Baseball has a special place in American culture. Many Major League Baseball (MLB) teams have storied histories including the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Cleveland Indians. Some of the fans of these three organizations believe their hometown team has suffered from curses that have damned their organization to a miserable fate. The Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox have overcome their curses in the past decade by each winning a World Series. However, Cleveland Indians’ fans may still wonder if their baseball team is feeling the effects of Cleveland’s curse – the curse of Rocky Colavito.
Since 1960, with a few notable exceptions, the Cleveland Indians baseball franchise has endured a bleak history. Not only have they played poorly on the field but the Cleveland Indians have been a part of some unfortunate and downright weird moments in baseball history. In 1970, Cleveland’s all-star catcher Ray Fosse became seriously injured as a result of a play at the plate in the 1970 All-Star game. Four years later the city of Cleveland became the laughing stock of baseball after drunken fans broke onto the field, forcing the Cleveland Indians to forfeit the game that they were winning!
In 1987 Sports Illustrated picked the Cleveland Indians to win the pennant. The Indians finished the 1987 season with 101 losses. The most success the Cleveland Indians have seen since they won the 1948 World Series has been trips to the World Series in 1995 and 1997. The Cleveland Indians were the best team in baseball in 1995 but cracked under the national spotlight, losing the World Series to the Atlanta Braves. In 1997, the Cleveland Indians were three outs away from winning the World Series but the Florida Marlins tied the game in the ninth inning. The Florida Marlins would wind up winning the World Series in extra innings. Some Cleveland fans explain the team’s misery as the Curse of Rocky Colavito.
Rocky Colavito originally played baseball for the Cleveland Indians from 1955-1959. Colavito was a product of the Cleveland Indians farm system. He was a young power hitter and the fans loved him. Colavito didn’t drink and didn’t smoke. When giving kids autographs he would make them say please and thank you. Colavito was the perfect role model for the youth of Cleveland. Rocky Colavito was a player who should’ve played his entire career in a Cleveland Indians jersey.
Enter Frank Lane. Frank Lane was a general manager who started making a name for himself in the baseball world for the number of trades he made. Between 1949-1955 Lane served as the Chicago White Sox general manager. During that time Lane made 272 trades! In 1958 Frank Lane was hired as the general manager of the Cleveland Indians. By the end of the 1959 baseball season Frank Lane had traded away the whole team with two exceptions- Herb Score and Rocky Colavito.
Lane had showed interest in trading Colavito but had yet to pull the trigger. Colavito and Lane did not get along either. Lane preferred hitters with high averages over power hitters like Colavito. Colavito held a grudge against Lane over a contract dispute the two had. The only thing keeping Colavito in a Cleveland Indians uniform was the respect Colavito had for the Cleveland fans. But not even the Cleveland baseball fans could stop Frank Lane’s mission of trading everyone and anyone. The day before the 1960 season started Lane traded Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn.
Clevelanders believe the trade of Colavito brought a curse upon the Cleveland Indians organization. Considering the dismal decades of baseball that followed the Colavito trade, those fans might be onto something. Some might argue the curse of Rocky Colavito was broke in the middle to late 90s when the Cleveland Indians won the central division five straight years. Others can argue the curse won’t be broken until the Cleveland Indians become World Series champions. And yet others will argue the Cleveland Indians were never cursed and the decades of dismal baseball were just a result of poor execution on the field.
Curses by Tim Long
The Curse of Rocky Colavito by Terry Pluto