Cleveland Indians fan favorite Rocky Colavito is celebrating his 80th birthday today.
1960 Topps #400
From cleveland.com, May 9, 2012:
Rocky Colavito enjoys the reflected spotlight from Josh Hamilton's four-homer spectacular
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Rocky Colavito had just returned from dinner out with his wife Tuesday night.
She turned on "Dancing With the Stars." He flipped on ESPN and, within seconds, heard about Texas outfielderJosh Hamilton's four-homer nightand saw his name flashed on the TV screen.
Hamilton, who also doubled in a 5-for-5 night, became the 16th major leaguer to blast four homers in one game. On June 10, 1959, Colavito was the eighth -- and only the third at the time to do so in consecutive at-bats.
Like Hamilton, Colavito also made history in Baltimore -- although at old Memorial Stadium, not Camden Yards.
"You know what, that really struck me," the former Indians slugger and fan favorite said by phone Wednesday from his home in Pennsylvania.
On his historic night, Colavito walked his first time up, then stroked four straight homers, with five runs scored and six RBI in an 11-8 Indians win.
Hearing of Hamilton's feat, the first since Toronto's Carlos Delgado hit four against Tampa Bay in 2003, couldn't help but spark a flashback.
"The first time you do it, of course, that's the best 'cause you finally did it," said Colavito, who played for the Indians from 1955-59 and 1965-67.
He almost did it again. After a gut-wrenching trade to Detroit in 1960, Colavito returned to old Municipal Stadium with the Tigers on July 5, 1962 and hit three straight homers, missing a fourth with a monstrous drive into the upper deck that landed about 15 feet foul.
"I stayed right at home plate because I knew there was no chance of anybody catching that one," he said. "Sometimes you know when you hit a ball that well, and I hit it that well and I just stood there waiting, and it was hooking, and I was praying it would stop hooking, but it didn't."
Had the ball stayed fair, he'd be standing alone in baseball history.
"That's the sad part," he said. "You would have been, so to speak, in a class by yourself. Nobody's ever done it. Maybe Hamilton will do it, he's pretty young."
Colavito actually did hit four home runs in the same day again. On Aug. 27, 1961 -- also with Detroit -- he blasted one in the first game and three in the second of a doubleheader sweep of Washington.
That was long ago, but the sheen on Hamilton's special night also shines on a Cleveland icon, as it did on Sunday, when Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis became the first position player in the American League to earn a victory as a pitcher since Colavito in 1968.
"I've seen my name -- and I say this in modesty -- I've seen my name lots of times on TV," Colavito said. "But as time goes by, you get older and you don't hear it as often. When you see it or hear it, it makes you smile a little bit -- that they didn't forget you entirely."