Rocky Colavito

Rocky Colavito of the Cleveland Indians kisses his bat after hitting four home runs in a game against the Orioles at Memorial Stadium in 1959. (George Cook, Baltimore Sun / June 16, 2008)

Before the Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton did it Tuesday night, the Cleveland Indians' Rocky Colavito was the only player to hit four home runs in a game against the Orioles. Colavito went deep four times at Memorial Stadium on June 10, 1959. Here's a story The Sun ran 30 years later, reflecting on the slugger's feat.

 

June 18, 1989

ROCKY IV

30 years ago, Rocky Colavito ended a slump by becoming only the third player to hit four homers in four consecutive at-bats in a nine-inning game

Rocky Colavito clicked his way down the tunnel from the visitors clubhouse and emerged in the Cleveland Indians dugout carrying his K-55 bats -- 33-ounce models that most hitters would consider light when compared with the weight of a 3-for-28 batting skid.

The date was June 10, 1959, and though Colavito remembers much of it well, it wasn't yesterday.

Newspaper stories that day featured words you're not likely to see in today's edition -- atomic bombs and coeds. A bear was running loose on Lombard Street. A Baltimore Orioles minor leaguer named Cal Ripken, who later would have a son of the same name, was hitting .314 in Class D. Later that week, an outfielder named John Powell would be signed.

Memorial Stadium, which will be abandoned after the 1991 season, was in just its sixth year when Colavito entered its third base dugout and saw Harry Jones, a beat reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"Hey, Rocky, when are you going to come out of this slump?" Jones asked.

Slump was a word Colavito, then 25, used as often as he tried bunting for singles.

"What slump?" was Colavito's reply.

Jones: "C'mon, you know what I mean."

Colavito: "I don't know what you mean."

Jones: "Geez, you're 3-for-28. Don't you call that a slump? When are you coming out of this thing?"

Colavito: "You never know, Harry. Tonight might be the night. You never know."

That was the end of the conversation. Colavito and Jones, who worked together on Indians telecasts in the 1970s, never mentioned that exchange again -- even though Rocky Colavito hit four home runs that night.

***

Rocky Colavito, 31st on major league baseball's home run list with 374, is retired and living in a hilltop home in Bernville, Pa., eight miles northwest of Reading, where he met his wife-to-be, Carmen, as a minor leaguer in 1953.