The Life and Times of Joe Jackson
by David Fleitz
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by David Fleitz
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"Every time the Indians find someone who can play, they trade him for three guys who can't" - Graig Nettles, former Indian
Colavito hit only .249 for Detroit in 1960, while
Kuenn batted .308 for Cleveland. However, Colavito's slugging
average was 58 points higher than Kuenn's (.474 to .416).
Colavito hit only .249 for Detroit in 1960, while Kuenn batted .308 for Cleveland. However, Colavito's slugging average was 58 points higher than Kuenn's (.474 to .416).
The Indians rebounded in the trade department in the 1970s. They got Gaylord Perry from the Giants for a worn-out Sam McDowell, and also got Frank Duffy as a throw-in. Perry won the 1972 Cy Young Award, and Duffy was their starting shortstop for several years. However, they soon sent Chris Chambliss and Graig Nettles to the Yankees for not much in return.
Terry Pluto's book, The Curse of Rocky Colavito, explains all this and more. I highly recommend it, and you should buy Pluto's book immediately after you buy one of mine.
On April 17, 1960, the Cleveland Indians traded Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn.
It looked interesting on paper - the 1959 home run champ (Colavito) and the 1959 batting champ (Kuenn) traded for each other even up - but it turned out to be the worst trade the Indians ever made. From Cleveland's standpoint, it was even worse than the Lou Brock-for-Ernie Broglio trade or the Frank Robinson-for-Milt Pappas trade or the Amos Rusie-for-Christy Mathewson trade.
Rocky Colavito's 1961 Post Cereals card.
The year of birth is wrong; he was actually born in 1933.
Colavito, at 26, was on the way up. Kuenn, at 29, was already slowing down.
Harvey Kuenn's 1961 Post Cereals card. He
was traded to the Giants for Johnny Antonelli and Willie Kirkland after the 1960
The Indians won the World Series in 1948, but the attendance fell steadily after that, despite the fact that they had a contending team. It spiked up slightly with their 1954 pennant, but fell again when Al Lopez resigned as manager in 1956 and the Tribe dropped out of contention. By 1957 the Indians were seriously thinking about moving the team to Minneapolis-St. Paul.
So what did the Indians do? They traded their most popular player across the lake to Detroit! See what it did to the attendance for 1960:
Harvey Kuenn hit .308 with little power for Cleveland, and after the 1960 season he was traded to the Giants. In 1961, Norm Cash hit .361 with 41 homers
and 132 runs batted in for Detroit, while Rocky Colavito hit 45 homers and drove in 140 runs for the Tigers.
No Cleveland batter hit more than 27 homers or drove in more than 95 runs, and
the Indians fell to fifth place.
You can see that the attendance rose again in 1965, because the Tribe got Colavito back in January of that year. He led the league in runs batted in in 1965, but he was well past 30 by this time, and he left again in 1967. The Indians finished a surprising third in 1968, but fell to the bottom of the standings again in 1969, and in the early 1970s the team made inquiries about moving to New Orleans.
Some say that the Colavito trade "destroyed the Indians," and although that may be a generalization, it seems to be true. However, the Indians made a lot of boneheaded moves in the 1956-65 period.
Roger Maris, former Indian, on a 1958 Topps card.
You could make quite an All-Star team of ex-Indians. It almost appears as if the Tribe management was committed to wrecking the team as completely as possible in the shortest period of time.
The Colavito-Kuenn trade wasn't the only bad move made by the Tribe, but it was certainly the worst of its era. Now the Tribe plays in a new stadium, with sellout crowds and playoff appearances galore (note - I wrote this in early 2000). Here's hoping they don't revert back to their idiotic ways of the 1950s and early 1960s.