Once described as the “Rock Hudson of the Major Leagues,” Rocky Colavito was a charismatic slugger who brought people not ordinarily interested in the game to the ballpark – most notably, females. Rocky was more than just a Rock Hudson clone: he was one of the finest sluggers in the game’s history.
As a rookie in 1956, Rocky led AL right fielders with a .531 slugging average for the Indians. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting behind the White Sox flashy shortstop Luis Aparicio. As a freshman, Rocky smacked twenty-one homeruns and walked more times than he struck out. As a sophomore, Rocky nailed 25 homeruns – tops among AL right fielders while driving in 84 runs.
His breakout season came in 1958. The dashing star led the AL with a resounding .620 slugging average and finished third in MVP voting. His rifle arm (he was noted for throwing balls from home plate over center field fence during practice) allowed him to tally 14 assists. He was third in MVP voting and finished second in the AL in the RBI department while his 41 long balls finished just behind Mickey Mantle for league lead. He stepped in front of Mantle in ’59, leading the AL with 42 homeruns and 301 total bases. He finished one RBI shy of leading the league in that department as well. For that great season, Rocky came in fourth in MVP voting.
Shocking news came Rocky’s way during the off season. The Indians dealt their slugging star to the Tigers for perennial .300 hitting Harvey Kuenn, and the fans of Cleveland lost their idol. Pressing at the plate in 1960, Rocky’s batting average fell to .249 with the Tigers but he finished second in homeruns and RBI among right fielders to AL MVP Roger Maris.
Putting a poor (for Rocky that is) season behind him, Colavito flourished in 1961, slugging .580 and smacking 45 homeruns, driving in 140 runs, scoring 129 runs and drawing 113 walks. Despite these amazing stats, Rocky finished well behind Roger Maris and his 60 homerun season in MVP voting. Rocky went into 1962 just as good as he left ’61. He paced the AL with 309 total bases while driving in 112 runs on 37 homers.
In 1963, Rocky began patrolling left field for the Tigers. He tied Carl Yaztremski for most runs scored by a left fielder in ’63. After the season, he was dealt to the Kansas City Athletics and gave the KC A’s the best player in their short existence. Although Rocky played one season in KC, he made his mark, leading AL right fielders with 34 homers and 102 RBI. The A’s traded Rocky back to his place of origin in ’65 for two reserve outfielders and he promptly led the AL with 108 RBI and 93 walks.
Back in Cleveland, Rocky finished fifth in MVP voting his first year back and then enjoyed his seventh year with 30 or more homers in ’66. He received his final All-Star nod (he made six appearances) that year before losing his power in 1967.
Rocky Colavito’s career stats: G 1,841/R 971/H 1,730/2B 283/HR 374/RBI 1,159/BB 951/SO 880/BA .266/SA .489