Friday, June 8, 2007

June 10th Is a Memorable Day in Indians History!

  1. On June 10th, 1959, Cleveland Indians slugging outfielder Rocky Colavito hit four consecutive home runs against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore Municipal Stadium. He was the sixth player in baseball history to accomplish this feat at that time. The “Rock” propelled the Indians to an 11-8 victory that evening (drawing a base on balls his first time up). Rocky, who led the American League in home runs that year with 42 blasts, was a fan favorite on a team that was embroiled in a blistering battle for the pennant with the Chicago White Sox until the final week of the season. The daily newspapers glamorized the popular slugger and he always accommodated his fans by staying after games to sign autographs. During the season, there were many homemade signs to cheer on Rocky draped throughout the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. One of the most memorable was “Rocco Socko!”
    On a personal note, I was fortunate to see and speak with Rocky at almost every Indians home game in 1959. A pastor at our neighborhood church befriended Rocky in 1958. In turn, Rocky left the priest 4 tickets to all of the home games for the 1959 season. The priest, my father, another parishioner, and I made it to almost all of the home games that season. We would begin each home game with dinner at a downtown Cleveland restaurant that provided a free cab to and from the game for dinner patrons. The smart entrepreneur knew his patrons returning from the game to his parking lot would come back into the restaurant for drinks. Each night there was a home game, we would always have dinner and, after getting to know the waiters over time, they would make up stories about Rocky being traded or injured earlier in the day to see how a nine-year-old diehard Rocky fan would react. Then, they would ask me what I thought the score would be that evening. Chances are if they were betting on the Indians, they made some cash because the Tribe won many more than they lost that year and I wasn't about to predict anything but a win. We would get into a cab and ride the short distance to the stadium. Each night, the excitement of going to the games was almost too much to contain as the familiar sites along the way let me know just how close we were. Entering the old stadium, your senses were bombarded as you walked out of the dark entrance tunnel to see the beautiful green grass, the bright evening sun shining blindingly over the left field stands, the smells of hot dogs, mustard, popcorn, an occasional waif of Lake Erie blowing in over the bleachers, and the sights of the ballplayers finishing up their pre-game warm-ups.
    As we took our seats in section 26, across from the Indians dugout, a familiar figure would stand up on the top step and look our way to see if we were in our seats. Across the field would walk the tall slugger wearing the familiar number 6 on his uniform. He would wave to the cheers of the fans as he crossed the field. When he got to the stands, a security guard would open the gate for him and he would leave the field and walk up to our row. Rocky would respectfully kneel in front of the priest who would give him a blessing. As Rocky rose making the sign of the cross, the old priest took that opportunity to give batting tips and ask for a home run. Sometimes the priest would say, “Rocky, keep your back elbow up. Will you hit one for me tonight?” Rocky always smiled and nodded in agreement. He would shake hands with my father and the other man, have a brief conversation with them, and begin to walk away. Then, knowing my opportunity to talk with Rocky was escaping, I would finally speak up and say, Hey Rocky, did you forget me?” He would turn around with that familiar smile on his face and as he was pulling a ball out of his back pocket to autograph for me, we would discuss my little league batting average. I felt like the luckiest kid in the world because this bigger than life hero of mine asked how I was batting, handed me an autographed ball, and shook my hand. As he walked away, I would always blurt out something like, “I know you guys are gonna win tonight!” and they usually did. He would continue to walk away, give a hand wave, and slowly become part of the show again. I had a closet full of those autographed balls!

  2. On June 10th, 1966, Sonny Siebert pitched a 2-0 no-hitter for the Cleveland Indians vs. the Washington Senators.
    Another personal note:
    I took my final exams for the year that day as a junior in high school. Hitch hiking home that afternoon, my buddy and I discussed the junior prom that we were going to that night. He wanted to blow off the dance and go to the Indians’ game. I felt that there would be other games and that it was important to go to the dance because we committed to it with our current girlfriends. The ride from the dance to the restaurant was pretty painful as we listened to the final outs of the no-hitter! Oh, and please don’t ask if either one of us got to first base.

So, what wonderment and amazement will June 10th, 2007 present for the current Cleveland Indians and their self-appointed #1 fan?

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