one game was Ed Delahanty of the Phillies, who did it in 1896. Records are incomplete, but it is known that at least two of Delahanty’s homers that day were inside the park.

Another thing that distinguishes Colavito’s share of this record is that he is one of only six men in major league history to hit four home runs in consecutive at-bats in a single game. The others were Lowe, Lou Gehrig, Mike Schmidt, Mike Cameron, and Carlos Delgado. As rare an accomplishment as that is, it was typical of Colavito in the sense that he always brought excitement to the game; he put derrières in the seats, as it were, and it’s hard to calculate the value of that. It’s unusual for the fans at a baseball stadium to jump to their feet because of an outfielder’s throw, but Colavito’s arm was a high-caliber gun, and I was often among those who bolted out of our seats when he uncorked one toward the infield.

Rocky Colavito belongs in the Hall of Fame. If you want to read more about Colavito or sign a petition to the Veterans Committee, you can do both at THIS SITE.

Rocky Colavito, right, with pitching great Herb Score in 2006, when they and five others were inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame.


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3 Responses to ““He was everything a ballplayer should be” — Terry Pluto, Akron Beacon Journal”

  1. bronxboy55 Says:

    I was looking at my Stat page on WordPress, and there you were.

    I’ve done quite a bit of reading on probability and coincidence, and I understand that it would be highly improbable for coincidences to not occur. But the frequency and strange nature of the coincidences that happen nearly every day in my life are really starting to make me wonder.

    The latest example: when I clicked on the link to your blog and saw Rocky Colavito, my heart stopped beating for a second. Just last night (last night!), my fifteen-year-old son asked me (out of the blue) if any batter had ever hit home runs in every at-bat in a game. I said I didn’t know, but that only a small number of players had ever hit four homers in a game. I thought, but wasn’t sure, that Mays and Hodges had done it; the only two I was definite about were Lou Gehrig and Colavito. I can tell you exactly where I was standing when Colavito hit the home run in the 1961 All-Star Game. He was one of my favorite players, and I don’t even know why — I lived in the Bronx and was a Yankee and Met fan. Maybe it was the cool name, or the fact that he was Italian and was from the Bronx himself. But I doubt the words “Rocky Colavito” had escaped my lips (or even flashed through my brain) once in the past fifteen years.

    I also agree with you about Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame. For the game’s all-time leading hitter to be missing detracts from the meaning of the place, and the honor. I didn’t know about Anson, but I’ve often said that if you got rid of all of the Hall of Famers who were drunks, racists, gamblers, and wife beaters, there’d be a loud echo up in Cooperstown.

    Keep up the great work. I’ll be watching.

    Charles

    • charlespaolino Says:

      I was thinking about Colavito earlier this month when some team the Yankees were playing brought in an outfielder to pitch in relief. During his last season, Colavito got credit for a win after pitching about 2 1/2 innings for the Yankees. My father was at a game in ’61 at which Colavito went up into the stands after a guy who was annoying Colavito’s family.

  2. bronxboy55 Says:

    My two most vivid memories at ballgames were Mel Stottlemyre’s first game pitching for the Yankees (Mantle hit two homers, one that went over the big black screen in centerfield) and sitting in box seats down the first base line at Shea for a Mets-Pirates game and having an unobstructed view of Clemente playing right field. I may have seen Colavito play, but I don’t remember. I know I had that baseball card that appears above, along with thousands of others. I guess they’re all compost now. Seems like a million years ago.

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