A lifelong member of the Boston Red Sox, Petrocelli split his career between the shortstop and third base positions and was a superior defender at each location. Rico coupled a fine glove with well-above average power for his position, as he played in an era when pitchers dominated.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Americo Petrocelli was signed by the Red Sox in 1961 as an amateur free agent. He was initially called up to Boston in 1963 and played in just one game that year, smacking a double and driving in a run. He spent the entire 1964 season in the Pacific Coast League with Seattle before the Red Sox gave him a second trial in ’65. He hit 13 homers as a rookie in ’65 and would swat at least a dozen round-trippers every year until 1975.
In 1966, Rico finished second among AL shortstops with 18 homeruns. However, in 1967, the Red Sox AL pennant winning season, Petrocelli paced Major League shortstops in homeruns, RBI and slugging average (he was the only Major League shortstop to slug over .400 that year). The BoSox took on the Cardinals in the World Series and Rico clubbed a pair of homeruns but it was done in a losing effort.
Although Rico led Major League shortstops in homeruns in 1968, his year was dismal compared to the monster year he had in 1969. An obvious All-Star selection, Petrocelli led all middle infielders with 40 homers and 97 RBI. Among Major League shortstops, Rico was the top man in batting average (.297) and slugging average (.589). His slugging average becomes even more amazing when you compare him to his position peers–he was the only Major League shortstop to slug over .400. He posted an amazing .403 on-base percentage, turned over 100 double plays and fielded at an astounding .981 percent: the league average at shortstop was .965.
Petrocelli had his lone 100 RBI season in 1970 when he brought in 103 of his Boston mates. His RBI total, as well as his 29 homeruns, topped all middle infielders in the Major Leagues. And, as usual, he paced Major League shortstops in slugging average. When the Red Sox acquired Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio in 1971, skipper Eddie Kasko shifted Rico to third base to give Boston and unbeatable defensive left side. Rico clubbed 28 homeruns as a third baseman in ’71.
Rico posted a nifty .970 fielding percentage at the hot corner in 1972 while the league average at the position was .953. Limited to just 100 games in 1973 due to injury, Petrocelli came back in 1974 to finish second in slugging average among American League third basemen. Although his power evaporated in 1975, he was still an elite defender and helped the Red Sox reach postseason play. He socked a homerun in the ALCS and drove in four runs on a .308 batting average in a World Series loss to the Reds. He spent his last year in the Majors, 1976, as a platoon partner with young slugger Butch Hobson.
G 1,553/R 653/H 1,352/2B 237/3B 22/HR 210/RBI 773/BB 661/SO 926/BA .251/SA .420