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Cleveland Indians: Looking back at the re-acquisition of Rocky Colavito

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After trading “The Rock” away in a controversial move in 1960, the Indians did re-acquire him for the 1965 season. Was it a successful return to the Forest City?

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Recently we discussed how the Indians famously traded away the heart and soul of their team just prior to the 1960 season, and what some said started the curse that has yet to be broken. After dealing Rocky Colavito in 1960, the team languished right around .500 for the next five seasons but never finished with a positive mark.

General manager Gabe Paul, who panned the original Colavito deal, was looking to improve the offense. Right field in 1964 had been a combination of Tito Francona, Chico Salmon, Al Smith and Bob Chance, combining for a .708 OPS. Paul sold Francona to the St. Louis Cardinals right after the season and then struck up a conversation with Kansas City Athletics general manager Pat Friday.

He pushed hard for Colavito, but Friday had to be swayed because the Rock had a superb season in 1964, 274/366/507 137 OPS+ 34 home runs and 102 RBI. And even though he had only been in Kansas City for that one season, he was a fan favorite. Eventually, Friday relented, but a third team had to be brought into the mix, the Chicago White Sox:

Cleveland dealt Tommie Agee, Tommy John and John Romano to the White Sox. The White Sox dealt Mike Hershberger, Jim Landis and PTBNL Fred Talbot to the Athletics and Cam Carreon to the Tribe. And all the Athletics dealt away was Colavito to the Indians.

With Colavito back in northern Ohio, the club improved to 87-75, their best record since 1959, but it was still only good enough for 5th place, 15 games back. That had a lot to with Colavito, who at 31, played in every game and slashed .287/.383/.468 (140 OPS+), with 26 HR and a league-leading 108 RBI. In 1966, he struggled offensively due to a sore shoulder, except for the long ball, where he crushed 30 over the fence.

He held out in 1967 as Paul had asked him to take a pay cut of 25%. Eventually he came in, but did take a meager pay cut because his average was poor the season prior. In 1967, the Tribe hired Joe Adcock as its manager and he decided to platoon Colavito with Leon Wagner in left field. This did not sit well with the Rock, and his numbers nosedived. By the end of July, he had appeared in just 70 games with a 70 OPS+ and was dealt to the White Sox for their stretch drive, thus ending his second tour in Cleveland.

Carreon, who is part of the father-son trivia for Indians (his son Mark played in Cleveland in 1996) lasted just the 1965 season as the third catcher to Joe Azcue and playing for the AAA Portland Beavers. He was traded the next spring to the Orioles for Lou Pinella.

Romano, who had been the starting catcher since 1960, played two years in Chicago, his second stint with them. Tommie John, who was just 22 at the time, pitched seven very effective years for the White Sox, before moving onto the Dodgers and becoming the poster man for UCL surgery. Agee was also just 22 when dealt. He won Rookie of the Year for the White Sox in 1966, as well as a Gold Glove, and then in 1968 landed with the New York Mets where he would star for half a decade.

Hershberger was a light hitting outfielder who played with the A's through 1969. Landis struggled in his one year in KC, and then was dealt to Cleveland in 1966 for Joe Rudi (!). Talbot made 44 starts in 1965 and 1966 before heading to the New York Yankees.

Athletics

Mike Hershberger

G

PA

2B

HR

SB

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

1965

150

541

15

5

7

231

601

72

-1.5

69

-1.2

1966

146

597

27

2

13

253

653

91

1.3

86

0.9

1967

142

537

25

1

10

254

631

89

0.7

86

0.3

1968

99

274

9

5

8

272

713

122

0.6

117

0.8

1969

51

142

2

1

1

202

499

44

-1.0

46

-1.2

Total

588

2091

78

14

39

246

631

85

0.2

-

-0.4

Jim Landis

G

PA

2B

HR

SB

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

1965

118

431

15

3

8

239

656

89

0.9

92

1.0

Fred Talbot

G

GS

IP

WHIP

K%

BB%

LOB%

bWAR

FIP

fWAR

1965

39

33

198.0

1.384

13.7

10.0

75.1

1.5

4.37

0.4

1966

11

11

67.2

1.374

12.5

9.5

64.7

-0.3

3.94

-0.2

Total

50

44

265.2

1.381

-

-

-

1.2

-

0.2

White Sox

Tommie Agee

G

PA

2B

HR

SB

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

1965

10

21

1

0

0

158

449

33

-0.2

23

0.0

1966

160

689

27

22

44

273

773

127

6.4

127

6.4

1967

158

584

26

14

28

234

672

103

4.6

102

4.0

Total

328

1294

54

36

72

254

722

115

10.9

-

10.4

John Romano

G

PA

2B

HR

RBI

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

1965

122

425

11

18

48

242

779

128

2.7

129

3.2

1966

122

395

12

15

47

231

749

122

2.5

121

2.6

Total

244

820

23

33

95

236

764

125

5.2

-

5.8

Tommy John

G

GS

IP

WHIP

K%

BB%

LOB%

bWAR

FIP

fWAR

1965

39

27

183.2

1.198

16.8

7.7

75.5

1.4

2.97

3.0

1966

34

33

223.0

1.130

15.3

6.3

76.0

3.0

2.93

3.8

1967

31

29

178.1

1.065

15.4

6.6

74.6

1.6

3.05

2.6

1968

25

25

177.1

1.038

16.6

7.0

83.0

5.6

2.83

2.9

1969

33

33

232.1

1.377

13.0

9.1

77.0

5.1

3.48

3.8

1970

37

37

269.1

1.314

12.2

8.9

73.1

5.5

3.76

4.4

1971

38

35

229.1

1.317

13.4

5.9

67.8

1.7

3.10

4.5

Total

237

219

1493.1

1.220

-

-

-

24.0

-

25.0

Indians

Rocky Colavito

G

PA

2B

HR

RBI

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

1965

162

695

25

26

108

287

851

140

3.2

140

3.8

1966

151

614

13

30

72

238

767

119

2.0

122

2.5

1967

63

191

9

5

21

241

695

107

0.2

111

0.5

Total

376

1500

47

61

201

261

795

126

5.4

-

6.8

Cam Carreon

G

PA

2B

HR

SB

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

1965

19

62

2

1

1

231

710

102

0.0

95

0.1

Net Result:

Technically, the Tribe won the deal with the Athletics as they scarcely netted a 1.0 WAR on the deal, while the Tribe got two good seasons out of the Rock. But in reality, they lost this deal because what they gave to the White Sox far exceeded what Colavito provided. Heck Romano almost cancels out his production. Agee ended up being a Rookie of the Year and John, he was extremely effective for the White Sox.