Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Rocky Colavito

Claim to fame: Colavito had a 14-year career from 1955 to 1968, and for about ten of those years, he was one of the best players in the American League. From 1956 through 1966, Colavito smacked 358 home runs, made six All Star teams, and finished among the top five in Most Valuable Player award voting three times. The right fielder went into rapid decline after 1966, bouncing between four teams his final two seasons, though as noted here recently, Colavito had a moment in the sun his last year in the majors, 1968, when he pitched and won a game for the Yankees.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Colavito appeared on the Cooperstown ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America twice, receiving two votes in 1974 and one in 1975. He can be enshrined by the Veterans Committee.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? My knee jerk reaction from looking at Colavito’s career numbers is: No, he doesn’t merit a Hall of Fame plaque.

A lifetime batting average of .266, 374 career home runs and 1,730 hits don’t seem sufficient for Cooperstown, and several of the players Colavito charts most closely to offensively fall into the good-but-not-great category: Boog Powell, Norm Cash, Frank Howard. All were solid members of their teams in their day, but if every man like this were to be honored, the Hall of Fame would mushroom in size and become watered down to the point I’d be devoting columns here to whether or not Reggie Sanders deserved induction.

To me, Colavito falls into a class of players who might have been Hall of Famers had they kept up the pace from the first half of their careers, rather than falling almost completely off the map around 30. Ted Kluszewski is another player like this from Colavito’s era. Dwight Gooden and Nomar Garciaparra are more recent examples. In their primes, each may have seemed like a shoe-in for future enshrinement, but it’s a push to lobby for any of them now (though I included Gooden among the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame.)

All this being said, it was a little surprising to me when I learned Colavito was not in Cooperstown. With his name and the great years he had, I’d have thought he received a plaque years ago (Kluszewski as well, come to think of it.) Colavito’s anemic vote totals with the BBWAA are more surprising still. Heck, the Cleveland Indians were supposedly afflicted for years with something called the Curse of Rocky Colavito following their ill-fated trade of him for Harvey Kuenn just before the start of the 1960 season. Legends usually inspire curses.

A place on the Internet devoted to Colavito’s candidacy, Rocky Colavito Fan Site notes, “Many avid baseball fans assume that Rocky is already in the Hall of Fame and are shocked when they learn that this is not the case.” The site carries a Hall of Fame petition in Colavito’s name, with a goal of making the slugger eligible this year with the Veterans Committee for enshrinement next summer. I would encourage anyone interested to check it out.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

25 Replies to “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Rocky Colavito”

  1. With his flat feet and long, slow stride, it was almost comical watching Rocky try to “run”. But the laughing stopped when he’d rifle a line drive throw from the right field corner to cut down a foolish runner trying to go to second or third, or when he’d loosen up by putting the bat behind his back and wiggling his neck and shoulders before stepping into the box and taking aim with his bat at the pitcher.
    That, and his great smile is how I’ll always remember The Rock.

  2. Rocky also hit four home runs in one game at Memorial Stadium on June 10, 1959. Those were the days when the old ballpark on 33rd Street in Baltimore was not so cozy for sluggers.

    Mr. Colavito also pitched three scoreless innings for the Tribe in 1958.

    Rocky is a genuine gentleman. As they used to say with good reason, “Don’t Knock the Rock.” Here’s to you, Rocco!

  3. Rocky Colavito’s 374 career home runs are impressive, but in combination with his other numbers, he is on balance still a Cooperstown outsider in my estimation. It’s interesting to wonder how much more HoF consideration he might have received had he reached the 400 HR milestone. While 400 HR is not a ticket to the Hall, in the late ‘60s it was a lofty number, and had it been part of Colavito’s resume, it’s a number that would have attracted attention from voters.

    Colavito is a member of the very interesting class of 1968, ballplayers who played their last game in the 1968 season (others are Wayne Causey, Elston Howard, Larry Jackson, Roger Maris, Stu Miller, and Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews). Fewer players (81) ended their careers in 1968 than in any surrounding year (avg 107 from ’63 thru ’67; avg 126 from ’69 thru 73); so few players retired in ’68 in part because four new teams came into existence in ’69. In 1968, many talented players nearing the end had the option to extend their MLB careers, at least for a year or two. Only 35 years old at the time of his retirement, Colavito almost certainly could have hung on for another year or two. It is, however, an open question whether another year or two would have been sufficient for Rocky to hit the 26 HRs he needed to reach 400, as he had only 8 in ‘68.

    Even without a Cooperstown plaque, Rocky Colavito remains a very talented and compelling player who will not soon be forgotten by those who had the privilege of seeing him play.

    1. Hi Brendan, thanks for commenting, and you bring up an interesting point. With 400 home runs, Colavito probably would’ve gotten more attention from voters. How much more attention would that have been? I don’t know. Even with 512 career home runs, Matthews needed five ballots to receive his plaque in Cooperstown.

    2. Rocky is one of the best players I watched and deserves HOF consideration. The first game I went to was at the old stadium and they were playing the White Sox in 59′ and we were seated half way in the upper deck next to the foul pole. I was 11 years old and Rocky hit a homerun 2 rows from where we sat. One of the longest I seen ever since. You get my vote Rocky.
      Bill Kingsborough

  4. Rocky may fall a little short in getting in, but is should be remembered what an excellent right fielder he was having excellent range, a great arm and setting the record as the first outfielder to have an errorless season. He was definitely a step behind if not equal to two other AL great right fielders of his time, Roger Maris and sometime teammate Al Kaline. His excellence on the field has to be taken into consideration here and definitely separates him from fine, but more one dimensional players like Frank Howard (not Boog, because he was such an excellent first baseman.

    Hitting-wise having 11 consecutive 20 home run seasons, knocking in 100 runs 6 times, hitting 40 homers 3 times. When he retired he was third in the AL for lifetime homeruns by a right-handed batter. No small feats those. If he did not have the competition of the likes of Mantle, Killerbrew, Gentile, Maris, etc he may have had more home run, slugging and rbi titles. Either way those were some awesome players back then and Rocky was one of them.

  5. As a kid growing up in rural N.C. Rocky was my favorite player… He had class…There are lots of players in the HOF that were not half the player Rocky was…When I found out players like Rocky Colavito and Roger Maris were not in the Hall, I realized the hall of fame was built on a foundation of sand and politics….”Don’t Knock the Rock”….Rocco D. Colavito..ROCKY!ROCKY!ROCKY!

  6. Rocky was a local product of Crotona Park (south Bronx). His brother Dominic was a terrific catcher. Of all the Colavitos however, few ever mention the one we called “the octopus” (played shortstop). He was the best of them all.

    Junior Stinza (RHP) never made past A ball. John Miasack (sp) had a blazing fastball but never wanted to grind through the minors (his brother played for the Stags). Plenty of great players from Crotona Park (ever hear of Hank Greenberg?) Had the majors expanded back then many of my team mates would have made it to the “big show.” I also recall superb ball players who were killed in the Korean War. Joey Z. was the best second baseman I ever saw. We all suffered a loss there.

    1. Hello Ozzie,
      I am Rocky Colavitos nephew. I was pleasantly surprised when you mentioned my Uncle Dom as he was known to be a better player than my Uncle Rocky, but had a bad knee so the Yankees wouldn’t take him. Who is the other Colavito you were referring to? Thanks

  7. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Rocky was one of the most feared hitters in baseball
    and earned several fielding records as well as having a cannon for an arm. A hero in Cleveland and a respected player around the league, his stats still surpass many HOFers such as Bill Mazeroski…..the fact that he didn’t have a World Series Championship is not his fault….the Yankees dominated in those years……good luck Rocco in making it to Cooperstown.

  8. If the Hall uses what Rogers Hornsby used to judge to judge great palyers—5 great years in MLB–Rocky would be in and so would quite a few others–Also quite a few would NOT!–Too much attention is paid for lifetime achievements and not enough for defense–Jim Kaat is one big example–280 wins! a few 20 win seasons and the best? 16 GOLD GLOVES the most by any pitcher! NOT in the Hall!

  9. Without a doubt he belongs into Hall of Fame. People will tell about Willie Mays or Al Kline, but besides for Mickey Mantle, Rocky was the best player of his era. Colavito had the strongest arm in baseball and he was a feared hitter. His career numbers compare very nicely with other Hall of Famers.

  10. Rocky has been overlooked. He was one of the most feared hitters in the league. His lifetime OPS of .848 is higher than many players in the Hall. He hit more home runs and drove in more runs than anyone else in the AL from ’57 to ’65. His strong arm threw out many and also stopped many from taking an extra base. Put Rocky in the Hall.

  11. Of course. “The Rock “. Should be. In. The. Hall of fame I’m. From. Detroit. And. He. Was a hero. To me. Better than Al Kaline in the early. 60’s. baseball era. The fans loved him. 4 homers in one game .He hit 45 homers in 1961. And 41 in Cleveland. One year , Kaline never hit 40 in a year. Come on. It’s a no-brain. er.

  12. Rocky Colavito was one of my biggest boyhood heroes… but when he was with the Tigers…I lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in the early 60’s and used to fall asleep with my transistor radio listening to the Tigers broadcasts…The Rock was, by far, my favourite…I once again live in “The Soo”!…have been in broadcasting for 42 years and every August 10th I wish Rocky a happy Birthday on the air… Today was no exception (84)…I guess it’s my way of saying thank you for some great childhood memories… I agree with Richard Cirlincione’s comments above…I too dug through the stats for that period…For that 9 year stretch I think he deserves entry…and yes…I’m a little biased…Stay well Rocky…I hope someday to shake your hand…

    1. Having grown up in the 50s and 60s and a big childhood Mickey mantle fan I was shocked to learn rocky was not in the hof
      He was the most exciting hr hitter in the al besides mantle. I was a family doctor rooting for the Braves who had dale murphy who won mvps in 82 and 83 and was second in 84. If rocky and dale had been in New York or LA they would be in the hof. God bless rocky with his diabetic complications He’s hall of gamer for sure.

  13. ROCKY COLAVITO was my childhood hero back in Michigan in the
    60’s ! I also listened to games on my pocket Transistor radio, sometimes late into the night at 10-12 years old. I copied his batting style as a Little Leaguer … and on the Day my Team won our town’s Little League Championship in 1961 …. Rocky made it even more special by hitting 4 Homers in a Doubleheader the very next day as
    we were celebrating our Championship! I saw the game where in the 8th inning he just missed hitting a fourth Homer by 6 ft. ! Had it stayed “fair” … He would have been the only player to hit 4 Homers in a MLB Game twice! Though he was a TIGER at the time, the CLEVELAND Fans gave him a standing ovation for his feat after he ended up “grounding out” to 2nd. He hit a total of 374 Homers over his career with Baseballs that were not as “juiced” as today’s balls are in the MLB. He defensive play was outstanding. His impact on a 60’s Generation of 11 and 12 year old baseball kids was awesome! He definitely deserves to be in the HOF for what he did for Baseball as a whole …. You just “Don’t Knock THE ROCK” !!

  14. I’m with you guys. It appears I will never pass through the doors of the Baseball Hall of Fame because it’s been proven to me to be nothing but one big Cool Kids popularity contest. As long as deserving players like Roger Maris, Rocky Colavito, Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly, not to mention the Steroid Era players, are not included then I consider it a joke.

    1. So right on ALL mentioned to be in the Hall. A cousin of mine (now deceased) big Indians fan had a chance to attend the game in Baltimore when Rocky hit 4 HRs in that game. He even had the tickets and did not go. WOW. As a side gesture let’s not forget Bill Madlock to go into the Hall. One of ONLY 10 players to win the Nat’l league batting crown FOUR times. Names like Stan Musial, Tony Gwynn and others. Yea, they will probably put in Bonds, Clemens, and McGwire before Mad Dog will even be considered. What a shame!!!

  15. I remember in l956 attending a San Francisco Seals game at age ten. Sitting on the third base line, I had to dodge a throw made by Rocky Colovito from the right field corner that landed in the stands right next to me. I guess his arm will always be considered one of the strongest.

  16. Hey Rocky just looking you up and realized that your not in hall of fame . Rocky I was a young man myself when I meant you at Kutztown Auto Co and worked on your Caddilacs you brought in pics personally sign for my boy and I .showed me your hitting technics was watching Home run Derby greatest dam hitter of all time your time with Cleveland Stats 4 home runs 1 game!!!!!!listen Cooperstown there one you missed as you wrote to me A Gentle Man and Scholar Sincerly Rocky Colovito thanks for memories Big John

  17. ROCKY COLAVITO was and still is my favorite ballplayer.i thought he was fantastic.if it wern’t for idiot general managers in clev. and det. he would have stayed on one or two teams.anyway he didn’t need to pad his stats with ped’s and could pitch as well all he lacked was speed(flat feet) have written many of these comments and the hof are a bunch of jerks.i met rocky in 1974 in tex.he was coaching for clev. he was wonderful.talked to me for a half hour signed my cards at no charge and let me walk him to his car.he signed a topps 1964 super he said what’s your name i said it’s rocky.he said where’d you get that name i said i got it from you.i still have the card it says to rocky best wishes rocky colavito i plan to be buried with was great to know that my hero was and is a wonderful man.he made me feel like i was 10 again. can’t say enough about a wonderful man.rocky rose.

  18. Shocked that Rocky’s not in HOF . Whenever I got to see him play I was always leery it’d be another game of homers against us . Not just a homer , but homers . That fear wasn’t unfounded . Nice thing about it , he’d do the same against another opponent . More than once his heroics kept us in great shape for pennant chases .
    Another thing was his outfield play . I got a chance to play center field . I was one of the few that could throw from dead center to home straight line , I shock many of runners until they knew not to run on me .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *